Summit Road Opportunity

Sign on Summit Rd welcoming cycling and foot access

What about making the Summit road a road for cyclists and pedestrians (and people with walking frames and wheelchairs) only?  The road between Rapaki and the Bridle Path reopened to foot and bicycle access only last week.  A trip up there at the weekend got me thinking that perhaps it would be more valuable to Christchurch if we kept it that way.

My friend and I walked from Halswell via Kennedys Bush along the Crater Rim Walkway and the Summit Road, and dropped down the Bridle Path to Heathcote. It was not a particularly nice day – cool, breezy and cloudy – but people were out and about walking, running, cycling, chatting, enjoying the view. Many came up tracks like Kennedys Bush, Worsleys Rd, Bowenvale, Mt Vernon and Rapaki and a few drove or biked up Dyers Pass.  I was reminded of Harry Ell’s vision for the Summit Road as a recreational resource for Christchurch and Canterbury, his efforts to keep all these routes open, and to put aside the scenic reserves that are dotted along the road.

Dyers Pass

It was wonderful to reach the road closed gate and read the sign – Road closed to cars and motorcycles – foot and bike access welcome.

It was the sight of a family group with young children biking along the road that got me thinking we should consider keeping the road closed to cars and motorcycles – at least this part of it.    As it was, I witnessed an incident that could have ended in disaster – a group of mountain bikers spread across the road whilst they admired the view on their way up a hill and a fast moving road cyclist coming round a blind corner into their midst.  Some swearing was involved but nobody was hurt.  We probably all need to remember that keeping left is a good idea even where there are no cars! It is also worth remembering that going at high speed round a blind corner is not a good idea in this new, relaxed environment!   Save it for places where you can see the road well ahead or for going down from Dyers Pass or  Mt Pleasant. or even the Gebbies Pass descent.

Family on Summit Rd

Personally, I’d like to see this part of the Road continue to provide a safe, fun environment for the cyclists and walkers of tomorrow to start out on. The Summit Road is too narrow for cars, and it should be permanently designated for non-motorised traffic only.  This does not prevent motorists from getting up there to enjoy the environment, but it does mean they couldn’t drive all the way along.

What do you think?


12 thoughts on “Summit Road Opportunity”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. No motorised traffic along Summit road from Sugar Loaf to Gondola.
    Hopefully the next stage is to remove all the barriers near the gondola to allow through access!

  2. A great suggestion. Links or maps for those unclear as to the tracks would be helpful. Thanks for an inspiring account to attract people into the hills for a walk.

  3. A great idea , what an experience for eco/adventure tourists especially with the mountain bike park in the area. If there is not the public support for such a change then perhaps a compromise may be more acceptable. Would a restricted access ( via permit ) one way route for vehicles travelling at reduced speed work ? . Thinking of access for operational vehicles, tourists , disabled etc . Day time use only .

  4. I was thinking a walk over Mt Cavendish would allow safe bypass of that cliff section and get me all the way to Sumner. Not sure if its possible yet but it wouldn’t be hard. Good on CCC for opening up this great resource for walkers & bikers -great to have it and would love it to remain as car free as possible.

    1. There’s a walking track over Mt Cavendish already, we used this before the section of road below was reopened to walkers and cyclists just before xmas. It’s a slog up the western side walking with a bike and not rideable for anyone but super humans for the most part either way.

  5. A few friends and I walked the bit from Rapaki to Castle Rock a month ago. No easy access (nothing to say we couldn’t but we did have to climb around a couple of road blocks where others had been before) and we did meet other cylists and runners using the route. In passing we noted a new (and crudely formed) walking track being created right next to the road (city side), I assume to replace the one that used to along the side of the harbour side of the ridge. It would be really great to push your suggestion to the council now while they are still creating all these new tracks to when the road opens to traffic.

    To make your idea viable would mean at the minimum the creation of a decent large car park at the seaward end (without compromising reserves) as well as extending those available around the Sign of the Kiwi and Sugarloaf. Perhaps monthly/regular no car days/weekends would be an option worth visiting?

  6. Good idea. My partner and I were in the Port Hills this weekend and were thinking the same thing. It’s such a more relaxing environment to enjoy by foot or bike with no motor vehicles to contend with. As the road is already closed it would be a good opportunity to keep it that way. I would be interested in helping to pursue the idea if anyone else is keen?

  7. I don’t think this is a good idea at all! There are already tracks for mountain bikers and walkers along that stretch. We are not all cyclists and walkers, either by choice or necessity or time pressure. The Summit Road traverse is a one-of a kind excursion in a vehicle to give yourself an uplifting experience, or to give a visitor an overview of the awesome topography of our city, hills, and harbour. I used to drive or ride this traverse many many times a year, and I would like it back!

    1. “There are already tracks for mountain bikers and walkers along that stretch”
      There are two mountain bike tracks (Witch Hill and Castle Rock) that make up less than half that stretch.
      Do yourself a favour and park up and walk or cycle it and see how pleasant it is without time pressured motorists using it as a race track.

      1. I know how great it is to have a stretch of country to yourself. And not have cars around. I bike too. But that road is a Christchurch institution. It’s selfish to cut off every other user from it who doesn’t or can’t bike or walk. Harry Ell’s vision was access for all, not just the physically fit. When I’m old and doddery, I still want to be able to do that trip, don’t you? Also, the road gives access for other activities. I’ve used that road countless times to access rockclimbing crags on that section with heavy equipment I can’t carry far.

      2. I couldn’t care less about access to that section when I’m old and doddery, there’s very limited lay-by space and plenty of better alternatives on the Summit Rd. How is insisting on motor vehicle access for your exploits not selfish?
        There is presently access for all, Harry Ell’s vision has nothing to do with motorists who can’t distinguish themselves from their vehicles.

      3. “I couldn’t care less about access to that section when I’m old and doddery, there’s very limited lay-by space and plenty of better alternatives on the Summit Rd.” That you don’t want to visit that section when you’re older and less capable means it doesn’t have much greater significance for you than just your current use of it for physical activities? I have been recreating and taking others up there for 45 years: climbing, walking, biking (I rode the length of it this morning Dyers to Evans), motorbiking, car. I love that whole stretch in all its moods and times and the access it gives to various local spots. I want to travel to it or through it by whatever means I have available or want at the time, just as I always have done.

        “How is insisting on motor vehicle access for your exploits not selfish?” This was always a legal road, for vehicles of all types. That a minority of come-latelies is trying to stop me accessing a part of it by vehicle just so they can make their own walk/cycle experience purer really pisses me off.

        “There is presently access for all…..” At the moment access is not for all, it is only for those physically fit. Cyclists and walkers are a minority of the greater population, the majority need or simply will choose vehicles.

        “….Harry Ell’s vision has nothing to do with motorists who can’t distinguish themselves from their vehicles.” An experience gained by sweat is not necessarily superior to others; what about a tourist? And to put a moral superiority on it — ‘If you can’t walk or bike that 4 km, you don’t deserve to be there’ — is just arrogant; what about an elderly or handicapped person?

        Also, re ‘conflicts: Road cyclists are the only main group with significant real conflict with cars. Mountain bikers are served in a partial way (as you have pointed out). Walkers don’t need it because of existing tracks paralleling the road. I acknowledge it is always more pleasant when there are few other people around, but any user wants solitude or lack of competition this can be achieved by picking your times.

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