Health: Cy­clists need to be more con­sid­er­ate

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - by Gary Moller Dip Ph Ed PG Dip Re­hab PG Dip Sport Med (Otago) FCE Cer­ti­fied

Last Fe­bru­ary, when in Nel­son, I bumped into Con­ser­va­tion Min­is­ter, Dr Nick Smith. I was cy­cling around the city while he was out and about meet­ing with his con­stituents.

Af­ter briefly chat­ting about Ac­ci­dent Com­pen­sa­tion (Dr Smith was once the Min­is­ter for ACC and I was the ACC's Na­tional Co­or­di­na­tor of Sport and Re­cre­ation Safety dur­ing its early days), Dr Smith changed the topic of dis­cus­sion to the Hea­phy Track, say­ing that a num­ber of his con­stituents were un­happy about his ex­tend­ing the sea­son of moun­tain bike ac­cess to the track.

I have walked the Hea­phy Track twice now and my daugh­ter, Mary-Ann, worked two sea­sons on the track as a porter. Our plan, now, is to cy­cle the track. When we do that, we will spend money on trans­port, lots of food and com­fort­able ac­com­mo­da­tion. Age­ing "Baby-Boomers" are big­ger spenders than your usual back-packers. The lo­cal bike shops will do well out of us, as well, be­cause of­froad cy­cling in­volves a lot of me­chan­i­cal wear and tear.

I said to Dr Smith that I am now 60 and, thank good­ness, I am still in good health, in­clud­ing my joints be­ing in good nick. I put my healthy joints partly down to strik­ing a bal­ance be­tween walk­ing, run­ning and cy­cling. Cy­cling is very easy on the joints - so long as you stay up­right! Nowa­days, I keep the run­ning and walk­ing to rel­a­tively short dis­tances and with­out the heavy load­ing of huge back packs. I use cy­cling for the long, hard stuff, in­clud­ing car­ry­ing the heavy loads. It seems to be work­ing and our cy­cling hol­i­days ex­plor­ing New Zealand and the Pa­cific Is­lands are a re­lax­ing plea­sure, rather than be­ing a joint-grind­ing slog.

With the bur­geon­ing pop­u­la­tion of "oldies" who are no longer con­tent with the prospect of re­tire­ment in the rock­ing chair, pre­fer­ring, in­stead, to ex­plore the Great Out­doors, the de­mand is grow­ing for more leisurely op­tions, other than the tra­di­tional hike with a 20kg pack. These op­tions in­clude hir­ing a strong, young per­son, like my daugh­ter, to be their "mule", or to ride a full sus­pen­sion moun­tain bike (the "lazy Boy" op­tion).

Dr smith agreed, while point­ing out that his cy­cling skills were "limited", hint­ing that the hired mule op­tion might be the safer for him. He's right: Cy­cling is not for ev­ery­one!

Cy­cling trails are lac­ing their way around most of New Zealand. There are now so many that I won­der if I will ever get to ex­plore them all - they are be­ing built faster than we can ride them!

Trails that are graded for cy­cling are per­fect for walk­ing. The only is­sue is the safe co­ex­is­tence be­tween cy­clists and walk­ers on nar­row, wind­ing tracks. I think it comes down to be­ing con­sid­er­ate of other track users and recog­nis­ing that walk­ers and cy­clists are ac­tu­ally one and the same, with com­mon goals, rather than be­ing op­po­nents.

For the cy­clist, this means slow­ing down, or stop­ping to let walk­ers past and tak­ing great care when ne­go­ti­at­ing blind cor­ners. Walk­ers are eas­ily star­tled. A bell would be handy, if not com­pul­sory, when rid­ing shared trails.

Dr Smith said that he was not about to back­track on his de­ci­sion to ex­tend the Hea­phy Track's moun­tain bike sea­son be­cause the ben­e­fits far out­weighed the neg­a­tives. I agreed - of course!

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