Harbour Bridge cyclists gear up for challenge

By Sophie Bond

Kirsten Shouler is thrilled that next weekend she and her family can ride their bikes across an Auckland landmark.

"It's a really important and long-desired need for Aucklanders to be able to walk and cycle across the bridge," she says, showing her blue Lycra shirt supporting the GetAcross movement.

The Kohimarama resident, who is in the group pushing for a permanent cycleway on the bridge, hopes for a big turnout on December 11.

"It's an opportunity for people to show that this is something they would like to see happen. It would have wonderful benefits for commuters but also in terms of tourism."

(Details on how to win a family pass and bike at the bottom of this story.)

Next Sunday, in the first TelstraClear Challenge, Aucklanders will cycle over the Harbour Bridge in an event catering for riders of every age and skill.

There is a 110km ride ending in Kumeu and a 15km ride from Shelly Beach Rd to Smales Farm in Takapuna. Two kilometre and 8km rides along the Northern Busway start and finish at Takapuna's Smales Farm bus station, where a mini-carnival will run from 7am to noon. Registrations are open until December 10 and individuals and teams may use their ride to fundraise for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Organiser Callum McNair says more than 3500 people are already registered and up to 9000 cyclists are expected to cross the bridge.

From 4am on Sunday, 160 Metrolink and Northstar buses will form a 2.3km-long barrier to protect riders from motorway traffic.

"We certainly hope this will become a regular event. NZTA are open to it but we really have to get it right this time," says Mr McNair.

GetAcross hopes cycling across the bridge will become the norm. Its campaign, assisted by the Auckland Harbour Bridge Pathway Trust, calls for a cycling and walking path under the bridge's southbound clip-on.

Trust director Bevan Woodward says its engineering feasibility report was signed off in August and a funder for a tolled cycleway has been secured.

"Now we are looking for an underwriter [to construct the cycleway]. We're approaching corporates and the Auckland Council. The underwriter will need to assume the risk but we believe the return is there."

Mr Woodward is disappointed the NZ Transport Agency will not support the project.

"It just isn't a priority for them. Even when we tell them that by charging a toll of $2 on users the Pathway will pay for itself, they are still not interested."

Building the cycleway is estimated to cost $31.3 million.

GetAcross will have a stand at Smales Farm during the Challenge, displaying a model of the pathway.

"We welcome people's feedback and we'll be gathering more support to get it built."

WHAT TelstraClear Cycle Challenge

WHERE Cycling over Auckland Harbour Bridge and on Northern Busway.

OPTIONS 110km course, a 15km Pedallers' Challenge and kids can "bike the busway".

WHEN Varied start times, from 6am, December 11.

COST From $10 (busway only) to $65 dollars (15km) to $140 (110km, in a team).

WEB www.telstraclearchallenge.co.nz


Be in to win one of two pedaltastic prize packs worth more than $700, including a bike and helmet from Avanti, TelstraClear Challenge family entry and a $300 TelstraClear voucher.

All you have to do is "like" The Aucklander on Facebook, then email us: letters@theaucklander.co.nz. You must include a delivery address. Competition closes midnight on Sunday, December 4.



- The Aucklander

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