Those National Cycle Trails are going down a treat!

Alps To Ocean, Copyright Mt Bike Mt Cook, CC BY 2.0

Heaps of people have been riding the new National Cycle Trails during the holidays. The Kennett Bros’s superb ‘Classic Cycle Trail‘ book sold out before Christmas and a reprint is keeping supplies coming. North and South in February has a 7 page story at the back “Wheels Are Rolling” with brilliant photos of Jonathan Kennett on some of the more adventurous rides.

There are some impressive stats showing growing popularity – 22,000 people rode the Waikato River Trails for the 11 months to October 2012; 25,000 people got out on the most popular part of the Mountains to the Sea route (map link) – probably the scenic and easy Coach Rd section near Ohakune. Others, like Alps 2 Ocean in the South Island (map link and photo at right) are not even half done, yet the completed sections already offer impressive rides through some stunning stretches of NZ.

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I met Richard Legatt a few days ago (Chair of Bike NZ and newly appointed Chair of the “Establishment Advisory Board” for the Cycle Trails). Cycle Action is keen to be in the loop on future planning and management of the trails, as evidence suggests that Aucklanders represent a big proportion of the trail users. We know they have taken to the Otago Rail Trail in huge numbers – when I first rode it 10 years ago I met only overseas tourists, now you tend to meet many Aucklanders. Before the National Cycle Trail started to get off the ground these people tended to contact us on their return, feeling euphoric and desperate to get out on more Trails.

Richard’s board has until September to prepare business and marketing plans for the trails to help them become financially sustainable. The other board members represent trail operators and service providers from the South Island, one of whom has an extremely impressive track record in dedicating years of work to establish the Otago Rail Trail.

Dun Mountain Trail, Rocky SectionI was surprised that more effort hasn’t been made on the board to include users of the trails, as that would seem to be basic to a marketing exercise. However, until users have an official voice I suggest we should gather good ideas to feed the board, so the Trails are tweaked and finished to meet riders’ needs as quickly as possible (for example, in the comments section of our Hauraki Rail Trail article, we found out recently that some cumbersome cattle gate types have since been removed, based on the comments from many cyclists who found them rather troublesome to get through on their bikes). If such communication happens, and cyclists get access to up to date websites with the ability to feed back comments, the trails will continue to grow and the trail providers and support businesses will benefit from on-going good ideas from users.

Cycle Action wants to promote the trails, as we know this will create even more alluring media stories (like those regularly found in the weekend supplement to the Herald – thanks to the editor, Catherine Smith). This will also result in more people thinking about bikes as a great way to get around Auckland for pleasure and business (and maybe we will finally see the languishing Auckland trail concepts become official?).

Queenstown Trail, Gibbston River Trail SectionWe’d love to have guest blogs from people, especially who have ridden some of the longer and more out of the way trails over the holidays. And even if you don’t think a whole blog post is your thing, please still tell us about your time on the trails – and your highs and lows –  in the comments of this blog so we can all share and learn from your experiences!

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