Story of a cycling route
In 2009, struggling with recession and unemployment in the wake of the global financial crisis, the New Zealand government proposed a national cycle trail
to reinvigorate small towns across the country. Research had found that only two percent of visitors to New Zealand used a bike. For Kiwis themselves, figures were low too; New Zealand is historically a nation of trampers (hikers), not cyclists.
The New Zealand Cycle Trail was created, designed to link up the best pre-existing routes in the country to form a national network of trails.
The idea was that cycle tourism would breathe new life into rural economies – cyclists spend longer
, and spend more than other travelers.
And it’s worked: by 2012, mountain biking in Rotorua's Whakarewarewa Forest was five times more economically valuable than timber
in the area. On the Great Otago Trail, one of the original cycling trails, tourists on bikes bring in money at a rate second only to farming
. When cycle tourism replaces other more intensive forms of industry, it can only be a good thing for the environment.
Since 2009, bike fever has grown apace. Between 2021 and 2022 the number of cyclists on the ‘Great Rides’ (dedicated cycle ways in scenic locations) over the course of the year leapt by 10 percent
, passing the two million mark.