As Hastings District Council prepares to host breakfast for hundreds of cyclists this month, its eyes are on further expansion of the pathway network that it says is encouraging more people to embrace pedal power.
The annual Go by Bike Breakfast is organised by the council as part of national Bike Wise Month and offers cyclists the chance to have breakfast in central Hastings before heading off to work or school.
"We want as many cyclists as possible to join in the fun and have breakfast with us in the Central Mall on Wednesday 12th February between 7am and 8.30am," says Deputy Mayor and cycling enthusiast Cynthia Bowers.
"The Go by Bike Breakfast is for anyone who can ride a bike and it is great to see a number of Hastings schools encouraging their students to take part in a ride to the CBD before beginning their school day. We would really like to see more schools encouraging their pupils to take part in this event. It's a great way to get them on their bikes, the students are back at school in time to start the day and they enjoy a scrumptious breakfast."
The Go by Bike breakfast will also incorporate the Healthy Lifestyles bike ride from Flaxmere to the Hastings CBD.
Hastings district councillor Henare O'Keefe says everyone is welcome to join in the ride.
Spot prizes will be given away during the morning and there will be a Zumba exercise session for anyone wanting to take part in a more energetic start to the day.
"Cycling to work or school has many benefits," Ms Bowers says.
"It gets you active and invigorated before you start your day, helps keep you healthy and reduces traffic congestion. Cycling also reduces your petrol bill and carbon emissions."
The council has invested several million dollars developing its iWay network of cycling and walking tracks around the city and outlying district since an initial application for funding to central government's Transport Agency in 2010. Its application was based on the goal of becoming New Zealand's first "model community" - an initiative designed to demonstrate that carefully planned, sustained investment in walking and cycling can have a positive impact on a community.
Ms Bowers said the council was currently working towards securing further funding to expand the network.
Planned additions included adding a cycleway on the southern side of Havelock Rd, between Hastings and Havelock North, and building a "clip-on" to the Chesterhope Bridge on Pakowhai Rd between Napier and Hastings. "What we're finding now is that because people are enjoying what we've got, they're asking for more. Through our cycling strategy group within council we're getting people coming to us all the time saying: 'I've had a great idea, why don't you put a cycle way here on such-and-such a road?' It's absolutely fantastic that people are engaging to that level but it's a challenge, of course, managing all the expectations. It's taking on a life of its own in many ways and the level of support is tremendous."
The iWay pathways, and the region's wider network of cycling and walking trails were a valuable attraction for visitors to Hawke's Bay as well as an asset for locals.
An example of the economic benefits cycling was having on the region could be seen at Puketapu, she said. The hotel there had always been a little country hotel that some people drove to occasionally, and now it was an integral part of the cycle route, she said.
"I understand that they are almost struggling to cope with the number of bikes that park outside there on weekends, and things like that. In terms of economic growth, we often talk about the big things that will provide 50 jobs but if we can stimulate small businesses like that I think it's absolutely worthwhile, it's a spin-off of what we're doing."
Hastings District Council is not alone in its interest in tapping into the social and economic benefits of cycleways.
Further south, neighbouring Central Hawke's Bay Regional Council recently decided to spend $150,000 on the first stage of a network of cycling and walking pathways between and around Waipawa and Waipukurau.
Waipukurau Rotary has established the Rotary Rivers Pathways Trust to facilitate the development and construction of a number of walking and cycling pathways in the district. The network will make use of the stop banks beside the Tukituki and Waipawa Rivers.
The council approved a $150,000 contribution towards the project in December. Council chief executive John Freeman said expansion of the network would provide "a top-class recreational asset for the Central Hawke's Bay District to improve the health and wellbeing of locals as well as generate external revenue for the district".
One of the benefits of the pathways would be to provide a direct and safe cycleway between Waipukurau and Waipawa for bike commuters, taking them off the busy and dangerous SH2 road between the towns.
The project would also add to the development of the national cycle trail network, encouraging cycling tourists to the region. The first stage of the project involves building a limestone pathway under the Waipukurau Bridge from the start of Lindsay Rd, along the Tukituki River stop bank to Tapairu Rd then to Waipawa via the walkway on the Waipawa Bridge.