I’m fortunate that I regularly get to visit family in Hawkes Bay, specifically Hastings and Havelock North. Not only is it a gorgeous region, but Hastings was selected in 2010 as one of NZTA’s model cycling communities. Their goal: make cycling and walking “simply irresistible“.
It has to be said that the difference over the past two years is remarkable. Walking through the main shopping areas of Hastings or Havelock North you see those awesome bikerakk‘s on every street corner. Almost all main roads and suburban streets have painted green cycle-lanes, and most rural roads popular with cyclists have large ‘Share the Road’ signs. Add to this the Rotary trail which joins Havelock North with Napier via off road paths and you have a near perfect cycling environment (the sunshine, lack of rain, and flat landscape help too). The next project is a 3m wide walking and cycling path, separated from traffic, along the main road between Hastings and Havelock (cleverly called the Havelock Road).
The best part of all this infrastructure is that it actually seems to be working. Over the weekend, we decided to bike to the Farmers Market – a decent 11km ride – on a borrowed ‘Omafiets’ and a ‘new-but-used‘ bike. My parents (Mum with her two hip replacements) decided to join us on their tandem. No fluoro, no sports gear. Just the family off to the market. Afterwards, we visited my sister, who then decided to bike back to our parents house, via some shops, with her two year old son on the back of her bike. Again, not a stitch of hi-vis in sight (although my nephew was wearing a ‘Buzz Lightyear’ helmet). We set an easy pace and enjoyed the ride. By the end, my nephew had learnt to indicate and promptly put up his right arm when he figured out where we were going. A 30km round-trip ride, with shopping (wine from the market on the back carrier, new bike bits in the basket), no sweat! The great thing about this is that they’ve all taken up cycling again since the project began.
At one point, I actually commented that the path we were on entering Havelock (not a ‘tourist’ path, but part of the aforementioned Havelock Road) felt like a Dutch cycleway. That’s about the highest compliment I can think of for cycling infrastructure!
Of course, Hastings has several advantages over many of New Zealand’s larger cities, especially Wellington. Climate, topograph
What can a windy, hilly city with narrow, winding roads and a much larger population, not to mention a much stronger need for good infrastructure, learn from these model communities? Can the same improvements be made here? What would be on your wish-list for Wellington? If money and politics weren’t an issue, what would be your dream project?!?y, and the general width of the roads there; all these features make change easier. They received $4 million to show NZTA what can be done and have achieved a 23% increase in the number of people taking to their bikes. While their efforts should be applauded, and I’m happy to take advantage of the improvements whenever I’m up there, what does this mean for the rest of us?