Friday, June 22, 2018

On yer bike training - Te Wai Pounamu "rail & trail" potential explored.

Somebody or other - I think it might have been Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychologist -  defined "intuitive" as "seeing the possibility in things".  We all have this ability, but with some people its more pronounced, just as logical thinking or a practical feel for things, or sensuous appreciation are more pronounced in other people.

For better or worse I find it hard to look at anything at all, without trying to join up the dots to something else, constantly seeing the possibilities in how an object, or event, a concept might be developed further. 

Two separate ideas on the boil for me at the moment are; bringing commuter rail into the very centre of Christchurch and, closer to home for me nowadays, promoting the concept of an off road [mainly] cycle trail down through the central eastern seaboard of Te Wai Pounamu. 

Me being me, it was pretty well inevitable as soon as I turned my back these ideas would hop into bed together! 

I have come to believe that this great southern cycle trail route would put tourists on to South line trains in far greater numbers than conventional tourism alone will do. 

Although a lot of local people would drive to the start point of a cycle trail, unless you want to repeat the scenery in return journey, there is always the problem of getting back to the car. 

A cycle trail interacting at various points with a through line, between Christchurch and Dunedin, as suggested in a previous blog posting, and trains which have special train cycle carriages, could solve a lot of problems and between these two modes generate a lot of extra tourism. 

Indeed the influx of several thousand cycle trail tourists, mainly in the eight months suitable for open country riding, could be the very factor that would make a commuter service to and from Timaru truly viable.

And when I say cycle tourists I don't just mean, three wealthy middle-aged teachers from Auckland, or an older retired couple from Arizona, nor a lone athletic Spanish women, or three laughing nuns on holiday. All these will entrain, course... but also ....

I mean mum, dad and two kids (aged 10 and 12) and their four bikes, heading south from Christchurch for a four day off-road cycle from Timaru to Oamaru via Waimate and Duntroon. Train down and train back. Cheaper than hiring cycles, and the kids get a rare chance to ride the rails. 

"Rail & trail" Could also prove very popular with overseas tourists and those flying in from the North Island, particularly if the trains for Timaru and Dunedin travel via Christchurch airport before heading South (and returning trains enter Christchurch via the Airport loop as well). A great way to cram a lot into a short break of a few days.

Railing from Christchurch is also a very handy way of getting cycle trail users, heading for Methven and the (potential) start of the trail, over the "mile wide" Rakaia, onto the south side of a very long narrow bridge.   

Is it possible that even a test-the-water, bare-bones service, one train a day to Dunedin and return, and another from Timaru and return, only, could meet the needs of commuters AND cycle trail riders?

As usual I could not resist playing with timetables to see. Here is one set of possibilities, times are reasonable guesses based on road times and memories of the evening railcar service Christchurch to Dunedin back in 1970s.

(Y) x Christchurch 7.30 am  x Timaru 9.40 am x Oamaru 10.50 arrive Dunedin 12.15 pm
(Z) x Christchurch 5.20 pm @ Timaru  7.30pm  [ for cyclists, still light in summer months]

(Z)                                 x Timaru 6.20 am - @ Christchurch 8.45 am (via Airport) 
(Y) x Dunedin 2.00pm x Timaru 5.15 pm - @ Christchurch 7.45 pm (via Airport)   

The strength of this arrangement is it provides a commuter service between Timaru, Ashburton, Christchurch International Airport and Christchurch (presumably supplemented by local commuter service tofro Rolleston) at times not only convenient to workers, or South Canterbury residents flying overseas, but also to cycle trailer riders. Many different train & cycle options are inherent in these times.

ps some recent news - purpose-built carriages planned for cycle touring passengers in Scotland 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Great Southern Cycle Touring Route?

A southern cycle route down the eastern seaboard of Te Wai Pounamu would be unusually rich in built heritage, as well as varied in terrain and scenery, 

I live in South Canterbury these days and have been promoting the idea that a central Eastern South Island cycle trail be built between Methven in the Ashburton District and Palmerston, the southern most boundary of  the Waitaki District. 

This would offer 360 km of cycle trail incorporating many of the smaller centres of Mid and South Canterbury,and North Otago, as well as many scenic areas -  inland, foothills, coastal and riverside. Full length journeys would probably take at least 5 or 6 days, relaxed journeys even longer.

The aim would be to create a Great Southern Cycle Trail of  a consistent quality, size and stature to be accredited by Nga Haerenga, The New Zealand Cycle Trail as one of the "Great Rides of New Zealand". 

If built this would be a cycle trail that would be easily accessible from multiple points along the route, for shorter rides. It would also be easily supported by bus and bike trailer support systems, for guided tours, for access from Christchurch and Dunedin, or for riders who wish to bypass some sections, where this is preferred. 

Noted too, some trail users are people who prefer cross country walking*, and welcome heavier packs being transported between accommodations.

All trails take routes through scenic areas, often unseen or unknown by motorists, and this trail would too. But unlike some of the Nga Heurenga rides constructed to date, a trail through this seaboard area would encounter relatively little true wilderness, tussock high country and rocky gorge, and only relatively small areas of native forest. 

The route is much more consistently one of rural farmland, village life, and areas with much retained built heritage. This could well suit some cycle tourists or others making return visits to cycling trails in the South Island Te Wai Pounamu. It would also obviously draw a lot of immediate patronage, not only from several large towns and Timaru city en route, but also because, the trail sits between Christchurch and Dunedin along an eastern seaboard populated by three quarters of a million people. Usefully, for A to B rides, and North Island riders, the whole trail sits between two major airports.

A possible trail route envisioned, North to South

Note. I am assuming an inland loop route within Ashburton District, to avoid the more monotonous quality of the plains nearer the sea, and the wish to avoid heavy traffic or crossing busy highways. This includes the difficulty for cyclists [and hindrance to motorists] of crossing the Rakaia and Rangitata rivers on very long narrow road bridges, on busy State Highway 1.  

The envisioned route (south bound) would nonetheless travel at first along fairly flat plains with an alpine backdrop (albeit snowless most of the cycle touring season), travelling from Methven and Mt Somers to Geraldine (or overnight at Peel Forest) and then a further section down towards the coast, via Temuka and along to Timaru. 

The next leg would continue with coastal views (albeit mainly from cliff top) south to St Andrews, and then at some point (possibly Esk Valley) head inland to the small town of Waimate. 

Leaving Waimate by the old rail corridor through the gorge, the trail would travel to Ikiwai and the banks of the Waitaki River. 

For this great southern cycle trail to have any status or credibility I believe it will be necessary to bridge the Waitaki with a cycle and pedestrian bridge at this point, a great chance to create a very attractive landmark bridge, and also an iconic promotional image for this diverse trail. Not least this bridge would hugely symbolise the linking of Canterbury and Otago by cycle trail.  

My guestimate is this would cost circa $10 million  -  the new wide (heavy traffic suitable) bridges further upstream at Kurow costs $20 million - and would definitely need to be a central Government project. Possible features might also include an interpretation centre, for river wildlife, fishing and history, Maori and European. Also car parks, for tourists in vehicles, who are also likely to want to visit the site and walk the well-publicised bridge high above such a strong river. Noted, South Islanders often forget that wide braided rivers of this nature are themselves relatively rare phenomena in this world.

A few kilometres after crossing the Waitaki River cyclists  encounter Duntroon and the Alps 2 Ocean (A2O) cycle trail from Lake Tekapo to Oamaru. In this case the cycle trail  already exists and links through Windsor and on to the route of a former branch railway line. The trail follows down into heritage gem and steampunk capital, bustling and reborn Oamaru. 

Two "name" cycle trails would share the same route corridor through this area but this seems inevitable as New Zealand cycle trail networks expand.

The last section of this southern cycle trail would continue south to Palmerston presumably along the Kakanui coastline and down through Moeraki, and possibly Trotters Gorge. Such a trail is already consideration by the local authority, the Waitaki District Council, as an extension of the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail. Waitaki has clearly seen the success of cycle trails and is well ahead of the game, not least the potential to get funding from the Provincial Growth Fund recently announced.

Over and beyond sharing the beauty of our country with fellow kiwis and overseas visitors - the greater purpose of cycle trails is to create an attractive conduit for money from the cities to flow back into provincial economies. 

Re-cycling money, creating good health, creating good holidays, creating vibrant rural centres, it's just one big healthy cycle!

Personal -
I am retired, an open country walker (including along cycle trails) rather than a cyclist, and have no official status in this matter whatsoever! 

However welcome expressions of interest, particularly from those living in the Mid and South Canterbury and North Otago

Monday, June 18, 2018

UK Cycling industry is larger than UK steel industry

In God we trust; all others bring data 
- W.Edwards Deming

Nothing in life is ever what it seems. Look at all parts, not just the obvious. This has long become my rule of thumb.  An interesting example just appeared in a leading United Kingdom newspaper. 

According to The Guardian; a report launched last week has revealed that the cycle industry in the United Kingdom is worth three times more than the steel industry and employs twice as many people. 

According to this report cycling-related businesses generate, at least 5.5 billion pounds in the UK economy and sustain 64,000 jobs. Some of these are in bike shops (and presumably manufacture) but most of these are in cycle tourism, of one sort or another.