Out of town: cycling in Paeroa

Warwick Marshall cycling Paeroa under police escort
Warwick cycling Paeroa (contrary to appearances, this part doesn’t require a police escort)

It sometimes seems lonely to be a cycle advocate in Wellington – though admittedly better than in the late 70’s when if you saw another person on a bike, you’d stop and have a chat. But spare a thought for Warwick Marshall, of Cycle Action Paeroa, who shouted me a coffee when I recently biked from Hamilton to the Coromandel. You’d think in a small town like Paeroa, it would be easy to bike, compared with a big congested city like Auckland or Wellington. But Paeroa’s main street is also State Highway 2, referred to as “Death Highway” by English cycletourist Josie Dew in her book Long Cloud Ride. As well as being narrow, with parking on both sides, SH2 is the main road link between Auckland and the burgeoning port of Tauranga.

Heavy traffic on Paeroa’s main drag

This is a bit sad, because Paeroa is the hub of the Hauraki Rail Trail, an Nga Haerenga route connecting Te Aroha, Paeroa, Thames and Waihi. The trail is proving very popular – it’s close to the population centre of Auckland and offers scenic riding through the Karangahake Gorge, and the experience of riding through working dairy farms on the Hauraki plains. On a fine weekend there are almost continuous streams of riders.

Hauraki rail trail Waihi to Paeroa
Family riding on the Hauraki Rail Trail

But if riders want to stop for a coffee, or browse the famous antique shops of Paeroa, most will get off their bikes and walk – cycling on the main street is too daunting.

Cyclist shares the pavement with local shopper
Cyclist shares the pavement with local cool dude

Warwick is campaigning for a more cycle friendly Paeroa – he deserves to succeed.