The Hawke's Bay Trails saw a 15 per cent increase in traffic during lockdown, despite a quarter of them being closed and no tourists.

But a recent big jump in Clifton made Cycle Network co-ordinator Vicki Butterworth take notice.

It was highly unusual, with 20,000 pedestrians recorded at the remote spot of Clifton.

It prompted her to take action.


The information was thanks to expensive sensors hidden throughout the network which can count users and differentiate between cyclists and pedestrians.

And it turned out the 20,000 pedestrians were busy making a home for themselves.

"We believe we've got an ant problem out there," Butterworth said.

"Maybe what's happened with the rain they have all of a sudden gone, 'Let's get out of the wet ground and have fun with the counter'."

Aside from the ants, Butterworth noticed a lot more traffic immediately after lockdown was declared.

She said normally it would be good news, but cattle gates along the network were a health concern.

"When we went into lockdown all of a sudden we were getting record numbers. I went in and I checked and looked at the data to see if this was an issue or was it genuinely people going out. And that's what prompted us to do partial closures of the network.

"We were realising that out on the Water Ride, 500 people had gone past the counter that day. So that could be 500 hands touching a gate.


"We don't want to risk the community and we don't want to be a source of transmission.

"At that stage they were saying the droplets could last up to 72 hours on metal surfaces - and these are metal gates so that is not good.

"We quickly analysed the network and said these sections we need to close for safety reasons."

The increased use is only partly the fault of ants messing with the counters. Butterworth said good weather has also contributed to increased use, thanks to data that doesn't have a bug in it.

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