A new $1.56 million dual cycleway is expected to help shape the future of transport in Tauranga.
The 1.3km corridor has been more than three years in the making and after consultation with schools, residents and cyclist groups, plans for it will come to fruition today when construction begins.
Tauranga City Council manger of network safety and sustainability Martin Parkes said the cycleway was significant for the city and future transport planning.
"It's the first separate two-way cycleway, adjacent to the road, for Tauranga," he said.
"I think where it's being placed is significant; it's in the heart of an area that has a lot of schools and a significantly large college as well. There's potential to see a huge uptake in cycling to and from school in this area. That's what excites us; that opportunity to encourage more children to be active, and hopefully get their parents as well.
"We hope it will lead to bigger and better things for the community."
The 3m-wide cycleway will run from Otumoetai Rd to the southern end of Carlton St Reserve. It will be separated from the road by concrete barriers and feature crossing areas for bus users as buses will now stop on the main road, as opposed to pulling into a bus stop. It will also feature combined pedestrian and cyclist crossings.
Parkes said the new style of bus stop was "unusual" for Tauranga but worked well in other cities such as Christchurch.
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Construction of the cycleway is expected to take up to six months, and significant road works are expected. As part of this, 92 car parks will be lost.
The loss of parking on one side of the street was a concern highlighted in submissions. Another was the potential danger of people using a bi-directional cycleway. In total, the council received 60 submissions since community consultation began in October 2017. However, of these 86 per cent supported the project.
Parkes said it had been important to involve residents early on and input from cycling group Bike Tauranga had been extremely valuable.
"It's a community-led project and extremely important for the schools. We didn't want to impose things on the community that ultimately results in them saying 'well, that's not working for us'."
Ratepayers are expected to fund $769,000 of the project. NZ Transport Agency, also now known as Waka Kotahi, will fund the remaining 51 per cent - the full amount originally requested for. This comes despite the agency pulling funding from other proposed transport projects in Tauranga, such as the upgrade to 15th Ave.
Council cycle plan implementation team leader Karen Hay said the cycleway was expected to eventually link in with plans to extend the Ōmokoroa cycleway through Bethlehem and ultimately through to the CBD also. The Ngatai Rd cycleway also tied in with existing tracks through local reserves and school areas.
The project will fit into the Urban Form and Transport Initiative, which considers future transport and housing projects.
"It's about providing people with options and choice to catch a bus, walk, or if they want to bike, there's the opportunity to do so safely," Hay said.
Bike Tauranga's Kevin Kerr said the cycleway was important for Tauranga.
"If we can reduce congestion on the roads, especially during those school peak times, that's got to be good.
"It will just help the whole network."
Otumoetai College principal Russell Gordon applauded the project, which he said would make the area safer for students.
Gordon said people often sped through the area so "to be able to have our kids and intermediate kids separate from traffic, I think, all parents will commend that as a sensible idea".
"The fact it runs for a significant way is good too."
Gordon said he expected the cycleway would eventually help alleviate congestion of traffic picking up or dropping off students. He also acknowledged the other transport projects which lost NZTA funding.
"My hope is this is a success ... that this is the first of many projects."
Community drop-in session
People are invited to an information session on Wednesday at Carlton St Reserve between 4pm and 6pm. This will include:
• The opportunity to talk to the council project team members and the Fulton Hogan staff regarding the details of the project.
• Learning how to use the new facilities along the route.
• Trialling a pop-up two-way cycle lane – please bring along your bike to try this out.
• A sausage sizzle, hosted by the local softball club.
In case of rain, the drop-in session will be postponed to Thursday, 4pm to 6pm.