February 19 marks the planned opening of the extension of suburban Welly railway services to Waikanae. To mark this occasion, which I think is going to be a great thing for Waikanae, I thought I’d do a post about the cycling possibilities of the Waikanae River, as it will soon be possible to put a bike on the train in Wellington and go for such a ride, and some of it is really quite pleasant. Such as this bit:
Back in my shit-stirring days (circa September 2010) I asked local candidates in the Kapiti local government elections some questions about cycle infrastructure and air quality. I was hoping some talented individuals would get voted in to council, because the service we get from the KCDC is quite pathetic and they need a boot up the arse, (and all these posts about incompetent councils are pretty much inspired by the losers of the KCDC who can’t do their jobs properly.) Of course the councillors we got aren’t any different from the previous lot, and I have yet to see any positive results (especially on air quality).
One of the cycling related questions I asked them was:
Would you support the paving of the riverside paths on one or both sides of the Waikanae River to make them cycleways?
I got lots of answers from the candidates ranging from wanting to keep it in its natural state (which means neglecting it I guess) to how great it already is and how they love riding along it, which only means I don’t think they’ve tried riding it all.
My general premise is that the paths should be paved on each side of the river, because some of it is too rough, and when it is wet it gets muddy and boggy. So I think a minimum standard for a suburban bike track is a paved surface such as asphalt and a complete lack of gates. Some suburban bike tracks in the world, such as Adelaide’s River Torrens paths, or even Scottsdale, Arizona’s Indian Bend Wash are paved, and it doesn’t distract from the “naturalness” of them or make the experience any less lovely. In fact providing safe, quality cycle infrastructure actually makes the paths more pleasant to use. Fancy that!! And how else does a school kid living in Waikanae get to college in Paraparaumu anyway? (Well they probably drive themselves from age 15 on the already congested State Highway 1, such are the policy cluster fire trucks in New Zealand)
At the moment there are 3 bridges across the river, all kind of rideable: The best is the westernmost which links the Kotuku Lakes/Otaihanga end to the Lagoons. It can be ridden across if there are no pedestrians, and is part of the Kapiti Coast Coastal Cycle Route.
A couple of kilometres east is the new pedestrian bridge, which is little used, but you’ll probably want to dismount to get across it as the surface is bit harsh on tyres.
And further east again is the state highway with a 100 kilometre/hour dropping to 70 limit and is only safe to cross on the footpath. On the road is just too scary.
The northern side of the river is pretty rideable the whole way. It has a couple of gate-like impediments where private land has to be crossed. The property boundaries are in the middle of the river. The signs on the paths used to say no mountain bikes which was observed in the breach, and has been changed nowadays to a much more reasonable no trail bikes (trail bikes make good boat anchors in my opinion). There are multiple exit points to suburban Waikanae streets and it is easy to get out to Te Moana Road. In a few places the path goes through wide parks, such as here:
Between the two easternmost bridges the path has some tighter curves and is more tree-ed, but is rideable with caution all the way to the highway.
The southern side of the river is more problematic. The path itself is a bit rocky and gets muddy patches. Between the middle and the western bridge it is quite rideable. Between the two easternmost bridges on the south side, in places, it is too rough to ride a bike, even a mountain bike. This is why I say some effort should be made to upgrade the surface of the bike paths to paved, as in asphalt. The current rocks will break your spokes pretty easily.
And the southern bank (the true south side) getting towards the state highway is wholly unrideable probably due to a combination of council neglect and flood damage.
So I do think some money needs to be spent upgrading it, and I do think both sides of the river should be rideable by all types of bikes, including thin tyred bikes, and all the gates should be gotten rid of, and I think some solar powered lighting could be installed so that there is a 24 hour bike route between Paraparaumu and Waikanae, such as on the northern side of the river.
But you can ride it now with fat tyres, and it wouldn’t be a wasted day riding from the new station down the riverbank (stick to the north side (or the southern side west of the middle bridge) for now), and explore the lagoons, and ride down to Paraparaumu Beach, and even onto Raumati and through Queen Elizabeth Park and onto Pukerua Bay. Northwards you can get as far safely as Peka Peka Beach. After that the only safe way heading north is on the beach to Te Horo Beach. There are no real alternatives other than the dangerous SH1. I did so once but not for the happiest of reasons.
Good for a one off adventure, not so good for a regular commute.