Cycle lanes slammed by highway hoteliers

A disgruntled Blenheim businessman has threatened to file an injunction against a council plan to install a new half-million dollar bike lane along Middle Renwick Road.

The proposed project, a partnership between Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and Marlborough District Council, is hoped to encourage more people to cycle.

But Admiral Motor Lodge lessee Robin King has slammed council’s approach, vowing to fight what he says is an enormous waste of money and a potential death-blow.

And he’s not alone, he says, with other upset business owners ready to fight the plan, too.

The new 580-metre cycle lanes between PAK’n SAVE and Battys Rd, estimated to cost nearly half a million dollars, has been given the go-ahead by council today.

Robin says removing the car parks from outside his business could cost him up to $30,000 a year and nearby residential streets would take the overflow.

The keen cyclist says he’s not against cycle lanes, but council should be working with the COVID-hit accommodation providers, instead of costing them money.

“I’m a cyclist, I often cycle, I’m for cycle lanes – but people will cycle or they won’t and the cycle lanes won’t change that,” Robin says.

An artist’s impression of Middle Renwick Road with the new cycle lanes installed. Photo: MDC/Supplied.

“We get large vehicles, big trailers, and trucks that can’t fit in our car park.

“We have a conference room. If the motel is full, we can’t hold them – there aren’t enough parks.”

A key objective of the project was to retain as much parking as practical to try to meet the demand of residents and businesses, a council spokesman says.

Robin says all those large vehicles will end up across the road, down Adams Lane.

A private fence built on council land will be demolished and a large, concreted motel sign will be moved about half a metre to make room for indented carparks – with 66 out of 93 total carparks expected to be lost.

Robin says the Phoenix Motor Inn's large, concreted in sign will be moved 400mm to allow space for an indented car park. Photo: Matt Brown.

Council Bike Walk Advisory Group chair Michael Fitzpatrick says the cycle lanes are an important part of completing Blenheim’s urban cycle network.

“The new cycle lanes will connect to the existing cycle lanes to the east between Boyce Street and Murphys Road/Battys Road, and the cycle bypass at the Westwood Ave roundabout, filling a gap in the network and improving connectivity for cyclists,” he says.

A Waka Kotahi decision document says surveys indicate there are about 100 cyclists using this stretch of road each day, including school students.

Robin reckons there are about six.

“The young kids ride on the footpath, on the other side of the road – that’s where their homes are.

“You would never see 100 a day; that number is plucked out of the sky.”

The new bike lane will connect existing bike lane between Boyce and Battys Road to the Westwood business park. Photo: Matt Brown.

He says council doesn’t have statistics that proves the area needs a cycle lane.

“There’s a place for cycle lanes, but lets do it together,” Robin says.

“There aren’t any cycle lanes by the colleges – why not start there?”

The existing cycle lane ends about 400 metres short of Marlborough Girls College.

Council Sustainable Transport manager Braden Prideaux says this section of cycle lanes is part of the ‘big picture’ to develop a safe, convenient and connected cycle network around Marlborough.

“We want to help make cycling a viable and enjoyable way to commute to and from work and school, to get around town, and for leisure,” he says.

Robin says a cheaper, saner option would be to put the bike lane on the grass verge next to the footpath and leave the road as is.

“Put it on the verge and take out the 32 trees, they look shit anyway,” he says.

Marlborough Weekly asked shoppers outside PAK’n SAVE this afternoon if they would ride their bike to get groceries, and while most were supportive of cycle lanes none said they could complete their weekly shop without a vehicle.

Onolew Jiko, from Seddon, backed council's bike lane plan. Photo: Matt Brown.

Anne Wilson, from the Marlborough Sounds, says she wouldn’t be using her bike to ride to the Westwood business park.

“No, I live in the Marlborough Sounds and it takes me one and a half hours to get here by car.”

But Tara Turner, from Blenheim, says a cycle lane would encourage her to pop in for the odd item.

“I think the roads are a bit busier than they used to be.

“I don’t think drivers notice cyclists as much anymore – so if there was a cycle lane then I may bike out here for the odd bottle of milk,” Tara says.

Harpreet Dhillon, also from Blenheim, questioned how a full weeks groceries could be carried on a bike, while Onolew Jiko, from Seddon, thought cycle lanes are always a good idea.

“I don’t have a bike, but it’s a good idea,” Ono says, “More cycle lanes are good – it makes it safer for cyclists.”

The existing Middle Renwick Road bike lane ends at Boyce Street, about 400 metres short of Marlborough Girls' College. Photo: Matt Brown.

Construction is set to begin in early May 2021, with an estimated completion date of June 2021.

The project costs will be met 85 per cent by Waka Kotahi and 15 per cent by Marlborough District Council.

Robin says the cycle lane is solving a problem that isn’t there and will be filing an injunction in an attempt to halt construction.

“If council hadn’t been given money for it, they wouldn’t even be looking at it. And to hell with the businesses.

“They would be better off fixing the road.”