Lyttelton Tunnel Walk/Ride in Pictures

Wow, what a turnout! Yesterday’s Lyttelton Tunnel walk/ride event attracted a huge crowd of keen locals, despite the cool grey skies. The Press was estimating 25,000 people turned up; personally that seems a little on the high side but it was definitely well into the thousands. 15,000?

Just how many people is that?

I took my son and his cousin along for the ride; fortunately we live close enough to ride there. The first bonus was being allowed to ride up Tunnel Road from the Heathcote Interchange. An extra 2km of traffic-free riding, and with not much non-motorised traffic around either.

Hey kids, don’t play on the roa- oh, never mind…

Approaching the Tunnel just before 10am, we could see the masses starting to form. The formalities to open the new Tunnel Control Building were largely done with and the crowd was champing at the bit to get through the Tunnel. Taking a look from above the road revealed the amazing extent of people who had turned up – and still more were continuing to arrive for a long time to come.

The crowds form approaching the Tunnel

And then they were off! I’m not sure what happened to the original plan of starting with bikes then skate/scoot then walkers, as pretty much everyone just went for it together. One side was reserved for walking, one side for biking, and the rest seemed to go wherever the gap was best.

And they’re off!

I could see that no-one was going to get through the Tunnel terribly quickly for a while, so I steered the boys off to the side to wait for the crowds to subside a bit. While we waited, I introduced the two construction-mad kids to Jack Smith, who led the construction team 50 years ago.

15 minutes after the opening – still queuing

Forty minutes after the first of the crowd had started through the Tunnel, we decided to re-enter the flow and try our luck. It was still a bit busy, but at least we could generally cruise our way along the Tunnel. People from the Lyttelton end were also making their way back towards Heathcote, and so a bit of negotiation was sometimes required. But for all the apparent chaos (especially when you have various youngsters whizzing around) everyone seemed to find their space and I didn’t see any collisions.

A sea of humanity enjoys the Tunnel sans cars

Riding through the Tunnel is a neat experience; I think I had a permanent smile on most of the way down. It was just great to see so many people simply enjoying the opportunity to try something they generally are not able to do.

Wheeeeee… (well, for now at least)

The free-flowing run came to a halt in the last third of the Tunnel as the crowd started to get blocked up by the exit at the Lyttelton roundabout. Once out, we headed around the corner to London St, where half the street was closed for the Lyttelton Market. I think a few businesses did rather well that day…

A busy time at the Lyttelton Market

All too quickly we realised that we’d better start to head back through the Tunnel before they reopened it to traffic again at 12.30 (I think quite a few people got caught out with the cut-off times for re-entering the Tunnel). The ride back to Heathcote might be uphill but it was a very easy gentle climb (albeit again working our way through the crowds). Once there, we again had the luxury of riding down Tunnel Road free of traffic – in fact it was probably a more fun ride than the Tunnel, having the extra road space and less competition for it.

Thanks to NZTA and all the volunteers who helped with organisation on the day. I know there were a few grumbles about the traffic management, although I’m not sure that anyone quite expected the turnout. You had to be impressed with the huge demand for such an event – 25,000 people (if it was that) is twice the normal number that drive through most days. Maybe that means we should make this an annual event? And we’d better get on with those traffic-free cycleways around the city…

Did you go through the Tunnel? What did you think?

8 thoughts on “Lyttelton Tunnel Walk/Ride in Pictures”

  1. This is the best writeup I have seen of the event. Thanks for posting. I agree with the grinning. So many people with big smiles on their faces and so much fun chaos. It was great! Ian

  2. Also this was the first time I have been in a bicycle traffic jam in Christchurch. May there be many more 🙂 Given the number of families and people of all ages turning out, I wonder how much interest there would be in closing some roads Sunday mornings in Christchurch for fun riding. Boston has done this for years, for example. Ian

  3. Whilst it seems some felt fear , judging by the atmosphere and smilles everywhere the vast majority proved that by taking a bit of care , personal responsibility and looking out for yourself and others( respect and courtesy ) it can be an exhilerating and safe experience. Road users take note. The best feeling in Christchurch I have experienced since Sept 4th 2010. Thanks NZTA

  4. Great to see such a big turnout. I wouldn’t want to be in a cycling jam everyday but for this event it was the best message we could possibly send. That being said, unfortunatly, coming from the Lyttleton side I noticed quite a few cyclists on (mostly) road bikes that didn’t seem to care too much about it being a two-way thing. Especially when exiting the tunnel on the Chch side, we were pushed into single-file on the very left hand side of the road (the bus parked right under the tunnel exit didn’t help), and I could still see people pushing past on their very right hand side to get into the tunnel faster. Patience is important for such an event, people 🙂

    Makes you think if it wouldn’t be possible to close the tunnel every day for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening to let people commute between Lyttleton and Chch. I don’t think it would cause too much disruption for motorised traffic.

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