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:

NZ Cycle Trail website is up

30 05 2011

The new Nga Haerenga, New Zealand Cycle Trail website is up and running.

I’m looking forward to riding lots of the new sections as they open.

But this whole cycle trail initiative is a bit of a misfire of policy in my opinion. It does nothing for getting safe cycle infrastructure in our towns and cities. It is for tourists, domestic and international. It isn’t for people to ride to work, or for kids to ride to school safely. Or for getting between towns by bike safely. I think the NZ cycle trail funding is great, but the other side of the cycle funding coin is just getting ignored by the current government. The always excellent Auckland Transport Blog  had a post recently and it shows the actual and planned Ministry of Transport funding (which doesn’t include the NZ cycle trail project, which is part of Tourism, which is Economic Development):

Walking and cycling receive less than $5 per head per annum funding, and roads get over $500 a head. Cycling and walking is therefore funded at less than a hundredth of roads.

I get the feeling the Prime Minister just said whatever came into his head at the jobs summit early in his government’s term, and the policy makers had to run around behind him like the circus’s bucket boy behind an elephant, and put some money where his mouth was, and hence we get our “great rides”.

But the figures in the Ministry of Transport budget don’t lie. The National Government doesn’t really give a hoot about cyclists and pedestrians. I really do think one of the roles of the NZ government should be to fund local government to build cycling infrastructure. It’s hardly a radical idea. It’s just better policy.

Sandhills Motorway cycleway provisions

30 05 2011

The NZTA has released a video with a fly-through of the proposed Kapiti Expressway/Sandhills Motorway/ Mackays to Peka Peka route:

Here are my observations of what I can see in the video with regards to the cycling provisions:

  • The cyclepath seems to follow close to the motorway along the bottom of the Raumati Escarpment north of Mackay’s Crossing. That seems to be a bit of a clueless option. Putting a decent cycleway through Queen Elizabeth Park as previously stated on this blog would be a much better proposition. Any cycleway out of the noise cone of the motorway traffic has got to be better than one that follows it closely. The cycleway shown in the video follows the road closely, but it’s got a whole park to use, so why not build a decent paved, well-lit commuter cycleway away from the road? It’s not high conservation land, but gorse filled paddocks, and with the new road and a new cycleway the paddock in the north east corner of the park could be remediated and turned back into wetlands with native flora planted.
  • It’s hard to see what the Poplar Ave crossing would look like. An underpass would be preferred, but as long as it is safe.
  • Just north of Poplar Ave it follows the motorway designation, but the now unused road reserve further west could be used for the cycleway and could link up with a cycleway through the park.
  • Then there seems to be some new lakes and it looks like the cycleway leaves the road and goes through the dunes. Yeay! And it looks like an underpass under Raumati Road. Cool.
  • Then some more new lakes and the cycleway meets up with the Wharemauku Stream paths. That’s good. And the path leading north from there starts a bit further away.
  • Then at Kapiti Road it looks like an at grade crossing, presumably with no provision to stop the traffic. That’s bad, bad, bad. Why Raumati Road would appear to have an underpass, and not the busier Kapiti Road, I dunno.
  • The next bit between Kapiti and Mazengarb Roads will be boring and noisy, and there’s another at grade crossing for Mazengarb Road. It’s not as busy a road so that’s probably OK.
  • North of Otaihanga Road the cycleway goes missing before magically appearing from a lake on the other side of the motorway.
  • A cyclists’ bridge over the Waikanae River is very welcome. The current SH1 road bridge is deadly to cyclists. However there seems to be very poor connections with the Waikanae River paths, which is surely an oversight.
  • Then north of the river the cycleway disappears again, before having the most circuitous route through the Te Moana Road interchange roundabouts (wow that looks overengineered) and going back to the western side of the motorway.
  • Then it follows too close to the road noise cone all the way to Peka Peka Road. Presumably north of Peka Peka Road any cycle traffic will go along the to be built  local road, but the local road surely is going to be signposted at 80 or 100km/hr, and won’t be the safest road for cyclists to ride.
  • If you’re not sick to death of doing so there is currently a public consultation til June 27th about the road, and presumably the cycle provision, on the NZTA website.

My verdict is that it is flawed in that it will be too noisy, and I’ll continue to ride the Kotuku Lakes, Manly Street, Marine Parade, Rosetta Road route if I pass through Kapiti on my bike. I look forward to safe cycling between Otaki and Waikanae and I’ve only ever ridden it on the beach, or sadly on the highway on a memorial ride. I really wish they’d get their act together on in QE Park and on the almost good Waikanae River paths. It will be nice to get cycling infrastructure funded and built for once, even though it isn’t filling a gap in safe cycle routes when there are gaps to fill, and it can only be funded as part of a super big bloody road, and not in its own right. And if they did link it to the Waikanae River paths on both sides of the river then Kapiti Coasters could use it as the backbone on a much more extensive cycle network than they have now.

Hauraki Rail Trail progress

15 05 2011

On Auckland Trains is a post with great news about the Hauraki Rail Trail. It looks like it is going to get built.

I think from the map it means there will be safe riding between Kaiaua and Miranda, around the Firth of Thames, to Thames and then through to Waihi or Te Aroha.

There mightn’t be any funding for urban cycle infrastructure, and they may leave us with a multi-gazillion dollar debt, but John Key’s National government at least is helping with progressing rural cycle infrastructure. Maybe not in completely meaningful ways (for instance I have found that the SH1 bridge over the Manawatu River is very, very scary to ride) but it’s a start.

Hawkes Bay Coastal Ride

29 12 2010

On a recent hot day I had a chance to ride from Havelock North to Napier and back along the Tuki Tuki River and the coastal path. It has been developed by the Hawkes Bay Rotarians (click for maps and info) since 2002, and is to be expanded as part of the National Cycleway plans.

Along the Tuki Tuki river the path follows the top of a levee bank. The views are over orchards, pumpkin patches and vines. It’s all a bit horticultural if you like that sort of thing.

The number of gates on the cycleway are a problem. Gates are just about always a barrier to cycling, and how is someone in a hand trike, a velomobile or a recumbent going to get around them. Kissing gates are a right royal pain in the buttocks on a bicycle. The bits between Clive and River Road was chock-a-block full of gates. Some with warning signs about how cows may be frisky (which is a bit of a clue to what they get up to around Napier way when it’s not Art Deco weekend). I got a bit sick of all the gates.

Closer to Napier the kissing gates disappear and ‘motor vehicle restriction points’ are used, and as pointed out by the Bicycle Canberra blog (a barrier to cycling) are not entirely safe for cyclists, but better than an annoying gate.

There are no road crossings the whole way from River Road to Ahuriri which is great, the rivers are crossed on footpaths of the road bridges, and the worst the path gets is running alongside the noisy road, but those bits are short. Most of it is out of the noise cone of the road, which is how it should be. It is all alongside the rivers or the sea (or the fertiliser factory)

The path surface is pretty good quality of very fine packed gravel, and even thin tyres I think could ride on it, and maybe even on a wet day.

Closer to Napier the cycleway turns into concrete, and is quite wide and good quality.

Past the Port the path turns into boardwalk, which can get a bit busy with pedestrians on a sunny day.

And always remember to have a front wheel on your bicycle.

and on the way back to Havelock North after a hot sunny ride looking at Te Mata Peak in the distance, it does occur to me that it might be a great idea to plant a whole lot of trees alongside the paths, to offer the sun-kissed cyclist a little bit of shade, and a break from the wind.

The paths provide mostly an enjoyable day, but probably not a reason to go out of your way to visit Hawkes Bay unless you go up for other reasons like a hike to the gannetry, or a visit to the National Aquarium.

The Kaiwharawhara Shambles

27 12 2010

My favourite bicycle blogger would have to be Freewheeler’s Crap Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest. He likes to point out the disappointment of living in a borough of London where it is dominated by cars and there is no political will amongst the rubbish local politicians to make it any better (although they do tell everyone how wonderful things are, but on the ground it is far from the truth) He shows how rubbish it is in London and contrasts it with good bicycle infrastructure in the Netherlands. I like the way he says it how it is without fear. So I’m going to take a leaf out of his book and say that the bicycle infrastructure on the Hutt Road is absolute rubbish.

I’m not talking about how rubbish for cyclists the Hutt Road is between Ngauranga and Petone, which I have done before here and here. I’m talking about these bits in Kaiwharawhara where the bike path is on the footpath between the road and rows of parked cars and the various businesses. The bikepath, which is at best painted on, is in constant conflict between the parked cars and their door zones and all the vehicle movements across the path.

There’s been some recent green paint work, which is a step in the right direction in controlling cars but it effectively halves the width of the cycleway which is a bit dumb.

Then there are lamp posts in the middle of the path. Always good that one. And here a cyclist is giving up on the path after getting around the truck blocking it, and he’s going to cycle on the road.

Here’s a car blocking the path, but perhaps legally as they’re just leaving the Spotlight carpark and turning into Hutt Road.

And here’s one who was breaking the law:

and this truck (FBY573 in case you can’t read it) had their hazard lights on, which makes it all ok:

My opinion of the highly compromised Hutt Rd bike infrastructure is that it is an absolute shambles. And whilst it seems no expense will be spared on the Motorway any money spent on bike infrastructure seems a long way off. In fact the whole of the north side of Wellington is a bit of a shambles. If you arrived from the South Island on the ferry and then tried to walk into the CBD you’d think Wellington was a mess. And Tranz Metro must be really proud of the state of Kaiwharawhara station, which doesn’t even have a shelter on the platforms.

Whilst I live in hope that the Great Harbour Way is on its way (hope springs eternal), between the waterfront and the Interislander terminal a cycleway route needs to be found. And it’s got to not be along Hutt Road. I’ve previously suggested using the Cake Tin Concourse and then linking that through a new route through the rail yards (on a fully fenced, and tree-lined, 4 metre wide cycle path) which would get near the Interislander terminal near the Aotea off-ramp here.

And then heading north it would pass the ferry terminal buildings and then go under the ferry ramp and go along the seafront all the way to Petone.

So how about it, powers that be? Can we have a rebuild of Kaiwharawhara Station so it isn’t an embarassing mess? (And how about a new station on both the Johnsonville line where it branches off the N.I.M.T., and the other lines, near the intersection of Tinakori and Hutt Roads.) and can we have a designated, well built cycle route linking the Interislander and the Cake Tin concourse, linking the waterfront to the Kaiwharawhara seafront and eventually to Petone? The north side of Wellington needs a retrofit. Or are we only going to get spending on motorways that doesn’t benefit cyclists and pedestrians ones bit?

For a city, like Wellington, that has visions of grandeur, and a sense of self-importance (although it should get out a bit  more) it doesn’t mind showing its ugly side to the world.

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.