Cycling in New Zealand
Cycling in New Zealand, while relatively popular as a sport, 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.
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. The Government, in its 2002 NZ Transport Strategy (and 2008 revision), 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" was released. However, from 2008 the new National-led Government set aside this strategy and restricted funding for cycling facilities, citing the need for motorway investment instead. The one significant investment from 2010 was 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 - a further $15 million was then earmarked to these towns for 2012-15.
Following a spate of cycle crashes in late 2010, a national coronial inquiry considered the issue of cycle safety. After hearing submissions from a wide range of parties, Coroner Matenga recommended in 2013 that an expert panel, led by the NZ Transport Agency, be put together to recommend to central and local government how to prevent further cycling deaths and improve safety. A Cycle Safety Panel of ten specialists was convened in 2014 and spent the year gathering evidence and then making a wide-ranging series of recommendations. A key recommendation was that a significant injection in cycleway infrastructure funding was required by Government. As a result, a $100 million Urban Cycleways Fund was announced by the Government and, in conjunction with existing local and national transport funding, this led to a record $330 million cycleways programme over 2015-18.
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.
In the mid 2000s, Auckland Regional Transport Authority reported that “over half of Aucklanders believe it is usually unsafe, or always unsafe, to cycle”. 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. 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. 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.
In recent decades a number of cycleways have been established through New Zealand, most of them rail trails.
- The Otago Central Rail Trail is a 150 kilometre walking, cycling or horse riding track in the South Island. It runs in an arc between Middlemarch and Clyde, along the route of the former Otago Central Railway.
- The Hawke's Bay Trails, which are in turn part of Nga Haerenga, the New Zealand Cycle Trail project, are made up of three distinct sections - the Landscapes Ride, the Water Ride and the Wineries Ride - and form a 'Great Ride' of more than 200 kilometres (120 mi).
- The Little River Rail Trail is a cycling and walking track established near Little River on Banks Peninsula in the Canterbury region of the South Island. The first section opened in May 2006.
- The route of the defunct Dun Mountain Railway is regularly used for cycling.
- The Rimutaka Incline, replaced by the Rimutaka Tunnel in 1955, has now been established as a cycling route.
- Pipiwharauroa Way near Raglan.
- 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.
- In Auckland, there are a growing number of urban cycleways through the city.
- The 2017 Kapiti Expressway (MacKays to Peka Peka) SH1 has an extensive new cycle path along 18km of the new highway. The cycle paths also crosslink the existing urban area to improve walking, cycle and horse riding routes.
New Zealand Cycle Trail
In early 2009, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, 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 opened between 2011 and 2013.
Events & Races
A number of cycling events are held around the country as fun rides, fundraisers or competitive cycling events:
- The 160 km Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge has been held since 1977 and is predominately a non-competitive event. The event raises money for the Lake Taupo community.
- The 100 km Christchurch to Akaroa Le Race has been held annually since 2000. It has been described as a "tough hill-climbing event".
- The Tour of Southland is a road bicycle racing stage race held in Southland.
- The Tour de Vineyards is a road cycling race held in and around Richmond. The race exists of both a men's and a women's competition over four stages.
- The Graperide is a 101 km cycling race based around Blenheim.
- The TelstraClear Challenge is a variety of events centred on the Auckland Harbour Bridge and Northern Busway, including a 110 km race and a variety of cycling culture events, taking place for the first time in December 2011.
- 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.
Organisations and institutions
Cycling Action Network (CAN) is a national cycling advocacy group founded in November 1996. 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 (now held as a joint walking & cycling conference).
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; in 2014 BikeNZ rebranded as Cycling NZ. 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, but continues to work with BikeNZ on advocacy issues.
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. 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.
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- to 12-year-old age group.[clarification needed] A Massey University study in 2006 found that compulsory bicycle helmet laws led to a lower uptake of cycling, especially among women.
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.
- Cycling in Auckland
- Australian magpies in New Zealand - the birds are known to attack cyclists
- Nextbike (New Zealand), a bicycle rental scheme
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