That was clever; to turn the Victoria Ave / Taupo Quay intersection into an uncomfortable combination of loud noise, dust, tar and diesel fumes on the final day of the Whanganui Artists' Open Studios. A brilliant coup of timing and management. Just what the coffee shops nearby needed when the town is trying to host out-of-town visitors to one of the country's most important artistic events.
The philistine who decided that screwing local business is part of his council brief needs to take a long, hard look at him(her)self and wonder if they're the right person for the job. It is not as if the event was a big secret; Open Studios has been on the calendar for a good 12 months and advertised extensively and quite a few artists are exhibiting in the area cacophanised by Sunday's din. They are also trying to make a living, unassisted as they are by a comfy council salary. Nearby cafes suffered at a time when they should have been able to welcome visitors with famous Wanganui hospitality - instead, customers were motivated to move to areas less affected by what amounts to a gigantic, ill-timed council disaster. One local cafe owner, doing his best in trying circumstances, had to close his windows to reduce some of the noise, effectively exchanging racket for heat and humidity. As well as the noise, mess and polluted air, access to studios was impeded by a dug up road surface, lots of machinery and the usual high-vis-clad gentlemen waving STOP/GO signs. One assumes the work needed to be done - but on that particular Sunday? I think not.
You either want visitors to leave here with a good impression of Wanganui, or you don't. Evidently the cretin who timed the road work for Sunday adheres to the latter. Must try harder; see me after class.
The advent of the mobility scooter and electric wheelchair has changed significantly urban roading landscape requirements and the need for tailored carriageways for such vehicles.
Unfortunately, many of our existing footpaths and accessways between streets, alongside parks and across bridges carry the infrastructure of earlier social experiments when ease of access took second place to the need to keep wheeled hooligans off.
That's why there are steel bars erected in such places, originally to stop motorcycles using them and thereby depriving a certain youth sector of shortcuts and a degree of relatively harmless fun.
Those same steel barriers now prevent our elderly or people with disabilities from using pathways readily available to the able-bodied. Mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs can not negotiate such obstacles so their drivers are deprived of rightful access and ease of movement, impeded instead by barricades of a previous age.
Because most of the barriers are sunk into the ground and further secured by concrete, asphalt or other paving, they are difficult to remove, besides, there is still the danger of a motorcyclist using the pathway and proving completely founded the fears of the City Council of 1968. In the meantime, access is denied to citizens of value just because they use a mode of transport too big to squeeze around the barriers.
The carriageway causing the most problems is that alongside the rail on the Aramoho Railway Bridge. Thereon there is no access at all for electric wheelchairs or mobility scooters, which means drivers of said vehicles have no choice but to travel an extra five kilometres or more to cross the river, while their able-bodied fellow citizens have the advantage.
So what to do.
In a rare moment of enlightenment, the roading chaps at the council have seen a solution to this problem at least, and for one day only, in order to gauge demand, a road will be laid across the sleepers between the railway lines, suitable for wheeled transport including the aforementioned, but not including motorcycles. Access will only be available between scheduled trains and, to avoid possible tragedy, council workers will be stationed at each end of the bridge to control traffic. Other measures will be enforced, such as the wearing of approved safety helmets, a current registration and warrant of fitness displayed in a prominent place on all vehicles and a strict adherence to an arbitrary speed limit yet to be decided.
Unable to participate in the experiment are: motorcycles of any cc rating; quad bikes; children's wheeled machines including bicycles, tricycles and prams with a dolly inside; drift trikes; vehicles adapted for rail; inebriates rendered unfit to drive any vehicle at all. The trial will take place from 9am on Wednesday, April 1. Registration of interest is not required but a sense of humour is essential.