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A new $2.2 million dual cycleway which is the first of its kind for Tauranga has been "ruined" by people using it to park their cars.
Construction of the Ngatai Rd cycleway began in January, with the aim of creating a 1.3km corridor that could be a safe haven for school children biking to and from school.
The protected space is expected to be finished this week.
However, the Bay of Plenty Times has learned of people using the Ōtumoetai cycleway to park their cars, forcing cyclists out on to the road.
A local resident, who would not be named, said there were at least 10 cars parked in the cycleway on Tuesday. When the Bay of Plenty Times visited on Wednesday, there were at least five.
Bike Tauranga's Kevin Kerr said it was "sad".
Kerr drove and biked past several times in the past week and was disappointed to see cars parked in the cycleway. He said Tauranga people seemed to have a significant car-first attitude.
"Honestly, we have a major problem in Tauranga.
"The sad thing is that this is the first decent attempt that we've had as a city to get kids on bikes to school. There's a huge benefit from that - it reduces major congestion, reduces cars around schools, there are massive benefits for everyone and to have a few people ruin that is a bit sad."
The 3m-wide cycleway is the first separate two-way cycleway in the city. It was deliberately placed on Ngatai Rd in the heart of an area with a lot of school traffic. The road links to Bellevue Primary School, Otumoetai Intermediate and Otumoetai College - Tauranga's largest secondary school.
The cycleway runs from Otumoetai Rd to the southern end of Carlton St Reserve on the western side of Ngatai Rd. It is separated from the road by concrete islands and does not allow for car parks, which are catered for on the eastern side of Ngatai Rd.
Tauranga councillor Heidi Hughes, who previously commented on the need for alternative transport options, said she believed drivers parking their cars there should be ticketed.
"We all paid for this as a transport solution. It's costing all of us to have their cars parked in the cycleway. We've committed to finding different ways for people to get around to make our community safe. We need to ticket these drivers and move them on."
The cost of the cycleway has risen to $2.2m.
Tauranga City Council director of transport Brendan Bisley
said the cost reported to the council in August last year was $1.908m, and that was the best estimate at the time.
"The $2.2m includes work associated with additional street lighting, footpath improvements, stormwater changes and additional design and safety audits that were undertaken given it is the first separated facility in Tauranga."
Bisley said there had been six complaints about the parking so far.
"We are aware of people parking in the cycleway. They have been parking in the cycleway while construction was being completed as no parking was available on the other side of the road.
"Now that works are complete ... we will continue to work with residents and visitors to remind them not to park in the cycleway."
Bisley said the council would be "taking an educational approach and continue to work with residents to help them understand where they can and can't park".
The council did a letter drop in the area on Thursday.
"There was only one car parked in the cycleway [on Friday] morning. Staff will be contacting the owner to make sure they are aware where they can park."
He said the cycle lane was expected to be incorporated into a bylaw on August 11 and from that point, the council could issue $60 fines to people who parked in it.
"We always anticipate a period of adjustment, which is why we're working to bring all residents up to speed on where they can and can't park."
Work still being done on the cycleway includes road markings and final signage.
"Making sure all road users are safe is a top priority and the new Ngatai Rd layout will address many of the safety concerns locals raised during consultation. Once the cycleway opens later in the week, there will be access points where bike riders can safely access the cycleway," Bisley said.
The loss of parking on one side of the street was a concern originally highlighted in some of the 60 submissions made to the council when community consultation began in October 2017. Of those, 86 per cent supported the project.
Otumoetai College principal Russell Gordon said he backed the cycleway as a means to minimise or mitigate potential accidents on the "very busy road".
He acknowledged it had come at personal cost to some residents who lost parking.
"However, cars parked in a cycleway means that cyclists face two alternatives; either merge on to the footpath and navigate pedestrians or, merge on to the road and navigate oncoming traffic.
"Either option is unsatisfactory and has the potential to increase the likelihood of an accident.
"My thoughts on the cycleway can be reduced to this; either this lane is a dedicated cycleway or it is a secured off-street parking facility, it cannot be both."