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Bike trail prompts questions on safety

Construction of the cycle bridge over Tauherenikau River. PHOTOS/GEORGE SHIERS

A planned bike trail in Featherston must address serious safety concerns before it is opened, residents say.

The section of cycleway is part of the Five Towns Trail that connects Featherston and Greytown with a new bridge of Tauherenikau River and will share a narrow gravel road with trucks operating around the Featherston quarry.

Dust thrown up by trucks meant that cyclists can not be seen, and a build-up of gravel on the side of the road meant that cyclists are forced to use the middle of the road and can not easily move over to avoid traffic.

“Underhill Rd is quite narrow and in summer is very dusty. Even small cars can create quite a cloud of dust and I don’t think trucks are going to create any less of a cloud,” resident Penny Walker said.

“I have seen cyclists completely covered in dust from passing vehicles.

“Because it is a gravel road the gravel ‘migrates’ to the edges leaving a line of gravel right where you should cycle if trying to keep to the left. This means that to avoid this hazard and to make cycling easier you need to ride further out on the road.”

Walker said she was confident on a bike but trucks from the quarry were creating a danger even to experienced riders.

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“I like to think I am a reasonably competent and confident cyclist. I have cycled along Underhill Rd and always treat it with caution.

“I try to avoid times when I know trucks will be operating as I know the hazards and the trucks complicate things.”

Wairarapa Trails Action Group chairman and Carterton mayor Greg Lang said it was up to South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] to make a call, otherwise the Greytown Trail Trust can apply for funding to complete the project.

“No one can do anything without SWDC making a decision,” he said.

“SWDC need to decide if they are able to do the litigation themselves involved in making the road safe for cyclists.”

“Parts of the roading network will be used until parts of the track are developed.”

There was no opening plan for the Featherston part of the trail, and Lang said the trail would not open if it was unsafe.

“Safety is a big concern [and] there is more work to be done”

The trail was part of the Five Towns Trail, which planned to create a cycle link connecting Martinborough, Featherston, Greytown, Carterton and Masterton.

The link would be almost 200km and was expected to take 10 years to complete.

It was estimated to cost $31.7 million, and it was understood that the link would be externally funded.

The bridge over Tauherenikau River would open before a trail connecting to it would, meaning there would be an increased number of cyclists on Underhill Rd.

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