First stage of trail popular with riders

Initial surveys of cyclists on the Tasman Great Taste Trail have shown what we already know - that the new trail is a big hit with riders.

The first stage of the trail from Nelson to Mapua was officially opened last Saturday, with a ceremony at a new suspension bridge over the Waimea River.

The bridge was built by Kidson Construction and was unveiled as the C.B. Kidson Bridge, named after managing director Brian Kidson.

Although the 175km loop trail will be not be completed for several years, with the trail extending as far as Kaiteriteri and Tapawera, a survey of riders this month confirmed that it is already attracting large numbers of cyclists.

Tasman District Council development engineer Dugald Ley said the survey, conducted over the last two weekends, showed up to 330 riders used the coastal section of the trail on Sunday, January 20 while 260 riders were counted on the rail route at the Wairoa Bridge last Sunday.

"It's a good start and it will give good baseline data," Dugald said.

"We'll be doing the surveys regularly to see how everything is tracking."

Dugald said the survey also showed that 82 per cent of the riders were from the Nelson-Tasman region although he expected the number of visitors to increase when the trail was completed.

He said it would take some time for marketing and promotion to have an impact.

He said 54 per cent of riders surveyed were between 30 and 50 years old with 36 per cent over 50. The majority of riders were cycling in groups.

In addition to the big numbers, Dugald said the satisfaction rating out of 10 for the trail was also pleasing, with riders giving it an average of 8.5 for the coastal section.

"That's very high and quite a few riders said they didn't like the temporary section on Lower Queen St so the rating should get better when we finish the trail behind Ravensdown. There were plenty of comments on how to improve the trail but most were just glad it's here and available."

Many of the visiting riders said they came to Nelson and Tasman to ride the trail and for the shopping, tramping, wineries, and breweries. Most had heard about the trail through word of mouth and newspapers.

After Saturday's ceremony, riders queued up for the chance to ride across the bridge.