Cyclists push for 'rail trail'

Bicycle enthusiasts have made it clear to the Manawatu District Council that they want the region to become the cycling capital of New Zealand, with the suggestion of a "rail trail" attracting interest.

Palmerston North cyclist Jim Jefferies yesterday told councillors at the long-term plan submissions in Feilding that development of a 31-kilometre offroad rail trail, using the old railway corridor between Palmerston North and Foxton, could become a "national attraction", not unlike its Otago counterpart.

The district council's long-term plan highlighted a desire for the region to be "the best place to ride a bike", with development of mountainbike tracks, lockers and shared bike-walkways on its agenda for this year.

The Palmerston North City Council had also set aside $20,000 in its draft long-term plan to investigate the feasibility of a cycling and walking route between the city and Longburn.

Manawatu mayor Margaret Kouvelis said the council would wait to see what Horowhenua District Council decided to do regarding a Foxton-Palmerston North rail trail.

The rail trail, dedicated cycle lanes between Palmerston North and Feilding, and better signposting were among ideas tabled by advocates in response to the council's plan to put funding into attracting more bike events to Manawatu.

Bike Manawatu's Glenys Taylor and Paul van Velthooven said the council could promote the region's image as cycle-friendly and boost healthy lifestyles by encouraging people to get out of their cars and onto bikes.

Suggestions put forward by Bike Manawatu included the council prioritising the development of safer country road cycling routes off the clogged arterial system.

"Cycling is an activity that can be enjoyed by young and old, tall and short with a relatively low entry cost," Ms Taylor said. "There is still a real or perceived barrier for riding a bike for many and that barrier revolves around safety."

BikeNZ regional development co-ordinator and schools cycle-safety educator Chris Foggin is due to make his submission to the council today to ask it to continue funding a "strong cycling community", and giving his support to the rail trail.

Manawatu Standard