The grand plan for the Western Bay of Plenty to tap into the burgeoning cycling holiday market has been boosted by a scheme to create a crucial link around the side of Tauranga Airport.
Chris Ingram of Tauranga Cyclists and Walkers said the cycleway skirting the airport and Omanu Golf Course would offer an alternative to the existing route to Bayfair across the Matapihi railway bridge.
It meant that cyclists would not be exposed to the risks of riding along heavily congested Maunganui Rd and Hewletts Rd.
Mr Ingram put his cycleway plan to this week's inaugural meeting of the Tauranga City Council's transport committee.
Along with its tourist potential once the Omokoroa to Tauranga cycleway was completed, the track opened up the possibility of a bridge to bridge loop ride for Tauranga recreational cyclists and a better option for commuters, depending on where they worked.
"I was heartened by the council response. It is a very necessary commuter link that could well attract funding from the New Zealand Transport Agency," Mr Ingram said.
His plan tapped into unformed paper roads and existing roads that skirted the northern side of the airport.
It would cost about $100,000 to build gates to prevent people accessing the airport at night and fences needed to keep cyclists from straying onto grassed areas near runways.
An estimated 800m of fencing would be needed where the two stretches of cycleway ran beside the airport's grassed areas.
Once the track left the airport near Maunganui Rd it swung into the gravel track that ran between the new railway alignment and the Omanu Golf Course, emerging at Matapihi Rd where cyclists coming from the Harbour Bridge could head down Matapihi Rd to the railway bridge or take the underpass across to the Bayfair Shopping Centre. The other option was to go straight ahead through Owens Place towards Baypark.
He ultimately saw the airport track providing a "crucial link" on what would eventually be a 60km cycleway from Omokoroa to Paengaroa via the track that ran beside Papamoa's Wairakei Stream. The 19km Omokoroa to Tauranga cycleway is due to open in 2018.
"It would serve a whole lot of purposes and one of the biggest would be tourism."
Cyclists wanting to visit Mount Maunganui and Mauao would chose the airport track instead of the Matapihi track.
The big picture is for the track from Omokoroa to be pushed through Papamoa's Te Tumu block in 2019 to link up with the existing cycleway from Paengaroa that currently ended at the Eastern Link's Kaituna River bridge.
Looking further out, the key connections for a Western Bay of Plenty cycle trail are from Waihi Beach to Katikati and finishing the cycleways between Katikati and Omokoroa.
Mr Ingram looks forward to the day when the Western Bay is included in the bible for cycling tourists, the AA's New Zealand cycle trails guide book. "We have got to be in on it. A Western Bay cycle trail would be a big economic boost for tourism."
Airport manager Ray Dumble said the cycleway is only a concept and there is still a lot of water to go under the bridge, but he is "very supportive".
Council transport committee chairman Rick Curach said it is a brilliant idea because it will get cyclists off the busy roads. "The plan has definitely got legs...it could be delivered very soon if the council wished."