Cycling is gaining in popularity in Auckland, judging by a survey showing a 35 per cent annual increase in pedalling numbers.
Auckland Transport says 27 per cent of 1615 city residents who took part in an online survey in May reported cycling at least occasionally.
That was up from 20 per cent surveyed last year, and is being hailed as a vote of confidence in new bike paths.
Although only 11 per cent said they cycled at least once a week, that was well up from 6 per cent in that category last year.
On the other hand, the proportion of those describing themselves as regular walkers fell to 42 per cent, compared with 46 per cent in 2014.
Market research company TRA said in a survey report to Auckland Transport that the finding made it difficult to see any positive change in the overall pattern of walking in the city.
But it said there was scope for promoting cycling among a wider range of Aucklanders than the young or middle-aged men who make up the largest user group.
The report found that 65 per cent of those who cycled did so to keep fit, 54 per cent for recreation, and just 12 per cent to get to and from work.
Auckland Transport walking and cycling manager Kathryn King said last night the report showed considerable potential for increasing the popularity of pedalling, especially as new cycle paths were developed in a $200 million programme of joint council and Government-funded projects over the next three years.
She expected a big early boost from the $13.9 million cycleway being developed by the Transport Agency and her organisation over Spaghetti Junction and down Nelson St to the waterfront, for which the main first stage to Victoria St is due to open in December.
"I think it is already starting to capture people's imagination and get them thinking about cycling being possible, and a good way to get them to town."
She wasn't about to give up on walking as a journey option, despite the "disheartening" survey findings.
"We think that was really surprising, that people just didn't see the point in walking," she said.
"Particularly for inner suburbs, it offers a fantastic option for getting into town if you work there.
"I think people really under-estimate walking.
"For many journeys it can be faster than the bus - we've got a sale job [to do] there."
On the move
Proportion of those surveyed who cycle, at least occasionally:
Proportion who walk:
2014 - 46%
2015 - 42%
Free course sets novice's wheels in motion
Trixina Smith missed out on learning to ride a bike while growing up in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.
Now in her late 50s, the North Shore Hospital social worker is making up for lost time thanks to beginner cycle-riding and maintenance courses provided free each spring by Auckland Transport.
Mrs Smith wants to catch up with her South Island-based son, who learned to cycle while at intermediate school in Auckland, and grandchildren -- 3 and 9 -- who already ride.
Although she still lacks the confidence to ride on roads, she is looking forward to more cycle paths such as a $4 million project Auckland Transport is to develop between Northcote Pt and Smales Farm next year.
The council body says it provides bike training to about 1000 people a year, and Mrs Smith is a prime example of a broader target market than the young or middle-aged males who make up the city's largest cycling group.
"I want to do it for every reason," she said yesterday of her desire to become an accomplished cyclist.
"I want to cycle absolutely for health, fitness, leisure, work and to reduce my carbon footprint.
"I think it's really important we're all more aware of the need to save fossil fuels and to be fit and healthy."
Mrs Smith has attended bike maintenance courses too, and is looking forward to more sessions to build her competence and confidence.
"The first maintenance one was great - I didn't have a clue about what I was supposed to do, but for two hours they showed you how to take a tyre off, take your wheel off, and how you're supposed to wash and oil it."
• For information about cycle riding and maintenance courses next month and in December, visit at.govt.nz/cyclingsthego or phone (09) 355 3553.