Well said, Linley! Dogs have a hard time of things in Wellington — I’ve a bone to pick with you:
Let me start this column with an Alcoholics Anonymous-style confession. My name is Linley Boniface, and I am a dog owner.
This is an increasingly brave admission to make in Wellington, which can now safely be called the least dog-friendly city in New Zealand. Buying a dog didn’t used to be considered particularly anti-social, but in recent years dog owners have been put in the same category as other types of weirdos who hang around trees in parks. In Wellington, this process is fostered not by media scare stories but by a local authority that is extraordinarily punitive toward dog owners.
The Council allocate exercise areas where dogs are allowed to run and play off-lead. The three closest to us are a fair stretch away. Meanwhile we’re right next door to the whole Town Belt, a perfect place for letting dogs run free while on a walk with their owners.
Except, of course, that the Town Belt is a dangerous place — for walkers and their dogs, anyway. Cyclists on mountain bikes roam at will on the slopes of Mt Victoria and some of them know no fear and no boundaries, or for that matter speed limits.
I grudgingly accept that mountain bikers have as much right to use the recreation area as walkers and runners, but I deeply wish there were paths designated for bikes only and others where bikes were not allowed.
Some cyclists are very careful and considerate, while others whizz by at high speed, scaring anyone in their path — our little Oshi for example, who now seems scared of any bike he sees. You have to keep a careful look out while walking as a bike can turn up in front of you or behind you at any moment. No path is safe from them.
The bikes make a mess of all the paths, turning some spots to deep mud, and generally chewing up grass and any other surface. And if they’ve turned the middle of any path to mud the cyclists then start riding to the sides, turning the whole width to a pool of mud and leaving nowhere for walkers to skirt around it.