Wairarapa is on the brink of unlocking untapped economic growth, but this won’t happen unless Wairarapa drivers can wise up when it comes to road safety.

Catherine Rossiter-Stead, a keen cyclist and organiser of the Huri Huri bike festival, says with more and more people out on their bikes, it was time for drivers to “look out and slow down”.

“I think we’ve got a lot more education to do in this region about how to take care of our cyclists,” she said.

“If we do that, then it becomes part and parcel of the daily psyche on the road — people have got to feel safe on the road.”

Mrs Rossiter-Stead said the safety factor on Wairarapa roads was the biggest barrier to cycling in the region.

“Unless we change our culture, people will be less-inclined to get on their bikes which will be a real shame for our local economy — we’ve only just reached the tip of the iceberg with the potential growth cycling can give in the region.

“But a cycling economy will only be successful if we change the culture.

“The community that lives here has to be more cycle-friendly, and more aware of what’s happening on the roads.

“It doesn’t take much just to slow down and give cyclists a bit of space.”

With the New Zealand Cycle Classic (NZCC) kicking off in Wairarapa on January 17, and Huri Huri events commencing the day before, it was a great time for Wairarapa people to celebrate cycling, and show off their hospitality to some of the world’s best, Mrs Rossiter-Stead said.

“Huri Huri was originally put together to help build a community programme around the NZ Cycle Classic,” she said.

“But, we’ve expanded out Huri Huri into more of a cycling brand.”

This year, Huri Huri is hosting events throughout the whole year, kicking off with an opportunity for people to engage with cycling on the eve of the New Zealand Cycle Classic.

“The first event of the year is at Mitre 10 Mega in Masterton on Tuesday, and it’s a great opportunity to see some serious professional cycling in action.”

The event, on January 16, includes a display from the FreestyleLifestyle BMX team who will perform between 4pm and 7pm, showing off their high-flying BMX tricks.

There will also be a mini obstacle cycle course for kids, an opportunity to meet the international riders taking part in the NZCC, and a chance to win a new barbecue.

Running alongside this event will be a circuit ride involving NZCC cyclists — kicking off at 7pm.

“We are encouraging people to come down and create a real party atmosphere while the teams are cycling.

“We want to see people come down with banners and flags, all dressed up — like people do on the Tour de France.

“Whoever is the best-dressed or most outrageous will win a barbecue for their family.”

Looking ahead, Huri Huri has also organised a family fun ride on Castlepoint Station on January 20.

Riders can choose from a 7km short loop exploring the historic Castlepoint Station, a 14km long loop via the beach, or a 20km course option that covers the limed road to Otahome and back.

“In the summer, when you have these wonderful long evenings, it’s prime time for cycling,” Mrs Rossiter-Stead said.

“There is so much untapped potential for cycling here.

“It’s not just trail cycling, it’s not just mountain biking, but it’s road cycling, events, cycling to school or work. “There is a lot we can do here.”

For more information about events, visit www.hurihuri.co.nz.