Weekly reporters Jonty Dine, Charles Anderson and Kate Russell ready to test out Nelson’s morning commute. Photo: Andrew Board.

Putting Nelson’s morning commute to the test

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The bike is king for Nelson’s morning commute.

In the wake of last week’s submissions on the Nelson’s draft Regional Land Transport Plan, the Nelson Weekly decided to test a small snapshot of the city’s issues. We stationed reporters on a bike, a car and in a bus, and got them to race to a designated site in the city during rush hour.

The goal was to make it from Stoke’s Strawbridge Square to Nelson city’s 1903 Square in the least amount of time, without breaking any laws. We decided to come through Bishopdale rather than Tahunanui because of the roadworks.

So at 8.15am on Monday, when the NBus left from outside Countdown on Main Rd Stoke, a reporter was on board.

The congestion on Waimea Rd heading into town has long been a point of contention. Some point to it as a sign that a new highway needs to be built, others say it means that more people should ride their bikes.

The experiment was merely about offering an interesting perspective on a time of the day which many people in our region share – trying to get to work, or school, on time.

Judging by yesterday’s rush hour race, many might be well served by investing in a good bike.

The Rush Hour race marks the start of a series where the Weekly will be looking at transport issues around Nelson.

Bus – Kate Russell
Arrived at 8.43am
28 mins 43 secs

The bus outside Countdown on Main Rd Stoke was right on time. I paid my $3.50 to the friendly female driver and found a seat on-board the three-quarter filled bus – mostly college students.

In the eight years I’ve lived in Nelson, I have never caught the bus – I’ve never needed to. But, I quietly enjoyed it. I was able to zone out, listen to music, ignore the grid-locked cars as we approached the Beatson Rd roundabout, and not have to worry about finding a park.

But it was slow. It took 15 minutes to reach the SPCA on Waimea Rd. By 8:36am we had reached Nelson College. Six get off. At 8:39am another six get off at Nelson College for Girls.

I arrive at the Bridge St bus depot at 8:43am – six minutes later than NBus schedule had promised me. Altogether, the bus made nine stops, one of which was a “hail and ride”, which means you can wave down the bus anywhere along the route.

The stops definitely held things up but it was an enjoyable 28 minute journey that I would definitely make again.

Car – Jonty Dine
Arrived at 8.41am
26 mins and 34 secs

My drive began smoothly. I figured the Nelson commuter traffic must be a myth. As I cruised down Main Rd Stoke, I zipped past my colleague on the bus with a smug grin on my face. The sun was shining, the tunes were blasting, and my victory was seemingly assured.

Then came the crawl. Things came to a grinding halt at the Beatson Rd roundabout, the speedo spent the next 15 minutes bouncing between two and 10kmh. The accelerator began to collect dust as I watched with envy as the cyclists effortlessly bypassed the gridlock.

My mood quickly deteriorated as the aggression of the other drivers elevated. It was every driver for themselves with little room for hesitation or courteousness. I then realised the fuel light had come on adding more stress to the situation. With one eye on the gauge and the other on the strobing brake lights in front of me, I meandered down Waimea Rd.

The crawl continued into the city, a journey that Google Maps estimated at 17 minutes had taken 26. After initially parking in a bus stop, I eventually found a space and my commute was over.

Bike – Charles Anderson
Arrived at 8.34am
19 mins 5 secs

I am not a strong cyclist. But as the clock turned 8.15am I was off, racing down Main Rd Stoke.

The traffic was flowing freely and I started worrying that I would be blitzed by my motorized colleagues. There was a small climb to get up to the Beatson Rd Roundabout and that is where my fortunes changed.

I zipped down the side of a line-up of cars and busses, easily crossed through the roundabout and onto Beatson Rd. Again, there was a slight incline where I miraculously managed to overtake another cyclist. I wasn’t over exerting myself but still, this was a race.

Then onto the Railway Reserve, I shot a glance over to Waimea Rd and shook my head at the crawl that was starting to bank up. I rushed down the bike path, passing Nelson Intermediate students coming the other way. Onto St Vincent St and into town.

The only traffic light I encountered was on the corner of Hardy St and Rutherford. Then it was a simple skip through town and up to the top of Trafalgar St – energised, not puffed. I expected it to be close, but I was waiting for about five minutes before I caught site of any of my competitors. It was a good win.