The shared pathway across central Whanganui has changed the life of cyclist Phil Thomsen.
He uses Te Tuaiwi (the spine) about once a day to get from his St John's Hill house to Whanganui UCOL, to meetings, to supermarkets. He was thrilled to find it was lit up at night when he used it to get to the movies.
"It's so civilised," he said.
Thomsen is a senior lecturer in business at UCOL, and has been a cyclist all his life. He likes it for fitness, for reducing his carbon footprint and for saving money.
During his 40 years in Whanganui he's been knocked off his bike or had near misses three times. He's never been badly injured, but one bicycle was totalled. He doesn't like cycle lanes because only a painted line protects the cyclist.
"I used to be anxious every time I biked into town, particularly of the three big fears for cyclists: drivers throwing their car doors open after parking without looking; cars not looking for bikes at roundabouts, and cars cutting cyclists off when they turn left."
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Now he can ride from Parsons St to town on shared pathways free of cars. There are traffic lights adjusted to cyclists everywhere except the Glasgow St crossing.
Lights installed there are waiting for KiwiRail to link them into the rail controller.
Thomsen hopes that will happen soon.
"It's terrifying to see school children dodging the busy traffic there."
He's keen for the next additions to the network - a connection along London St to Springvale, avoiding the stretch near Fergusson St where cyclists go on the road, and an extension the other way along London St to the Aramoho Shopping Centre.
He would like people to be stricter about keeping left on the pathway, and is relentless about doing so himself. Sometimes pedestrians jump when he rings his bell, but he expects they will get used to sharing a path with cyclists, skaters, scooters and mobility scooters.
He can't figure out why Te Tuaiwi isn't getting more use.
"A lot of people still cycle on St Hill St, and it actually seems to be slower on the road."
Te Tuaiwi is 2.3km long and cost $2.2 million, with most of the money from central
government. It was opened on December 3.
Where it runs along the railway line it is concrete and 3m wide, separated from the tracks by a 1.2m fence. It runs past Whanganui Intermediate School, Whanganui City College and Whanganui Collegiate School, and is busy before and after school.
The counter at the back of the Pak'nSave supermarket recorded about 230 people using the pathway every day in the first weeks of February, with about 80 of them cyclists.