Preparing kids for real roads

By Doug Laing

A miniature street layout being built on Napier's Marine Parade foreshore to help youngsters learn the rules of the road is expected to be in use by the end of next month.

The Junior Cycle Track includes a 3-metre wide asphalt roadway, kerbs, working traffic lights, a realistic roundabout, intersections and road markings and signs. It's based on facilities at the Sydney Park Cycling Centre in Australia.

It also includes a padded area for the youngest children as they learn to balance on their bikes, and shaded areas where parents can go to relax.

It's a part of the Napier City Council's Marine Parade redevelopment plan announced last year, proposing a post-Marineland future for the Parade as a playground "for kids of all ages".

It uses an area of the foreshore parents will recall as the site of a small boating lake right up until the mid-1990s.

But for many grandparents, the idea may revive memories of times further past.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, the Ministry of Transport used to take a miniature street layout and pedal cars around schools to train children in road safety.

The council last September earmarked about $500,000 for the new project and the first work on the site was seen before Christmas, with the filling and levelling of the indentation where the lake had once been.

Led by the council's own design team, work on the as-yet-unnamed course started last month.

Bike NZ Hawke's Bay regional development co-ordinator Vicki Butterworth has had concerns about how practical training, such as that which was used by the MoT at schools over 40 years, had "dropped away" over recent years. She welcomes the building of the Napier facility.

"It's fantastic that the council is doing this," she said. "If kids can practise off-road, and practise their skills first, it's going to be a great benefit when they do go out on to the road later on."

She expects that schools and holiday programmes will soon include use of the course in cycling skills and road safety education.

Once the course is complete, work will start on landscaping an area between the track and the National Aquarium in the next phase of the Parade redevelopment.

Last week, Mayor Barbara Arnott told the council plans for a BMX track as part of the redevelopment are on hold pending consideration of other possibilities.

As well, the council is still seeking commercial or joint-venture interest in two "big-ticket" attractions for the Parade, with a cable-ski complex and a wave-ride among the suggestions.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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