Could you cycle in Masterton in winter?

16 08 2012

Could you cycle in this?

Could you cycle in a town as fouled as Masteron in winter on a still night? The picture above is from the Wairarapa Mail’s July 2012 story on Masterton smog levels. The photo below is famous and used all over the web. It’s Masterton in 2004. From the photo above you can see digital photographs have improved, but Masterton’s air quality hasn’t. Can anyone say “ineffective GWRC response” and cough at the same time?

Could you cycle in this?

Air pollution suppresses all outdoor activities, such as jogging and cycling, and winter rugby practice. There is a link between a dependence on burning wood for domestic heating and  obesity levels in children and adults, caused by being forced to be inside during winter. For a lot of people it isn’t the cold, or the dark, but air quality that keeps them from exercising.

In 2007 the Australian Standards Committee recommended halving the allowable PM10 particulates in the relevant A/NZ Standard. It was vetoed by the Australian Home Heating Association, despite the obvious conflict of interest that woodheater manufacturers profiting from liassez-faire pollution had. (How crazy is that? Do we let Tobacco Companies get their way and veto tobacco control?)

By the halved standard of 25 micrograms of PM10 particulates in 24 hours just how many towns in New Zealand would be officially polluted? All of them?

Do you stop cycling in winter? What are the worst places for cycling air quality in the region? What can be done about it?

Think woodsmoke isn’t harmful? Visit Clean Air New Zealand.

Think woodsmoke is harmful? Best not visit New Zealand in Winter.


Wellington to Wairarapa Trail

13 06 2011

There was a comment on my last post from David Hancock, who works for Hutt City Council, and I think it is worth highlighting the link he gave. Pedalling Regional Collaboration about the Wellington to Wairarapa trails.

There is lots of potential for linking the Hutt River Trails, the Rimutaka Incline, and around Pencarrow with Martinborough and Lake Wairarapa into a marketable whole. My opinion is that it would be the Wellington region’s primary recreational asset and would be of national significance as it would attract international tourists to stay for a few days in the region. It would be up there with the Tongariro Crossing, or the Heaphy Track as something visitors would love to do.

It’s a bit of a mystery why it was overlooked by the National Cycleway process. I would have thought it’s exactly what the National Cycleway was all about.

The scenery is pretty stunning. Pulling out of the panniers a bottle of Sauvignon Plonk you bought a day earlier at a Martinborough winery cellar door and sitting and admiring the views like these would be O for oarsome bigtime:

Is the Rimutaka Rail trail under threat?

21 11 2010

I’ve ridden the Rimutaka Rail Trail a few times. It is a pleasant way to spend a day, and indeed every time I’ve been on it on bike or on foot I’ve always seen a lot of other people using it. The original railway was built in 1878, and operated until 1955 as the Rimutaka Incline Railway. It used Fell Locomotives to get over the steep grades (up to 1 in 12), which by how many times the forest caught alight, and by the number of accidents, must have been a bit of a bugger. It went so slow the passengers would often get out and walk. So when the 8.8km Rimutaka Tunnel was built through the mountains from Maymorn to Featherston they shut the incline railway down. A section of it from Kaitoke to Cross Creek is now the Rimutaka Rail Trail. On the Wairarapa side from Cross Creek to the Western Lake Road there is a short bit of single track, and back in the Hutt (with potential links to the Hutt River Trails) it is possible to get to the start from Kaitoke, from Tunnel Gully, or through the tunnel at Maymorn. In other words it is a well used recreational asset for the Wellington region, making use of a now economically unimportant railway route. If it was taken away from the public it would be a bloody great shame. (Instead as I have said before it should be made into part of the National Cycleway with links down the Western Lake Road, to Martinborough, and through the Wairarapa northwards).

Is it under threat? Well have a look at the grandiose plans of the rail enthusiasts called The Rimutaka Incline Railway Heritage Trust. I’m reluctant to slag off railway enthusiasts, because I love trains, I love history, and hence I love historic trains. I love riding them, and photographing them. I am a bit of a train geek, but I am going to point out the folly of it all.

The Trust has been around since 2003, and is a registered charitable organisation. Their stated aim is to get the incline railway going again. Now it is an obvious folly of course, and most of the people I have mentioned it to have scoffed at the idea, and thought it not worth worrying about because it would cost millions of dollars, and after 7 years they have 40 members (which is less than the number of people using the rail trail on a sunny day) and have raised a little over $100,000.

So here’s what they want to do. They want to plan, fund, reinstate and operate a tourist heritage railway on the former railway route between Upper Hutt and Featherston. Well there goes the rail trail I hear you say, but no they have thought of everything, including replacement paths for hikers and cyclists that would follow the route (but not go through the tunnels – which are the coolest bit of the ride, so kind of ruining it for those who enjoy it how it is now).

Then there is the little bit of common sense they seem to be missing. The hillsides regularly burnt because of sparks and embers coming from the coal powered locomotives. Pakuratahi Forest is now a commercial pine forest. How is the Trust going to pay for the forest that it would inevitable set fire to?

So it would cost millions, it would set the forest alight, it would destroy a unique recreational asset, and it would attract only a handful of tourists that wouldn’t even cover the running costs. So take a step back fellas, and re-examine your plans. Are they realistic? Are they achievable? Is it even wanted by the rest of the community? Run a steam train between Upper Hutt and Maymorn or something, maybe. (Although if I lived on the route I’d point out that steam trains are filthy as). At Maymorn rent out bicycles and torches. Add to the history displays that are already there. Make it really interesting for those who come and see. It’d be quite cool to see your working locomotive at Maymorn, ride a bike one way between Maymorn and Featherston over the rail trail, stopping for all the displays, then see the Fell Locomotive Museum and then come back on the extant rail line on a normal Masterton to Wellington train.

In contrast it’d really suck to ride a Fell Locomotive over what was once the Rail Trail.

Fellas you’re dreaming.

Shock horror – car parks are to be “culled” in Masterton

1 06 2010

More muddle-headed than a wombat on cleanup day Jamie Morton, staff reporter for the Wairarapa Times-Age, celebrates the building of new cycle lane facilities on Chapel Street in Masterton by itemising on-street parking that is to be “culled”. This is his “got his priorities straight” story. Of special note is the reduction of on-street carparking outside the Times-Age offices themselves. How is Jamie going to get to work now, without anywhere to park? I don’t know, maybe he could cycle.

At least the three last paragraphs of the story are worth reading.

Southern Wairarapa cycleways that missed out

23 02 2010

In my recent post on the community proposals for sections of the National Cycleway that missed out I said I was going to give a few details of routes that missed out. And here is the first of those occasional postings.

If anyone has info on some of the other routes that were dudded send the info to me at matthew.thredgold (at) and I’ll appreciate it, and maybe have a posting about it sometime.

So this blog post is about the routes that missed out in the southern Wairarapa.

One is C34 Central New Zealand Cycleway (Partnership Wellington Trust)
and the other is C21 Pahaoa – Palliser Cycleway (Trail Wairarapa Trust)

There were further suggestions further north for the Wairarapa (such as the routes from Featherston to Taihape – see Manawatu Trails) and Horowhenua Council’s over the Tararua route C15 The Missing Link Cycleway (Horowhenua District Council), but this is all about the southern Wairarapa, south of Featherston.

The Central New Zealand Cycleway is meant to link Wellington to Martinborough, starting at Queens Wharf in Wellington, going up the west side of the harbour (on one of the most dangerous stretches of highway for cyclists, the SH2 between Ngauranga and Petone, which the Great Harbour Way (the most important missing bit of cycleway in the country) project is meant to address), then up the Hutt River Trail, and over the Rimutaka Rail Trail to Martinborough.

It is exactly the same as a suggestion I have made myself elsewhere on this blog, so it is obvious to more people than just me.  Although I haven’t seen or heard of the exact proposal it makes sense on so many levels. As a commuter cycleway between the Hutt and Wellington, and as a touring route.

Martinborough is a small town a long way off the main highway surrounded by vineyards on the Wairarapa Plain. It is a nice enough spot, and is already on the tourist map, mainly for the winery, cafe and gallery peoples. For instance it has lots of B&Bs and no backpackers. It has a small town Latin America feel because of the central plaza, which we Anglophones hardly ever go in for (which is a shame, as central plazas are a great design pattern for improving livability)

So in my opinion a second feather in Martinborough’s tourism bow after the wineries could be as a centre for cycle touring.  At the moment only one or two of the B&Bs has bikes for use by its guests.

Martinborough’s Main Square:

It’s main street:

And it’s pub:

On the unfortunately named “Central New Zealand Cycleway” route, from Wellington to Martinborough is a decent day in the saddle of about 80km.

From Martinborough there are routes north, on the Western Lake Road and the access roads out to the proposed Pahaoa – Palliser Cycleway. Here’s a map of just that cycleway:

The western end at Pencarrow I rode around back last Christmas Eve and Pencarrow Lighthouse is the far eastern extremity of the proposed Great Harbour Way. So a Wellington to Wellington round trip via the “Central New Zealand Cycleway” and this cycleway would be a mere 270km or so. From Pahaoa to Pencarrow is 143km.

Much of this route is already extant, albeit some bits are extremely rough. It’s just that legal access is in some places by permission, which may not always be forthcoming. The proposal I hoped talked about cleaning up the roughest bits of the road, joining up the missing bits, and getting rid of any private property signs on the road. It’d be a fantastically scenic route, and could gain some international reknown like the Central Otago Rail Trail has. Some enterprising Ngawi residents could develop a business around overnight stays in Ngawi.  Same goes for Eastbourne and Lake Ferry. And the same goes for Martinborough. It make so much sense as a tourist development catalyst, I’m surprised the Tourism Ministry didn’t choose this as one of their projects to fund.

I’ve not ridden all of the route, but here’s a few photos of the terrain.

Looking at the coast road back towards Ngawi from the Cape Palliser Lighthouse:

and looking in the other direction, east:

This is nearby on the proposed cycle way looking east just before Cape Palliser:

Ocean Beach with Mt Matthews in cloud in the southern end of the Rimutaka Range. The cycleway would be on the rough road leading past the baches:

Riding towards Pencarrow Head. The hills in the background are Wellington’s southern suburbs:

The coast road between Pencarrow and Baring Heads on a clear day:

How many places in the world are there a 150km coastal cycleway without car traffic starting on the edge of a city? It would be unique, and it’d be fantastic. I reckon New Zealand is shooting itself in the foot not turning it into a world class asset.

Rimutaka Rail Trail

23 01 2010

I’ve been meaning to write this one up for ages and today the weather is rubbish, so here ’tis. It’s going to get more hits than my other posts because it has the word tunnel in it, and I get more traffic out of that one word than just about any other word (for my Cycling in Wellington’s Tunnels post). Something Freudian about tunnels methinks. Imagine how many hits I’d get with the words “Lesbian Spank Infrerno” somewhere surreptitiously hidden away in this post. No I’m not going to do that.

The Rimutaka Rail Trail Goes through the Pakuratahi Forest and links the Hutt Valley with the southern Wairarapa or in particular it goes from Kaitoke or Maymorn (depending on where you start) on the Hutt side to Cross Creek, a few kilometres south of Featherston on the Wairarapa side. Here’s a pdf map of the Pakuratahi Forest (administered by the Greater Wellington Regional Council).

The Rimutaka Rail Trail is the natural extension of the Hutt River Trail and from Cross Creek there are three natural routes, one is down the western side of Lake Wairarapa (on a reasonably quiet Western Lake Road with places to camp near the lakeshore) and eventually on to back around Baring and Pencarrow Heads, another is northwards through the Wairarapa to Masterton and beyond, and the other is out towards Martinborough. Somehow if there was some clever route finding from Cross Creek through the Lake Domain Reserve that’d make a great bike trail.

These photos are from a walk I did from the Cross Creek carpark up to Summit, and a bike ride from Maymorn, through the Maymorn tunnel and the forest roads, over to Cross Creek and then back to the SH2 (a fast downhill), and back to Maymorn. The bike ride gets in an extra tunnel, adding one to the four on the rail trail proper. This adds a considerable amount of effort required to do the ride (I distinctly remember saying out loud, “There’s no oomph left in this oompa-loompa” on the way back). The rail trail proper from the Kaitoke Loop Road to the old town of Cross Creek is quite an easy and pleasant ride. From the old village of Cross Creek to the Cross Creek Carpark is some single track, but it’s not too difficult. The rail trail itself is flat. wide and not too steep (at most 1 in 12). The old fell railway used to get over the hill, so you can probably too.

There is a sixth tunnel Cruickshanks Tunnel that you can’t bike through, but can apparently find on foot.

Cross Creek (one improvement here would be to continue the rail trail on across the private land that was once the railway line, instead of the single track):

I love this photo I took at Summit. Nearby there was this little smart-arse blue guy with glasses about three apples tall, and I kicked him from Summit into Lake Wairarapa.

A railway bridge near the Siberia Tunnel means a quick off ya bike descent across a creek:

And the rest of the photos are just gratuitous tunnel photos: I can’t remember which is which of the 5 of them, and they look different depending on which end you’re looking at. Summit Tunnel at 584  metres long is the funnest to ride through. Walking through without a torch is also fun.