The new bridge over the Manawatū River is so dangerous for cyclists there is a strong likelihood someone could be killed crossing it.
That's the view of Horizons Regional councillor and recreational cyclist Sam Ferguson, who is pushing hard to save the old Manawatū River bridge as a safe passage for cyclists.
Ferguson was pleased to learn an 11th-hour stay of execution had now been granted by Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Authority, as demolition work had been due to start any day.
A frustrated Ferguson had written to Government Ministers Phil Twyford, Julie Anne Genter and Shane Jones and Waka Kotahi urging them to halt demolition of the bridge.
He told them the concerns of the cycling community had "fallen on deaf ears" during a consultation process with New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) that began in 2014.
"Without urgent action now, there is a strong likelihood of death or serious injury on the new bridge," he told them.
"I have attempted to raise these issues along with many other community members and they continue to be downplayed. These issues have not been acknowledged or addressed in any meaningful way.
"Urgency is required due to the imminent demolition of the old river bridge, and once it is gone, it's gone."
The old bridge on State Highway 1 south of Foxton would provide an alternative route for cyclists over the Manawatū River. The bridge was the only crossing point between Shannon and the sea, he said.
Ferguson said cyclists barely had 1m of useable space on the shoulder of the new bridge, a gap that reduced to about 400mm in parts by drainage grates.
Centre wires prevent larger vehicles from giving cyclists a wide berth, which left the option of slowing down to the speed of the cyclist, or compromising the cyclist's safety.
It is at odds with NZTA's own guidelines and standards, he said.
"The fact the project includes a separated cycleway the length of the trestle makes it clear that cyclists are safer off this stretch of road, yet the cycleway ejects people onto a bridge that will quite likely lead to a death or serious injury in the future," he said.
Ferguson said the only other option was to retrospectively construct a separate cycle pathway to the side of the new SH1 bridge wide enough to cater for cyclist travelling in either direction.
But retaining the old bridge is the preferred option.
Both options would require connection with the existing pathway to cater for north and southbound cyclists and pedestrians, without them being forced to cross the road.
Ferguson said an integrated cycling strategy from Horowhenua District Council clearly showed that a safe crossing was consistent with the wider vision for cycling in the district, as a connection point towards Palmerston North City and the Manawatu District.
"Coupled with the increase in e-bike ownership and a growing elder population "there is every reason to expect growing numbers of cyclists looking to explore this region on bike", he said.
He was critical of the original decision-making process to demolish the bridge.
"The robustness and appropriateness of these decisions may yet prove to be inadequate," he said.
"The community was not consulted on how people on foot and bike would safely use this piece of road, which suggests the decision process was flawed."
Waka Kotahi director of regional relationships Emma Speight said the initial decision to deconstruct the bridge had been made after discussions with public and stakeholders.
Waka Kotahi considered current and future use, the bridge's structural integrity, immediate upgrade costs, consent conditions, future maintenance costs and future ownership, she said.
"Based on the levels of interest, Waka Kotahi has informed councils that we have paused the planned deconstruction of the Manawatū River Bridge and are reviewing our position on retention of the bridge," she said.
"Before a final decision is made, Waka Kotahi will engage with a range of parties, including councils, iwi and other stakeholders. Waka Kotahi will not be making further comment until the review is complete."