Hidden Treasures: Chch Northern Railway Cycleway

The Railway Cycleway route (in green)

The Railway Cycleway route (in green)

Long before the Major Cycleways were even a consideration, the Railway Cycleway was Christchurch’s original separated cycleway. Following the northern rail corridor, it provides an almost uninterrupted riding experience from Riccarton to Northcote.

The Christchurch Railway Cycleway was developed in stages, with the northern sections the first to appear. Slowly the route headed south towards Bryndwr and Fendalton during the late 1990s.

Interestingly, there was some concern by the locals in the more leafier suburbs about the prospect of a cycleway on their back door bringing more crime and vandalism to their neighbourhoods. Fortunately, the evidence from the previously built sections showed quite clearly the folly of this perspective (plus evidence elsewhere), and the growing demand to “complete the route” saw the cycleway reach Matai St by 2001. Further extensions south to Kilmarnock St and north to Tuckers Rd appeared in the following decade.

While it is invariably referred to as the “Railway Cycleway”, the route is in fact a shared pathway with pedestrians. An important role it plays is to provide connections to nearby schools, including Chch Boys and Girls High, St Patricks Primary, Waimairi Primary, Papanui High and Casebrook Intermediate.

Lots of handy connections to side streets

Lots of handy connections to side streets

The busier road crossings along the Railway Cycleway have signalised crossings. They also have approach detectors in advance of the crossing so that, by the time you have arrived at the crossing, the traffic signals are likely to have changed for you.

About to get the green light at Fendalton Rd

About to get the green light at Fendalton Rd

The quieter road crossings involve just simple Give-Way controlled crossings. Some of these are starting to get a bit busy during some parts of the day, so signalising would be helpful.

A quieter crossing at Wroxton Tce, Fendalton

A quieter crossing at Wroxton Tce, Fendalton

Along the route, there are also connections to adjacent side streets and pathways, which allow additional ways to get on and off the cycleway. At Bellevue Ave in Papanui there’s even a tunnel under the railway line to connect the streets on either side.

A bit of a wiggle near the Bellevue Ave underpass

A bit of a wiggle near the Bellevue Ave underpass

Most of the newer sections of the cycleway are of a wider width (e.g. 3m), often with generous run-off shoulders as well.

Enjoying the width here

Enjoying the width here

But there are a couple of sections in the middle where the available path width is struggling to even be 2m wide. This can prove to be an issue when there is a bit of path congestion (even more likely in the future as the Major Cycleway programme rolls out).

Definitely a bit tight in places...

Definitely a bit tight in places…

There’s also a bit of a gap in the middle as you get to Harewood Rd in Papanui. At the moment it’s not immediately obvious that you need to swap over to the other side of the railway line here and heading north you will find the cycleway restarting from just past the old Papanui railway station on Restell St.

Hard to see that the cycleway starts again behind the old railway station

Hard to see that the cycleway starts again behind the old railway station

At the moment, you can only go as far north as Tuckers Rd in Northcote. A track has been worn beside the railway line north of that through to Sturrocks Rd (where a nice path continues in Barnes Reserve), but technically it is illegal to go alongside the railway here at present. There is an alternative link north through Farnsworth Pl and Redwood Park at the moment.

Tuckers Rd - the end of the line north (for now)

Tuckers Rd – the end of the line north (for now)

To the south, the route currently stops at Kilmarnock St in Riccarton. It is possible to travel further south along Mona Vale Ave and down a path into Brockworth Pl, but it can be quite difficult to cross Kilmarnock St and Riccarton Rd when they’re busy.

The southern end of the cycleway at Kilmarnock St

The southern end of the cycleway at Kilmarnock St

The existing cycleway has now become part of the “Northern Line” Major Cycleway. Consultation is just beginning on improvements to the route, namely:

    • a much clearer Harewood Rd crossing (including signalised crossing)
    A bit narrow leaving St James Park - and where next?

    A bit narrow leaving St James Park – and where next?

    • signalised crossings of Langdons and Sawyers Arms Rds
    This will be signalised in the future at Sawyers Arms Rd

    This will be signalised in the future at Sawyers Arms Rd

    • an extension north to Sturrocks Rd and Main North Rd near Northwood and beyond
    More of this to the north?

    More of this to the north?

    • an extension south to Riccarton Rd and Blenheim Rd (including signalised crossings of the main roads)
The most recent signalised crossing on the cycleway was at Northcote Rd

The most recent signalised crossing on the cycleway was at Northcote Rd

This will make a highly popular cycle route even more valuable to the city’s cycle network.

A handy connection for so many people

A handy connection for so many people

Have you used the Railway Cycleway? What do you think of it?

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5 Comments

  • Steve Boyd
    20 October 2016, 1:51 pm

    yup. I have. It’s awesome.

    REPLY
  • Malcolm
    22 October 2016, 10:08 pm

    Always enjoyed biking along there when I was at university in Christchurch ten years ago. Hope to ride it again one day.

    REPLY
  • Rich
    24 October 2016, 9:30 am

    It’s great, especially when the lights change for you, but that narrow section will need to be addressed as it’s already dangerous with a risk of catching handlebars in the wire fence. Heavier usage will make it much worse. Even creating a little extra handlebar space would help with some kind of change to the fence.

    REPLY
  • Helen
    26 October 2016, 11:58 am

    I LOVE the cycle lane! I live in Amberley and drive in as far as Sturrocks Road then park up and hop on the bike! I cycle the whole track to Fendalton Rd and then through Hagley to Salisbury and on to Manchester- I do it 3 times a week so have given the gym membership the hike too. I love caning my fitness between the crossings which can be a bit hit and miss but then it adds to the variety and it is never unsafe so that doesn’t really bother me. It’s not overly crowded either so I have taken to it really well and don’t feel pressure to keep up- I go my pace and so does everyone else- seeing all the gardens burst into Spring and watching communities lives around me adds WAY more to my commute than sitting in my car and waiting on Marshlands Rd.. it’s about physical and mental health. I try to do 4 times a week and through 3 seasons of the year it is DEFINETLY the way to go for me! Work has showers so I can start my day pumped and fresh so it’s win/win all round!

    REPLY
  • Robert
    26 October 2016, 5:13 pm

    " there is an alternative route north through Farnswood Place and Redwood Park at the moment "
    A prominent sign upon entry into Farnswood Place advises
    "No Through Route" and the cycle sign along the alley into Redwood Park is completely obliterated by foliage.
    The Shirley Papanui Community Board resolved to rectify this…………… two years ago.

    REPLY

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