On 24 February the Wellington region’s newest cycling path opened, at a cost of around $600 million, twice the UCP budget. Well, that cost includes the accompanying expressway, but it’s still quite a nice cycle route.
First step was to find it. We got the train to Paekakariki, and rode north on the rolling Te Ara Whareroa through QE 2 Park. I didn’t see any signage directing us to the next stage north, but fortunately we’d had local advice, and knew to go east on Poplar Ave to the start of the Kapiti Cycle Route, the cycling (and walking and horse riding) route alongside the expressway. This seems an odd name – there’s already a well established Kapiti Coastal Cycling Route, so why not go for something easily distinguishable? For the rest of this post I’ll refer to the route beside the expressway as “Te Ara Kapiti”.
Once you’re on Te Ara Kapiti, there’s generally good signage. The southern part to Waikanae is sealed, although there is some loose chip to watch out for, and bits which need touching up. North of Waikanae, the surface is reasonably smooth gravel. The path is generally 2.5-3m wide.
The Rongomau overbridge crosses the expressway to the old SH1 and the Paraparaumu shopping centre, but we headed north. You pass through nicely landscaped wetlands, almost expecting to see some rice paddies and Vietnamese farmers. There are concrete and wooden seats every so often, some with the concrete surroundings only just drying.
Although the cycle route is nice for cruising, I expect dedicated roadies will want to keep to the expressway, which is of course legal. At the overbridge across Kapiti Road, cyclists are advised to exit on the off ramp, presumably on the reasoning that it’s safer to do this cross the off ramp exit. However this involves crossing Kapiti Road at the lights, conflicting with left turning traffic, then climbing back onto the expressway on the on ramp. Personally, I’d stick to the expressway.
There’s a bit of a climb up to the turnoff to the Makarini St footbridge in Paraparaumu, I gather because there wasn’t enough room for a level bypass route.
North of the Waikanae River there’s a short deviation to avoid Wahi Tapu, then the route rejoins the expressway at an imposing concrete bluff.
Although the route signs are to Otaki, the cycle route comes to an abrupt end at Pekapeka, fortunately within easy reach of the cafe at Harrison’s garden centre. However there’s still work going on here, and it’s not yet clear how a cyclist heading north would get back onto SH1, and there doesn’t seem to be any signage directing a southbound cyclist onto the Te Ara Kapiti.
Similarly, at the southern end the work to connect cyclists heading south on SH1 onto Poplar ave and Te Ara Whareroa doesn’t seem to have been completed.
Interestingly, the expressway project has created two cycle routes, Te Ara Kapiti, and also a high quality road with minimal traffic: the old SH1, which will be a good cycling option between Pekapeka and Raumati. There’s still significant traffic on it, but I suspect that will decrease as drivers adopt new habits, and have their GPS’s updated (at the time of writing, Google Maps did not show the expressway).
Overall, it’s great that NZTA have included a cycling and walking route in a major roading project. However the real question for Wellingtonians is: why is it so difficult to get an equivalent route from, for example, the Hutt Valley to the Wellington CBD? Watch this space…
Stop Press: Cycle Action Kapiti are holding a ride on Saturday 18 March to press for action on the Pekapeka-Otaki cycle route. It’ll be a good chance to sample the northern bit of Te Ara Kapiti, and the weather forecast is good!