Pedal power

February 28, 2009

A dedicated cycleway the length of the nation is a BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal – but it’s one appeals to me.

Cycling is popular but few of our roads are designed to enable cyclists and motor vehicles to share them safely so getting the bikes away from the roads would be better for bikers and motorists.

I’ll be even more enthusiastic about the cycle way if it doesn’t stick too closely to the route followed by the main road but meanders away from the highway between cities to some of the small town and rural byways.

Following the main road doesn’t always give the best scenery – the coastal route which the railway takes from Oamaru to Dunedin is far more attractive than much of State Highway 1 – and as trains don’t usually go up very steep hills it might be easier pedalling too.

The main road north from Oamaru to Christchurch is pretty boring, but a cycle route up the Waitaki Valley, through the Mackenzie Country to Geraldine would take in some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. Then it could take the inland route from Geraldine through the Rakaia Gorge, by-passing the monotony of the Canterbury Plains.

Busted Blonde notes the micro-economy which has blossomed along the Central Otago rail trail. It’s created business opportunities in the provision of food and accommodation – raising the standard of both for the benefit of tourists and locals – and the benefits aren’t confined to businesses on or close to the trail.  Most cyclists visit other places on the way to and from the trail and leave some of their money behind.

I am very wary about the government picking winners by propping up private businesses and aware of the risks of using public money for make-work schemes.

If taxpayers’ money is to be used for economic development it must be for projects which will have endure and propser in the long term and I think a cycle way could do that.

It ticks the boxes for a tourist attraction which is clean, green and has health benefits too. And if public money goes in to the infrastructure it will provide opportunities for private investment in the provision of food, accomdation and other goods and services along the way.

It might be a BHAG but I think it’s one that could work.


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