Rotorua: Cycling Bubbling Up

While I was in the North Island two weeks ago, I visited Rotorua to see what they have been up to lately. As guest blogger Robert observed last year, some interesting cycle facilities have been popping up there lately but he wasn’t sure whether it would be enough.

Welcome to Rotorua - bike parking ready and waiting but is anyone home?
Welcome to Rotorua – bike parking ready and waiting but is anyone home?

For some time now, Rotorua has been well known as a mountain-biking mecca; this year the Redwoods MTB park was acknowledged by popular national vote as the “best off-road ride” in the country. More recently, the NZ Cycle Trail has also come to town with the Te Ara Ahi Thermal Trail linking the lake-front to the nearby geothermal hinterland. But ordinary everyday cycling in Rotorua has always been a relative non-event. As was mentioned in a presentation recently at the 2WALKandCYCLE Conference, unlike big places such as Auckland and Christchurch, in Rotorua there is still minimal congestion and you can still get a carpark very close to your destination – so why would you bike?

Big new plans for cycleways in Rotorua
Big new plans for cycleways in Rotorua

That has changed recently, with the city receiving some funding as part of the Urban Cycleways Programme. The team at Rotorua Lakes District Council have been busy planning a cycle network known as CyWay, with a number of key routes planned around the city. And already there are interesting bits and pieces of cycling infrastructure to see.

A colourful urban trail for cycling
A colourful urban trail for cycling

Probably the most visible (and contentious) cycleway to date is the route winding through the central city. In an interesting design, the colourful path has been installed by pushing back parking and fitting it next to the footpath.

Sometimes part of the footpath is simply designated as cycleway
Sometimes part of the footpath is simply designated as cycleway

There are variations on that theme though, with parts of the (often wide) footpath also being redesignated as cycleway (or at least shared path). While shared paths are fairly common around NZ, it is unusual to see some right in the middle of downtown where the greatest amount of foot traffic usually is.

Shared crossings lead to a separated cycleway in the distance
Shared crossings lead to a separated cycleway in the distance

Further out of town, shared paths are a little more standard alongside busy arterial roads. As is quite common elsewhere though, when it comes to adjacent side roads, the path crossings are not necessarily that convenient…

A shared pathway crosses a side road
A shared pathway crosses a side road

The now defunct rail corridor that used to bring trains into Rotorua has provided a silver lining in the form of the Ngongotaha Trail, a wonderfully direct and quiet cycling connection for the northern suburbs. There are plans to extend it further into town to make it even more useful.

There's an automated cycle counter sitting under the entrance to the Ngongotaha Trail
There’s an automated cycle counter sitting under the entrance to the Ngongotaha Trail

An interesting experiment to date has been the installation of an on-road separated cycleway on a route connecting two schools. Parking was removed (fortunately a semi-rural location) and temporary barrier posts were used to create the concept. If it is deemed a success the facility might be made more permanent, and maybe extended further.

Paint and posts create a quick and easy separated cycleway
Paint and posts create a quick and easy separated cycleway

Here are a few more photos from around Rotorua (BTW, it was early on a frosty school holiday morning when I took these, so the lack of cycle numbers aren’t entirely surprising):

There were SOME actual people out riding when I visited...
There were SOME actual people out riding when I visited…
Another part of the downtown cycleway route
Another part of the downtown cycleway route
Some very stylish redwood bike parking downtown (don't know how practical though?)
Some very stylish redwood bike parking downtown (don’t know how practical though?)
Not sure what these barriers mid-trail are trying to achieve - notable that many just bike around the side
Not sure what these barriers mid-trail are trying to achieve – notable that many just bike around the side
More central city shared crossings
More central city shared crossings
...and more suburban shared paths near a school
…and more suburban shared paths near a school

There is a lot of work still to be done to develop the cycling network in Rotorua. The locals are also keen to learn from their own experiences and from others as to what works best in different environments (to be honest, in NZ we’re still working out some of it as we go along…). It will be interesting to revisit Rotorua in a few years to see what has changed. Mind you, if traffic congestion and parking still aren’t big issues, then maybe everyday cycling might still only be a strange option for many locals…

Have you visited Rotorua lately? What do you think of their cycling network?

2 thoughts on “Rotorua: Cycling Bubbling Up”

  1. Always great to get an out-of-town perspective on Rotorua’s cycle network. Having just increased my daily commute 1,000% from Ngongotaha to the Scion campus (12.5 km) my route now utilises the rail trail from the heart of Ngongotaha Village, the Green Corridor from Kuirau Park to the Rotorua Arts Village, then onto the existing shared path along Te Ngae Road, then up Sala St (which I prefer speed-wise to the Puarenga stream-side track). An almost all joined-up cycleway, and while some details need attending to, it beats the on-road alternative route hands-down.

  2. As Richard said good to have outside comment on cycling path development in Rotorua but compared to other centre’s like Nelson, Napier, Chch we are slowly getting there. Did you know that there’s work underway to scope a cycleway around Lake Rotorua?

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