Cycling in New Zealand

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A cycle tourist at Island Saddle between the Wairau Valley and Hanmer Springs in New Zealand.

Cycling in New Zealand, while relatively popular as a sport, bicycle use is a very marginal commuting mode, with the share hovering around 1-3% in most major cities. This is due to a number of factors, principally safety fears.

History[edit]

Cyclists in Thames in the late 19th Century.

The bicycle reached New Zealand in the 1860s in the form of the velocipede, also known as the 'boneshaker'. As bicycle design improved, and production became mass-market, cycling became a popular mode of transport in many parts of New Zealand for half a century.

In the 1950s and 60s government transport funding and policies favouring motor vehicles as the transport of the future, along with the increasing affordability of automobiles, spurred a rise in motor vehicles. New Zealand soon had, and still has, one of the highest rates of car dependence in the world.

As well as abandoning bicycles (and public transport) in favour of cars, the remaining bicyclists were increasingly forced off the streets by the rising danger of motor traffic, relegating bicycles to recreational and sports use. The oil shocks of the 1970s triggered the first of several bicycle resurgences, and new sports bicycles became popular: first, road racing bikes, then BMXs and eventually mountain bikes. By 1990, a survey showed cycling to be the second most popular participation sport in New Zealand. Since then, cycle sales have remained high, averaging over 150,000 per annum. However, their everyday uses, such as for commuting or shopping, is still rare.

In 1994, New Zealand introduced mandatory bicycle helmet wearing, a change which some parts of academia and cycling advocacy credit with further reducing the incidence and attractiveness of cycling.

Since the 1990s, a number of local Councils have developed cycling (or walking & cycling) strategies to plan for the provision of cycle-friendly environments and the promotion of cycling for transport and recreation.[1] The Government, in its 2002 NZ Transport Strategy (and 2008 revision),[2] officially acknowledged the role that cycling can play in helping to achieve a number of strategic transport outcomes, and in 2005 the first national Walking and Cycling Strategy "Getting There: On Foot, By Cycle"[3] was released. However the current National-led Government has set aside this strategy and restricted funding for cycling facilities, citing the need for motorway investment instead.[4] The one significant investment since 2010 has been the "Model Walking and Cycling Communities" programme, which saw $7 million invested over 2 years in the two chosen communities, Hastings and New Plymouth, as demonstration projects of what could be achieved with concentrated focus[5] - a further $15 million has since been earmarked to these towns for 2012-15.[6]

Cycling is increasingly becoming a touristic and (at least local) economic factor in the 2010s. In addition to successful cycle touring schemes (like those gathered under the New Zealand Cycle Trail umbrella) credited with revitalising local back country areas, are experiences like those reported from Rotorua, where the mountain biking business within the Whakarewarewa timber plantation forest is several times that earned annually from the timber plantation itself.[7]

Factors[edit]

In the mid 2000s, Auckland Regional Transport Authority reported that “over half of Aucklanders believe it is usually unsafe, or always unsafe, to cycle”.[8] This high perceived risk to bicycle users in New Zealand's largest city is due to a number of factors. Motorists tend to exhibit hostile attitudes towards bicycle riders.[9] Bicycles are classed as 'vehicles', a transport class legally obliged to use the road, forcing bicycle users to mingle with heavy and fast-moving motor vehicles; only postal workers are legally permitted to ride on footpaths.[10] Bicycle infrastructure and the standards underpinning bicycle infrastructure planning are poor and bicycles receive relatively very low levels of funding by both central and local government.[11]

Infrastructure[edit]

In recent decades a number of cycleways have been established through New Zealand, most of them rail trails.

  • The Rimutaka Incline, replaced by the Rimutaka Tunnel in 1955, has now been established as a cycling route.
  • Christchurch, which has historically had one of the highest rates of cycling in the country (currently 7% commuters), has over 200 km of cycle lanes, pathways, and other cycling facilities, including the Railway Cycleway and Hagley Park.

New Zealand Cycle Trail[edit]

In early 2009, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, also proposed a 'New Zealand Cycleway' and in mid 2009, $50 million for the first three years was set aside for construction of a network of 'Great Rides' (Nga Haerenga), most of which are now (mid 2011) under construction, and will open between 2011 and 2013.

Events & Races[edit]

A number of cycling events are held around the country as fun rides, fundraisers or competitive cycling events:

  • The 100 km Christchurch to Akaroa Le Race has been held annually since 2000. It has been described as a "tough hill-climbing event".[13][14]
  • New Zealand's most historic cycle race, the Christchurch-to-Timaru event, was discontinued in 2009, after having been held 87 times since 1899. The reason cited was that the traffic management required was too expensive for the small local cycling club to put on the event anymore.[18]

Organisations and institutions[edit]

Cycling Advocates' Network (CAN) is a national cycling advocacy group founded in November 1996.[19] It aims to achieve a better cycling environment for cycling as transport and tourism. Major initiatives are the annual Cycle Friendly Awards and support for a biennial Cycling Conference.

CAN is the parent organisation for some 20 local cycling advocacy groups around the country,[20] including Cycle Action Auckland, Cycle Aware Wellington and Spokes Canterbury.

BikeNZ was created in July 2003 to act as an umbrella body embracing all national bike and cycling organisations including, BMX NZ, CAN, Cycling NZ, Mountain Bike NZ and NZ Schools Cycling Association. It is the national governing body of cycle racing and has a strong focus on sports cycling. CAN was a member of BikeNZ and provided one board member from BikeNZ's inception in July 2003. CAN resigned from BikeNZ in October 2007,[21] but continues to work with BikeNZ on advocacy issues.[22]

Vorb is an online forum set up by Tama Easton as a place for stories and photos from mountain bike trips of a group of friends. In early 2001 it became public, got mentioned in the media and quickly grew into one of the most used sports and outdoors websites in New Zealand, long extending beyond just mountain biking or even cycling. The Vorb community has grown into tens of thousands of cyclists, trampers, climbers, paddlers and others.[23] Vorb has won "Best Sports and Recreation Site" at the People's Choice Netguide Web Awards for 2007, 2008 and 2009 in the 'Best Sports and Recreation Site' category.[24][25][26]

Helmets[edit]

Since 1994 it has been mandatory by law to wear a bicycle helmet while riding a bicycle in New Zealand. The law was enacted after intense lobbying by Rebecca Oaten after her son was injured in a cycle accident.

A study on bicycle helmets using cost-benefit analysis found that the law was only cost-effective for the 5-12 year old age group.[citation needed][clarification needed] A Massey University study in 2006 found that compulsory bicycle helmet laws led to a lower uptake of cycling, especially among women.[27]

Advocacy groups like Cycle Action Auckland have argued that helmets are useful safety devices, but noted out that some cyclists consider them a symbol portraying cycling as dangerous, especially when most severe cycling crashes had been shown to be caused by inattentive motorists.[28]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ New Zealand walking and cycling strategy stocktake, NZTA, Oct 2008
  2. ^ The New Zealand Transport Strategy 2008, Ministry of Transport
  3. ^ "Getting there - on foot, by cycle: A strategy to advance walking and cycling in New Zealand transport", NZ Government, February 2005
  4. ^ Delivering the roads of national significance, NZTA, Aug 2012
  5. ^ Model Communities, NZTA, Jul 2010
  6. ^ Encouraging walking and cycling, NZTA, Aug 2012
  7. ^ "Bikes bring more money than wood from Rotorua forest". The New Zealand Herald. 17 January 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  8. ^ Bean, C. E., Kearns, R. & Collins, D., 2008, Exploring Social Mobilities: Narratives of Walking and Driving in Auckland, New Zealand, Urban Studies 45(13), pp.2829–2848.
  9. ^ Milnr, Rebecca (14 December 2008). "Cyclists fear the bash". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  10. ^ Rules for cycling in the Road Code Accessed 20 December 2009
  11. ^ http://can.org.nz/media/2009/cyclists-angered-by-funding-cuts Press release on funding levels
  12. ^ Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge
  13. ^ "Le Race - Christchurch Cycling Race From ChCh to Akaroa". Tailwind Events. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  14. ^ "Tight contest in cycling's Le Race". The Press. 27 March 2009. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  15. ^ "Cyclist given Harbour Bridge access in historic event". TV New Zealand. 17 June 2011. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  16. ^ "Bridge Bike Ride A Celebration Of Cycle Culture In The Super City". Voxy Newswire. 17 June 2011. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  17. ^ Dearnaley, Mathew (20 June 2011). "Buses protect cyclists on mass bridge crossing". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 20 June 2011. 
  18. ^ "Historic cycle race moves over". Timaru Herald. 12 May 2009. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  19. ^ ChainLinks magazine Issue 6-2006 refer page 4
  20. ^ http://can.org.nz/local-groups
  21. ^ ChainLinks magazine Issue 4-2007 page 16
  22. ^ http://bikenz.org.nz/Article.aspx?Id=747
  23. ^ http://www.vorb.org.nz/rez_page.php?id=about About Vorb
  24. ^ http://www.infonews.co.nz/news.cfm?id=39887 2009 People's Choice NetGuide Web Awards results
  25. ^ http://www.id.co.nz/240a1.page 2008 People's Choice NetGuide Web Awards results
  26. ^ "2007 People's Choice NetGuide Web Awards". Press Release: NetGuide, via Scoop. 10 May 2007. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  27. ^ "Dump harmful helmet law, say cyclists". Press Release: Cycling Health. 13 December 2006. Retrieved 20 June 2011. 
  28. ^ Johnston, Martin (11 April 2011). "Benefit of cycle helmet downgraded by study". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 20 June 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Kennett, Jonathan (2004). Ride: The Story of Cycling in New Zealand. ISBN 0-9583490-7-X. 

External links[edit]