Cycleway and bike trail experts will converge on Wellington this week for a national two-day forum exploring how and where cycleways and other trail infrastructure can be most effectively developed for the benefit of New Zealand.
The Riding for Recreation forum, hosted by the New Zealand Recreation Association (NZRA), takes place during Bike Wise Month. It comes hot on the heels of intense discussion over urban cycleways in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch, and debate about how $350 million of Government spending earmarked for investment in cycleways and bike trails over the next three years can be put to best use.
NZRA Chief Executive Andrew Leslie said cycleways and bike trails created immense benefits to the economy and society through increased tourism and keeping people healthy, active and better connected. But despite this, good cycleway and trail design was not easy, he said.
Cycleways had come up against challenges recently, including concerns over loss of parking on Rotorua’s Green Corridor and safety concerns surrounding a cycleway planned for the Wellington suburb of Island Bay.
Mr Leslie said riding for Recreation would focus on solutions to overcome challenges such as these, to assist trail providers to avoid design pitfalls, establish solid partnerships and link existing trails. A view to a more connected, sustainable network of cycling and mountain biking opportunities would better serve participants and communities, he said.
“Recent investment is creating greater choice for commuters and communities, allowing people to be active and choose whether to travel by bike rather than car or public transport.
“To maximise the benefits, cycleways and bike trails must be well-planned and sustainable, ideally forming a coherent network from urban areas to Great Rides and back-country trails.”
Mr Leslie commended growing Government investment in cycleways as a “step in the right direction” to encourage healthier lifestyle choices. Despite this, there was still a lot to do.
“It is essential trails are planned with the people who use them in mind. In this way we can offer the right opportunities for people, building the skills to support a healthy cycle culture.”
There was growing recognition amongst local planners of the value of providing cycleways and bike trails as a network rather than in isolation, and this would only strengthen as connections were made between planners, managers and programme providers, he said.
Event speakers include New Zealand Cycle Trail Manager Evan Freshwater, speaking on the role of cycling in building healthier and wealthier communities, and Mountain Bike Trails Trust Chairman Chris Mildon, who will discuss the partnerships that enabled Nelson’s trails to be awarded International Mountain Bicycling Association Gold Ride Centre status.
New Zealand Transport Agency Cycling Manager Dougal List also features, detailing the factors trail providers must take into account to operate on a national scale with co-founder of Bike Parks British Colombia Jimmy Young and Trail Fund Chair Ben Wilde.