Mountain bikers grinding gears of elderly walkers on pathways

9:40 pm on 7 August 2019

A stoush between elderly walkers and mountain bikers in Havelock North is intensifying after signs designed to keep the two groups separate in a local reserve were ripped out within 48-hours of being put up.

A sign at Tainui Reserve in Havelock North.

Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Locals said not only was the track installed in Tainui Reserve against the public's wishes, but bikers continued to use paths designated for walkers only and they feared someone was going to get hurt.

The path was now very unsafe for walkers, resident Jessica Maxwell said.

"I've had several very nasty encounters with teenage boys cycling down walking paths. When I pointed out they were walking paths ... well, the abuse and in-your-face intimidation has left me nervous and shaken," Ms Maxwell said.

Jessica Maxwell with a walking only sign at Tainui Reserve in Havelock North.

Jessica Maxwell with a walking only sign at Tainui Reserve in Havelock North. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

The bike track was being paid for by the Bennelong Mountain Bike Club while Hastings District Council had agreed to help maintain them. The two had signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 1 July, though construction of the track started in mid-June.

Ms Maxwell believed it was poorly designed because while the bike and walking tracks were supposed to be separate, at times they did converge resulting in walkers and bikers sharing the same space.

Following complaints from locals, the council erected temporary signs warning bikers to stay off the walking paths last Thursday.

"But within 48-hours they were taken down," Ms Maxwell said.

Regular park user Garry Rigby said he had also had some near misses with bikers and he was worried someone would get hurt.

"It's total disregard. They were laughing and joking and forced me off the road. The park is too small for mountain bikers, and you can already see the damage the bikes have made."

Garry Rigby next to a walking only sign at Tainui Reserve in Havelock North.

Garry Rigby says bikers have had "total disregard". Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

The idea of creating new bike tracks in Tainui and three other reserves was first floated in 2014, but public consultation on a draft plan in 2015 resulted in more submitters wanting to keep the status quo.

Many locals had no idea the tracks were going ahead until the diggers arrived, another regular user of Tainui Reserve Sally Anderson said.

"I talked to one hundred people ... and three of them did [know] but they didn't it was happening right now."

Bennelong Mountain Bike Club president Louie Papuni said its members had been warned to stick to the bike paths.

"It's stay off the walking tracks ... but obviously we can't control everyone. There is plenty of room there if everyone stays on the track they're designated too there won't be any issues."

Ongoing opposition to the track had actually delayed the installation of permanent signage which would clearly mark out which tracks were for walking and which were for bikes, Mr Papuni said.

The Hastings District Council, which declined to be interviewed on the subject, did not say whether it would be replacing the temporary warning signs that had been taken away to ensure walkers were kept safe.

However, in a statement it said the reserves were for everyone to enjoy.

"The council is asking people to show mutual respect and courtesy when using the tracks as everyone has a right to access these open spaces, and to do so safely," Hastings District Council group manager asset management Craig Thew said.

"The adopted Reserve Management Plan (RMP) identified the community's desire to improve the walking tracks and to create cycle tracks that could enable more separation of cyclists from walkers.

"The local mountain bike club has taken a proactive step of taking responsibility for constructing the mountain bike tracks via both voluntary labour and fundraising. This means ratepayer funds can be focused towards the investment into the walking track upgrades, wider signage improvements, and the many other actions identified in the RMP."

RNZ has requested a copy of any risk assessments or safety management plans undertaken by the council prior to the construction of the track, but it had not yet responded.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs