Bradley Minton and family. Photo: Florence Charvin

The first blue sky after weeks of rain. I am working on a BayBuzz feature about biking, so there’s nothing for it but to get out on my hybrid Trek, don helmet, gloves and reflector vest and leave Havelock North zooming down the wide Crosses Road cycle path. 

Suddenly I feel like a million dollars. You are one ride away from a good mood, says British cyclist Sarah Bentley, and she’s right. The fresh smells, the wind brushing my face, the voices of orchard workers through the hedge. 

I turn into St George’s Road and then cross again onto the wide, off-road cycle path heading to Hastings. I feel as safe as houses.

At Windsor Ave, the off-road path suddenly stops and I pedal onto the on-road green painted cycleway. I start to feel a little less safe as the sounds of cars loom behind. At the Willow Park roundabout, the cycle lane dissolves. This is the first time I have cycled into town. I fumble. Get off my bike, wait for cars, then push across and get on again at the other side. Now parked cars hug the green cycle lane and I watch like a hawk for any car door that might open into my path.

In June 2010 Waka Kotahi (NZTA) announced that Hastings District Council (HDC) was one of two towns chosen to be “a model community” and would receive $3.57m over two years encouraging it to integrate walking and cycling into its transport planning. The project was branded iWay and soon “iWay City Cycle Routes” began appearing on our urban streets: either green-painted on-road cycle lanes, off-road concrete paths like the one I had come from Havelock North on, and confusing signposts on some narrow suburban footpaths indicating they are for both walking and cycling. 

There was more Government funding and by 2015 Napier had joined iWay and started creating urban cycle routes like Hastings.

Zoom forward to 2022. Hastings and Napier are not “model cycling towns”. When Jess Berenston-Shaw, co-director of the Wellington think-tank The Workshop, visited here last June she wrote a damning Opinion piece in Newsroom

“Decision-makers in towns like Hastings still don’t understand the scale of the changes that are required to mitigate and address the climate and environmental crisis we face,” she wrote. “… there is little bike infrastructure to be seen, there are some painted lines on the roads (my favourite type of mode-shift washing), free or cheap central city parking, and a continued focus on moving cars and trucks smoothly through suburban areas.”

Maggie Brown, a mother of two young children, and the Sustainability Officer at Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand – Te Matau a Māui Hawke’s Bay, agrees.

Maggie Brown Sustainability Officer at Te Whatu Ora Te Matau a Māui Hawkes Bay Photo Florence Charvin

Originally from the US and a long time cyclist, she says our current Hastings cycle network is built for the “strong and fearless”. 

Maggie cycles four days a week from her home in Parkvale to her job based at the hospital — about four kilometres each way. She has had to work out the safest, not the fastest, route, avoiding Southampton Street with many “unsafe roundabouts” and St Aubyn Street, which “does not feel comfortable, nor safe, due to lack of physical protection/separation from busy traffic”.

Contrast this wobbly picture of urban biking in HB, with recreational cycling opportunities and the numbers participating in them, and it’s a totally different story.

In 2010/11, the Rt Hon John Key’s proposed network of cycle trails through New Zealand, began to get traction. On the back of this, in November 2012, Hawke’s Bay Trails opened, offering recreational riders of all ages some 200 kms of flat, mostly off-road, limestone trails winding through vineyards, orchards, farming and coastal-scapes.

Today HB Trails is the most popular of the 23 Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trails with NZ cycling guru Jonathan Kennett describing them as “the closest you can get to a European cycling holiday without travelling to Europe”. In 2021, nearly 800,000 trips were recorded on the trails with most by locals, though many visitors are coming to ride our trails too. Some are even choosing to retire here because the biking is so good!

Alongside iWay and HB Trails, mountain biking has also taken off. Back in 1995 Hawke’s Bay’s Mountain Bike Club gained full-time access into the privately owned Pan Pac Tangoio Forest. Today we have the largest Mountain Bike Club in the country with 4,000 members who pay for the privilege of riding over 50 kilometres of custom-built mountain bike trails in the officially-named Pan Pac Eskdale Mountain Bike Park. A second mountain biking network was built at Te Mata Peak Park in 2017 with eight trails ranging from an easy Tamariki Ako – Kids bike track, to advanced Grade 6 riding. 

The sport is huge and growing, but with it has come friction between bikers and walkers, particularly in the Havelock North Reserves. 

So biking in its many manifestations is a huge deal in Hawke’s Bay. How do I dig into this? 

The Ramblers

“Start with the Hub,” says my 28-year- old nephew Miguel, a keen road-cyclist in training with the HB Ramblers for the Round Taupō 160km race.

The Hub, in Heretaunga Street West, is a fair dinkum bike shop. Bikes hang off the walls and form a double row, fanning like a ribcage through the centre of the shop. Cycling jerseys and photos of medal winning cyclists are pinned high on the walls.

I find Hub owner Rob Oliver in the open-plan workshop. In 1972, he was the NZ Cycling Pursuit Champion. He went to the Munich Summer Olympics the same year as part of NZ’s five-man cycling squad. 

In 1982, Rob married, moved to Hastings and opened the Hub – initially selling mainly BMX bikes for kids down at Windsor Park dirt track. “Then I started selling road stuff and helping to run the local Ramblers club. I got in touch with like-minded teachers in schools and we ran inter-school racing on Sundays. Once you get cycling in your blood it’s hard to let it go.”

The HB Ramblers raced every Saturday and by the 1990s, membership was over 300. “But now numbers are dropping as cycling has diversified.” 

The Hub’s main trade today is e-bikes for the retired generation who ride them on the trails – “the best thing since sliced bread,” says Rob. The Hub also deals in mountain bikes and especially high-performance ones. He points to a used one leaning against the wall. “That’s worth about $20,000 and they can be worth a lot more.” 

Mountain Bikers

Scott Richardson, who chairs the Hawke’s Bay Mountain Bike Club, says most local mountain bikers are riding bikes worth anywhere between $5,000 to $10,000. 

“There’s also been a big growth in e-mountain bikes worth between $10–$12,000. They’ve allowed a lot more people, and older people, into the sport,” he says. “And experienced riders are smashing the tracks on e-bikes.”

Scott has an $8,000 carbon, full-suspension bike and at least twice a week he heads out to Pan Pac. He rides Te Mata Peak trails too and takes his bike whenever he heads out of town.

“Mountain biking is pretty hot,” he says, explaining it’s called the ‘new golf’ because it’s becoming more mainstream and popular with an older age group, mainly men. A third of the club’s members are female.

“But the sport has had bad rap in Hawke’s Bay which I don’t think is fair. Some view us as hoons, but that’s not true. It’s a highly skilled sport and we have people riding at all levels. Most are highly engaged and very accommodating.

“I think dedicated tracks like Pan Pac and Te Mata are the way to go,” he adds. “Sharing with walkers and other users has not been successful for various reasons. The lines have got blurred.”

Damon Harvey, a long time mountain biker and chair of HDC’s Active Transport Committee bikes the Te Mata Peak trail regularly and has biked through the Havelock North Reserves, in particular Tainui, where the ongoing friction has been the most heated. “Council should probably have built an up and a downhill trail,” he says.

“Mountain bikers come down the downhill track and then they want to go back up again and there’s no clear way to do so. So they go up one of the walking trails and this has created the friction with other user groups.”

Part of a vision Damon has for Havelock North as a major biking hub, is to see local children get out mountain biking. “We want them out there doing something. They’re not going to go walking. They want something with a bit of exhilaration.” 

He supports mountain biking in our reserves but with fully separate walking and biking tracks. However, some locals want to ban biking altogether in the reserves. Says Friends of Tainui Reserve coordinator Jessica Maxwell, “Mixing an unregulated, high-risk, high-speed activity while other passive users are trying to enjoy some peace and quiet in a small urban reserve is a recipe for disaster.” (See BayBuzz online reporting on the issue, 8 September 2022.)

Even at 60 years plus, there’s nothing like a little exhilaration. A few days after my experience of nervously navigating Hastings, I head out again on my bike down Te Mata Road and zoom across the trails “Landscape Ride” on the Tukituki stopbank heading towards Black Bridge. 

“For some that route and on from Clive along the foreshore to Napier, is their daily commute,” says Vicki Butterworth when I meet her at the HB Regional Council offices in Napier.

HB Trail riders

Vicki is the powerhouse behind the HB Trails. She is the first point of contact when something goes wrong, liaises with the Napier and Hastings councils and Ministry of Tourism, who jointly fund the trails, and she is involved in future planning which will likely soon include connecting Havelock North through to the Wineries Ride using some of the Karamu Stream corridor.

Vicki Butterworth

A long time cyclist and once a NZ rep in the world single-speed champs in Durango, Colorado, Vicki e-bikes from her Napier Hill home to work, and is passionate about the benefits to health and well-being of cycling. 

The trails undoubtedly contribute economically to our region, but no one can provide any specific local figures. The best is for 2021 from the Ministry of Tourism showing that the 23 Ngā Haerenga Great Rides are contributing $951 million to NZ’s economy while adding $11 million to our well-being, with HB contributing the most to both those figures.

Perhaps the best indication of the HB Trails success is praise in emails to Vicki like this excerpt from Charlie, of E-Bike Riders Social Hawke’s Bay. 

“To date in 2022 we have hosted 112 group rides and have involved 164 individual riders. We have ridden over 100,000 kms without any serious incidents which is a testament to the safety of the trails. The majority of our group riders can be classified as elderly 65 to 80. Without the trails they possibly would not be gaining the health benefits from cycling. Our group provides social contact which is important in these times and many friendships have developed as a result of our rides … without the trails we would have no group.” 

Urban cyclists

A few pedals from Vicki’s office, I meet Bradley Minton, one of the directors of FOLKL – a Napier-based research company, which is building expertise on urban traffic movement and active transport (public, biking, walking), in particular, in Napier City. 

FOLKL has looked at how students are travelling to certain Napier schools and how routes could be made safer so more bike or walk rather than going to and fro in cars. (According to Waka Kotahi’s latest household travel survey, just 3 percent of the teen group 13-17s and 2 percent of 5 to 12 year olds bike to school. Compare that with 1989/90 when about 19 percent of NZ teenagers aged 13-17 cycled to school, along with 12 percent of children aged 5-12.) 

Bradley is himself a dedicated biker. He rides the trails, mountain-bikes in summer and commutes to work each day (from Napier South to the CBD) moving his two young pre-school children on his cargo e-bike all over Napier City, to kindy and to Granny on Napier Hill. He will even say that he and his wife Ella are “designing their lives to cycle most of the time, rather than drive”. They have two cargo bikes, one electric and their car use has dropped by 75%. 

“Biking is now our default mode of transport and the kids love it,” he says. “Even when it was raining the other day, my son preferred the bike for his kindy drop-off.”

A University of Auckland School of Population Health study – Moving urban trips from cars to bicycles: impact on health and emissions – found that the effects of shifting 5 percent of all short vehicle-based urban trips to cycling would reduce vehicle travel by approximately 223 million kilometres each year, save about 22 million litres of fuel and reduce transport-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by about 54,000 tonnes. Those GHG reductions are the equivalent of taking 18,000 cars permanently off the road.

The same study also found that the 5 percent shift to cycling would reduce the health-damaging air pollutants – carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide (NOx), and particulates (PM10) – by 1,449 tonnes, 161 tonnes, and 12.3 tonnes, respectively. 

But just as Maggie Brown says cycling in Hastings is for the “strong and fearless”, so Bradley says the same for Napier. He takes me on a virtual ride, using google street view, along Kennedy Road. We watch how the green cycle lane directs cyclists into town — but all of a sudden Kennedy Road turns into Tennyson Street and the cycle lane just disappears. Cyclists are left riding into two lane traffic and heading into a busy CBD intersection. 

“It’s like the message is: ‘We’ve almost got you to Napier CBD but then you have to take your own risks, you’re on your own.’ Ella is totally spooked by this,” says Bradley. “She turns back at the end of the cycle lane and goes an alternative route into town that takes longer but is safer.”

He suggests both Napier and Hastings need to have connected cycleways that are separated from cars. In October 2021, FOLKL conducted research on Carlyle Street, one of Napier’s most used cyclist commuter routes into the city. A survey found that 61 percent of cyclists “felt somewhat unsafe or very unsafe on Carlyle Street”, 22 percent of cyclists said they actively tried to avoid Carlyle Street. 

“There needs to be physical barriers between cyclists and motorists. It might be bollards, pavings, or a low divider. 

“If we can build cycling infrastructure that an eight and an 80-year old can use, then everyone in between can use it too.” 

But the cost will be car parks. “People in HB will have to get used to the fact if we want safe cycling infrastructure we will need to give something up.”

And he is convinced if we’re going to make our HB towns safer for cyclists and pedestrians, we also need to drop speed limits. “That’s the main tool we’ve got. Research shows if a cyclist or pedestrian gets hit by a vehicle at 30 kms per hour they’ve got a 90 percent chance of survival. If they get hit at 50 kms per hour they’ve got a 10 percent chance of survival.” He suggests Kennedy Road and Carlyle Street will be a lot safer for everyone if the speed limit is lowered to 30 kms per hour. 

“It will make the environment calmer, quieter and way safer.”


Graeme Taylor, who holds the Sport and Recreation Portfolio on Napier City Council (and is current chair of Sport Hawke’s Bay) agrees the current cycle network in Napier is not good enough. 

A cyclist himself and a fourth-term councillor, Taylor is pleased to see Napier councillors, Juliet Greig, Richard McGrath and Maxine Boag ‘walking the talk’ and using cycling or electric bikes to get to some meetings. 

“We need to build on that and set up an Active Transport Committee.” (Napier doesn’t have one. Hastings does.) 

Taylor says funding has always been an issue and cycling infrastructure often hasn’t been top of mind for local body politicians. Napier City Council recently won one of 13 government-funded Streets for People programmes and is focusing on Carlyle St, in particular the western end to recognise its significance as an island – Pukemokimoki – partly removed during reclamation in the 1870s and completely after the 1931 earthquake. 

“That’s good,” says Taylor, “but it’s just a small project. We need more funding and we need a voice so that when new roads or infrastructure changes are designed in HB, all active transport modalities – scooters, skateboards, mobility scooters – as well as bikes are taken into consideration before anything’s built.”

Jerf van Beek

That future voice might well be passionate cycle advocate, HB Regional Councillor Jerf van Beek. Van Beek is a new member on the Regional Transport Committee along with representatives from the region’s four civic councils and transport groups such as the police, AA, Waka Kotahi. They are tasked with preparing a regional transport strategy and programme, and van Beek intends to keep the voice of cyclists and active transport on the table. 

He grew up in Holland where it is harder to use a car than a bike, and he wants to see the same in HB’s towns, and particularly Hastings. 

“We make it too easy for cars. We need a strategy to get cars out of the CBDs. Why do we have to park in front of shops?” He spoke out recently against Havelock North wanting more land for carparks and says “we shouldn’t be encouraging more car trips”. 

In a powerpoint presentation, “Cycling for a Purpose”, van Beek told HDC councillors: “You will not be remembered for increasing carparking but mark my words, you will be remembered for changing the settings to get people out of cars and using active and public transport.”

Van Beek underlines a frustration I had heard repeatedly about cycling in HB. “Most bikers (local and visitors) get into their cars and drive to the start of the HB Trails,” he says. “That’s ridiculous. It’s not safe to cycle all the way!” He adds that while you’ll see families on the wide limestone trails all biking together, you won’t see any biking through central Hastings.” 

Hastings Mayor Sandra Halzehurst admits her council has a lot of work to do regarding the cycling strategy. “We started with a hiss and a roar but managing through the water crisis and then Covid, we haven’t had the emphasis on cycling and active transport we should have. We have to take a lead here.”

Smart young people like Maggie Brown will hold the mayor to this. Maggie is an active member of Bike Hawke’s Bay, the region’s biking advocacy organisation and a voice for all people who ride bikes. See

Maggie has a Masters in Urban Planning from Denver, US, and is interested in moves in urban planning overseas to create ‘15-minute neighbourhoods’: “places where you can walk and cycle and get everything you need in 15 minutes.

“Hastings and Napier are already 15-minute cities,” she says. “But we don’t have the cycling infrastructure. “We could be a walking and cycling utopia.” 


Join the Conversation


  1. Great story Tess,
    I can visualise the beauty of the bay enhanced by carefully designed, safe cycleways for both commuters and recreational cyclists.
    There are such a lot of benefits to be gained by this which your story brings to the for.

  2. Great article! It is good that our recreational cycle trails have got more people on bikes and brought more tourism to the Bay. However, our city roads are incredibly hazardous for those of us that try to bike often instead of using a car . I regularly get tooted at, cut off and have aggressive motorists even yell out their window at times. Have to watch constantly for parked car doors opening suddenly on one side and vehicles sandwiching you in on the other. I hope our town planners and civic leaders do more than just talk about doing better. Until there is a separate lane with full protection (not just the yellow and black posts like in school road Clive that motorists just mow down and flatten) then more people will not take their life in their hands! I totally agree with Maggie, Bradley and Jerf and believe that for environmental, not just personal health and safety reasons we need our cities to become far more walking and cycle friendly. Time our “love affair” with our cars was challenged more! So many huge ‘tanks’ – SUV’s that don’t even fit in our parking spaces are dominating our roads.

  3. It was good to see that amongst the rather horrendous Hawke’s Bay 2022 Road toll deaths, there were no cycle related deaths. Whether this was luck or less commuter cycling, who knows? Cycling has progressed in leaps and bounds for recreation purposes but the majority of kiwis still see it as that only, and until that mindset changes, politicians will simply reflect this in their decision making about where cycling fits in the overall scheme of things. Kiwis travel overseas a lot and must see how cycling operates in Europe and elsewhere, but don’t seem to bring this ethos back home. Safe riding everyone!

  4. Great and thoughtful article.
    The premise that investment in cycling infrastructure has many positive spin-offs (health, fun, sustainability and carbon rexuction) and only one negative (can’t park outside the shop you’re going to) speaks volumes.

  5. Great article, Tess. I do get annoyed with the grumblers who walk in the Havelock North reserves. It’s very rare to see a biker on a foot trail, and an absolute joy to see kids whooping along on their dedicated routes, enjoying the outdoors with friends, braving the jumps. Can’t think of a better space for kids to grow.

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