$21,000 bill to settle spat over path

By Natalie Dixon -
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Phil Simpson launched a petition opposing a ban on cyclists using the scenic footpath. Photo/File.
Phil Simpson launched a petition opposing a ban on cyclists using the scenic footpath. Photo/File.

Tauranga City Council will today debate whether to spend more than $20,000 widening a footpath at the centre of a dispute between pedestrians and cyclists.

Harbour Drive residents have been at odds over the only footpath in the area, with both sides petitioning councillors after the previous council voted to ban cyclists using it in the wake of complaints.

Harbour Drive resident and cyclist Phil Simpson launched a petition opposing the ban, gathering 118 signatures, and the council then resolved to widen the footpath at a meeting on September 16.

Another Harbour Drive resident, Stewart Taylor, launched a 250-strong counter petition requesting the footpath remain pedestrian only, which was to be formally given to the council today.

Widening the path to 3 metres to create a shared cycle and pedestrian walkway would cost about $45,000.

The council would pay $21,150 of that and the New Zealand Transport Agency would fund the rest.

Council staff have recommended approval of the project as part of the minor works programme for 2014-15.

Mayor Stuart Crosby said the council would look at a bylaw that would allow cyclists to use the path while councillors considered widening the footpath. He was in favour of both cyclists and pedestrians being able to use the path.

"Council intends to create a bylaw so cyclists can use the path until the budgetary process is worked through," he said.

"The previous council was in favour of widening the path but we have a new council now, so that could change."

Mr Taylor told the Bay of Plenty Times widening the path would be a waste of money.

"A lot of cyclists stick to the road anyhow," he said.

Elderly people in walking frames were sometimes intimidated by cyclists because the footpath was too narrow to be used by both pedestrians and cyclists, Mr Taylor said.

"It was never designed to be a shared pathway."

Several neighbours had complained to the council about incidents of pedestrians being sworn at and confrontations over usage, he said.

In one incident, a cyclist had insisted on riding through a group of people who were walking their dogs, rather than going around them.

"It's not like we have a vendetta against cyclists, it is only the odd one that behaves badly."

But cyclists who use the path say widening it would be the perfect compromise and worth the money.

Tauranga mother of three Mandy Smith said her family cycled on the path at least once a week and hoped to continue doing so.

"My boys are all under 8 years old, so the path provides the perfect place for us to teach them how to cycle," she said.

"It is a real family outing for us and, if I had to take the boys on the road, I probably would not go there. It's not safe at their age."

Mr Simpson said he hoped the new council would push ahead with widening the footpath so both walkers and cyclists could enjoy it.

"People have to get used to sharing," he said.

"This is a simple case of compromise, of sharing and being tolerant and patient of others.

"I am hoping the new council adopts a policy that fits all."

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