Plans for a major new cycle network in Rotorua have been announced, with the Government promising $1.5m towards the total cost.
The Rotorua Cy-Way will be made up of 23.7km of cycling and walking paths that will aim to connect the central city and suburbs with forest mountain bike trails.
Prime Minister John Key was joined by Transport Minister Simon Bridges at Rotorua's Government Gardens yesterday to reveal 41 projects that will be funded in the next stage of the national $296million Urban Cycleways Programme.
Rotorua's $1.5million share will go towards the $5.52million Cy-Way project, with a further $2.09million being provided by the National Land Transport Fund. The remainder of the project will be funded with an estimated $1.93million from the Rotorua Lakes Council - a contribution budgeted for in its latest long-term plan.
Mr Key said the Cy-Way would have benefits for tourism and development in Rotorua, and was expected to attract around 1700 cyclists a day when completed.
"I'm absolutely convinced this is only really the beginning," said Mr Key.
"Provincial New Zealand is a great place for cycling, and we've seen it going from strength to strength."
The district council has suggested construction on the Cy-Way could begin as early as this year, and is expected to be finished by 2018.
Key routes of the network will include a link from Western Heights and Koutu to the inner city, and a circuit from Western Heights through Pukehangi, Sunnybrook and Utuhina to the the CBD.
It's hoped the cycleway will be a catalyst to get more people walking or cycling to school or work. Education and promotion programmes are planned for schools and workplaces and there are also plans for new signage and slower driving speeds along the route.
When the Cy-Way is complete, it is estimated almost 14,000 students will attend schools within 500m of the city's primary cycle network.
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick welcomed the announcement, and described the Cy-Way project as an extension of the work already being done to promote cycling in the city.
"This funding will allow us to progress that work much faster, towards our vision to be a truly cycle-friendly city," Mrs Chadwick said.
"If we want more locals to cycle, we need to make it safe for them to do that."
Tauranga also received $3.8million from the Urban Cycleways Fund in yesterday's announcement. Mr Bridges described the programme as "the single biggest investment in cycling in New Zealand's history".
Lisa Horlor, a Rotorua cyclist and coach, was thrilled by the announcement of the Cy-Way.
"Anything that encourages people to see our world instead of driving past is really cool. We have got a lot to offer," she said.
After the announcement, Mr Key, Mrs Chadwick and the other politicians present trooped outside to saddle up and take a bike ride.
As he cycled around Government Gardens in his suit, the Prime Minister said he was enjoying himself - although wondered whether lycra might have been a more appropriate choice of clothing.
•Total cost: $5.52million.
•Government funding: Urban Cycleways Fund $1.5million, National Land Transport Fund $2.09million.
•Rotorua Lakes Council funding: $1.93million.
•Estimated completion: 2018.
•Expected 1700 riders a day