Track pulls in the punters


Dunedin residents desperate for fresh air and a change of scenery visited the West Harbour cycleway-walkway in greater numbers than ever before during April and May.

Figures provided by NZ Transport Agency showed a marked increase in use of the shared pathway compared with last year (see table).

NZTA senior project manager Jason Forbes, who is overseeing the project to extend the shared pathway to Port Chalmers, said data projection to the end of the month estimated the overall total for May would rise to 6714 walkers and 8652 cyclists.

“That would mean a phenomenal increase of nearly 6500 people using the pathway compared to May last year,” he said.

Dunedin city councillor Steve Walker, who pushed hard for the pathway extension as West Harbour Community Board chairman, was delighted but not surprised at the pathway’s popularity.

“It’s an amazing facility,” he said.

“There are not too many places in the world that you can walk or cycle by the edge of the wildlife and, of course, views to die for.”

It also showed the value of such a community facility during times of crisis.

“It’s amazing how simple things such as walking tracks, beaches and, of course, the West Harbour cycleway-walkway became so fundamentally important in terms of our health and wellbeing during the lockdown period.

The public response showed the community value of extending the West Harbour cycleway-walkway to Port Chalmers, which local people had campaigned for over decades, Mr Walker said.

“And it’s not just the cycleway-walkway.

“Most tracks around town have been super busy, which is great for our health and wellbeing.”

West Harbour Community Board chairwoman Francisca Griffin said it was “wonderful to see so many people enjoying the pathway, and I hope that at least some of that continues now that people have gone back to work and school”.

Mr Walker said a new group in Port Chalmers was looking at options for making Back Beach Rd safer and more family friendly due to the “massive increase” in people using it as a walking track during lockdown, he said.

The progress on extending the West Harbour shared pathway had been “phenomenal”, he said.