Transport Agency fund accelerates Hastings cycleway plan

More than $5 million is to be spent on four paths linking Hastings, Flaxmere, Havelock North and Clive.

Hastings is to receive funding under the New Zealand Transport Agency's walking and cycling model communities plan, which aims to encourage councils to integrate walking and cycling in transport planning.

From 22 council expressions of interest, Hastings and New Plymouth have received nearly $4 million each to complete their winning plans.

NZTA central regional director Jenny Chetwynd said urban centres across New Zealand would be encouraged to follow suit.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said the cycleways project was another step towards making Hawke's Bay the walking and cycling capital of New Zealand.

The ultimate vision is to get 40,000 vehicles a day off Hawke's Bay roads by encouraging commuters to walk or cycle.

The strategy resulted in Hastings District Council receiving $3.98 million of agency funds.

Hastings ratepayers are adding $2.39 million originally set aside for walking and cycling projects. The NZTA money means the projects will now be completed in the next two years instead of 10.

The balance of the $6.37 million, after spending $5.2 million on infrastructure, will go on such things as increasing the number of bike racks across the city, and education initiatives encouraging residents to get out of their cars and on to the paths.

The council's sustainable transport manager, Owen Mata, said the four main cycleways would follow the main road routes from Hastings through the countryside to each of the outlying townships.

Landscaping would separate the paths from roads outside of 50kmh areas.

They would be up to three metres wide and clearly signposted. They would link up to the 46km of recreational cycleways already through the region's parks, alongside rivers and along the seafront at Napier.

Other initiatives that would be looked at included allowing children to cycle on footpaths, bike racks at bus stops and shopping areas, and increased seating along pathways to encourage walking.

Mr Yule said the biggest task would be "changing hearts and minds – encouraging people to make walking and cycling part of their everyday lives".

But he was optimistic.

"[Napier Mayor] Barbara Arnott started the [recreational] cycleways projects in Napier and it's spread across the region. They're well used.

"We have the flat topography and we have the wonderful weather to make us the walking and cycling capital of New Zealand."