Cycle trail boosting business

PIT STOP: Cycle tourists Graeme Black and son Regan Black, 12, pull over for a bite to eat in Richmond before continuing on the Great Taste Trail.
PIT STOP: Cycle tourists Graeme Black and son Regan Black, 12, pull over for a bite to eat in Richmond before continuing on the Great Taste Trail.

Business owners have noticed an increase in customers who arrive on two wheels as the Great Taste cycle trail comes into its own this summer.

The Nelson to Brightwater leg of the trail opened on July 8, and most of the Nelson to Mapua route is also complete. When finished, the entire trail will measure around 175 kilometres, running from Nelson Airport as far as Tapawera before coming back along the Motueka River Valley to Riwaka and returning to Richmond via Motueka and Mapua.

Richmond McDonald's franchisee Glen Johnson said his store had a set of eight extra bike racks installed in three locations around the building to accommodate the increased traffic.

"It's just good seeing people out biking; it's refreshing," he said.

Glen said the bicycle tourists were arriving on top of his regular summer crowd, so the outlet was becoming busy. He estimated between 50 and 60 cyclists had come through the Queen St McDonald's each day since mid-December, an increase of more than 230 per cent since July.

Assistant manager of neighbouring Robbie's Bar and Bistro, Steve Lummis, said he had also noticed an increase in cyclists.

Christchurch cycle tourists Graeme Black and son Regan, 12, were headed south to Richmond from their base in Tahunanui on Friday. Having stopped at Queen St McDonald's, Graeme said he had wanted to try riding the Great Taste Trail for some time, and was enjoying the change of scenery from Christchurch.

"It's a good place to bike around," he said of Richmond.

Nelson Cycle Trail Trust trustee Paul Jennings said the trail's popularity showed the ambitious track was "starting to make sense" to tourists. He said until mid-December, the trail had been "very bitty" with links between large sections of track still under construction.

The link from Nelson's main information site to Wakefield was completed on December 24, which now means that tourists can ride all the way past Richmond to Mapua without having to ride on the highway or drive. He said this had made smaller centres such as Brightwater and Wakefield into "little destinations" in their own right.

"There's a lot of good stuff that's all coming together," said Paul.

"It's pretty cruisy riding . . . There's not going to be any shocks if you go out with the family or elderly parents."

Manager Rose Timpson said Brightwater's Headquarters Cafe and Bar on Ellis St had seen a "tremendous" increase in cycle traffic since Christmas. She estimated 50-60 cyclists visited the cafe daily, saying most seemed to be from the Nelson region.

As Headquarters opened in December 2011, Rose was not sure whether the increase was due to the Great Taste Trail or simply the cafe's increasing popularity, but welcomed the traffic either way.

"It's fantastic," she said.

Mapua student Rowan Smith-Waddell has been working to make Mapua's wharf district more friendly to cyclists since the beginning of last month. He installed a garden and a set of bike stands made from recycled apple-crate materials on the now-empty Touch the Sea aquarium site, and will begin a series of interviews with pedestrians and cyclists about their experiences travelling around the district this week.

Rowan said he has had good feedback from members of the public so far.

"A lot of people said it was a great idea, just what they needed," he said of the bike-stands.

The next stage of the Great Taste Trail to be opened was a link to Kaiteriteri. Paul estimated this would be finished in March, saying he expected Kaiteriteri beach would lure many out-of-towners on to the new track.

He said this section would make the trail between 90 and 100km long with the final 75km to be completed within the next two years.