NZ rep hopes map sites will encourage more commuters to get on their bikes.

A young New Zealand rep triathlete is blazing a high-tech trail in the hope of making the country's streets and roads safer for cyclists.

Sam Durrant, 21, has had his share of close calls riding in his home town of Tauranga - once he was knocked off his bike at a busy intersection.

He is now encouraging cyclists to plot out safe routes around their cities, taking them away from traffic-heavy thoroughfares and into back streets and cycleways, using sophisticated GPS-based gadgets coming on to the market.

Durrant, a firefighter at RNZAF Base Woodbourne in Blenheim, has spent the past month mapping out trails with the GPS-based Magellan Cyclo 500 mounted on his handlebars and uploading the GPX files to user-generated maps of the country.

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"It has become kind of a hobby - I record my cycling tracks and once you upload them online there's a lot that you can do with them," he said.

On Bikemap.net, riders can share their GPX files, allowing others to follow their pre-plotted paths.

"Another interesting one is OpenStreet.org, which is a crowd-sourced map made by people who upload GPX files as traces.

"It is quite intensive - more like amateur cartography - but it is a very comprehensive map of New Zealand's cycle trails as a result."

This technology meant he could plot the route and distinguish the type of track surface for each of the sections, he said.

A growing number of cyclists were also loading their GPX files on to Google Earth, which came with the pre-sets for the recordings he used.

"It is quite interesting because you can look back on your ride from a bird's eye view and in 3D."

Durrant, who will represent New Zealand again at the Multisport World Champs in Sardinia, Italy, next month, believes the fear of coming to grief on busy roads puts many commuters off swapping their car for a bike.

"The biggest thing people think is there's only one way to work and that's along that busy main road - but if they were able to have those other tracks there, it's going to make them get on their bikes."

In Auckland, research has pointed to a growing number of people commuting by bike, yet this is still only a fraction of the population.

A survey commissioned by Auckland Transport in 2013 found only 3 per cent of cyclists used their bicycle as a mode of transport. The next year, 9 per cent of Aucklanders were regular cyclists. In 2013, eight cyclists were killed in road accidents, 171 were seriously injured and nearly 650 suffered minor injuries.

Cycle Action Auckland backs Durrant's efforts and wants others to plot and share their own safe routes.

"Although we are building more and more cycle routes, getting the word out to let people know where they are is very hard," chairwoman Barbara Cuthbert said. "There are also so many back routes, and while we know them in our own neighbourhoods, we don't know them in the next - that's the value of what this guy is doing."

Cycle safety the high-tech way

• Triathlete Sam Durrant uses his Magellan Cyclo 500 series cycling computer for training, to plot out safe cycling routes that take him away from busy roads and into quiet reserves and back streets.
• The handlebar-mounted gadget has so far had more than 1400km of bike-friendly pedestrian paths entered in its built-in map database, and also accesses the Open Street Map, a crowd-sourced map network that includes the most popular road and off-road routes among Kiwi cyclists with GPS devices.
• Durrant uploads his cycling routes to these, as well as to Bikemap.net and to Google Earth, which came with the pre-sets for the recordings he used.