I AM a keen cyclist. It was pedal power that got me around a number of Rangitikei towns while I was campaigning to be an MP.
I particularly enjoy exploring on a bike - and seeing the parts of New Zealand you can't experience by travelling in a car.
Of course it's a healthier way to travel too.
It goes without saying that I'm a keen supporter of the Urban Cycleways Programme, which is all about enabling urban cycling projects to get under way around the country, while at the same time improving cycling safety and supporting more connected cycling networks. The cycleways are funded through a shared investment that's divided between the Urban Cycleways Fund, the National Land Transport Fund and the respective local council.
I am delighted that people in both Wanganui and Rangitikei will reap the benefits of this initiative sooner than previously planned thanks to more than $12.87 million of funding from the $333 million Urban Cycleways Programme.
This new funding will accelerate the build of the Te Tuaiwi ("The Spine") and the City to North Mole Shared Pathways in Wanganui and the Manawatu River Bridge Shared Pathway in Rangitikei.
Cycling in Wanganui contributes to improving transport options and providing a more efficient and integrated transport network, while at the same time improving health, economic and social outcomes and city liveability. A good quality cycle network is a key attraction for the district and benefits both residents and visitors alike.
A comprehensive urban cycling network and programme has been developed to encourage more people to cycle, especially for short distance trips to work or school. With 80 per cent of Wanganui's residents living within 4km of the city centre, the city has good potential to achieve this goal.
The 2.3km Te Tuaiwi Shared Pathway is a new, separated path that will link two existing cycleways and provide safe access to the inner city area as well as to several schools. There are around 3500 students within 500m of the route. The cycleway is expected to attract around 1000 people a day. It is anticipated that construction will begin at the end of this year and be completed by mid-2018.
The City to North Mole Shared Pathway will provide a 5km route through Heads Rd an area that has around 4500 employees travelling in and out daily. It will also serve as a riverside link to the city centre for the 11,000 residents of Gonville, Tawhero and Castlecliff.
Construction for this route is expected to begin in mid-2017 and be finished by mid-2018.
While the Urban Cycleways Fund will help deliver Te Tuaiwi and the City to North Mole Shared Pathways over the next three years, the Wanganui District Council will also complete the cycleway connection between the city and the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail.
The option to cycle safely will be a significant drawcard for our region.
It's definitely pleasing to see central and local government working together on our cycleways. National is committed to providing safe and accessible urban cycleways throughout the country, which are changing the face of cycling in New Zealand.