Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Kapiti Expressway cycle track

Last Thursday, 9 March, we had our second try at riding the cycle track alongside the new Kapiti Expressway

The Expressway had an open day for the general public on 18 February, and the celebrations included people being allowed to walk and cycle on a 5 km stretch of the new road between Paraparaumu and Waikanae. Unfortunately we weren’t able to go, so the following Tuesday, after biking from Paekakariki to Raumati, we wanted to try out the new cycle track that runs alongside it. But it wasn't open for use yet.

Access to the new cycle track at Raumati was still blocked off (photo by John)

We talked to one of the people still working on the completion and he said it would be opening at 3am (!) the following Friday, provided the weather didn’t throw a spanner in the works.

He told us the track would be open the following Friday (photo by John)

By diverting via a couple of Raumati roads, we managed to find a few stretches that were not blocked off, but then we met a man on a tractor, who told us we really should not be there, so we decided to come back another day.

This foot/cycle bridge over the Expressway could be reached from an access road alongside the track,
 but was still blocked off too (photo by John)

So last Thursday, we had another go at it. We drove to Raumati, parked the car in Leinster Ave, just off Poplar Avenue, and biked up to the start of the cycle track.

I was disappointed to find that the track was not completely smooth. It consisted of seal but with a fine gravel surface. We stopped to talk to a couple of surveyors, and asked whether the track was like this all the way. “Yes, and a few bits are worse” they said. I wondered why the track had not been properly sealed, and the short answer was “cost”. Of course.

Two surveyors still working on the track (photo by John)

We were now able to get onto the Rongomau Footbridge. It is an impressive black construction, with a sinuously curved ramp, designed to resemble an eel. It leads to the houses along the old SH1. The signpost pointed across the bridge to “Paraparaumu Shopping Centre”, but I wouldn’t go that way, biking along the old SH1, if I could go on the cycle track instead. However the bridge provided a great view on the Expressway.

The Rongomau Footbridge over the Expressway (photo by John)

View from the bridge looking south … (photo by John)

… and looking north (photo by John)

The track is nice and wide and in most places is a respectable distance away from the Expressway. There are lots of small areas of protected wetlands. We spotted a pukeko and a few ducks already taking possession. No doubt, in time, these areas will become home to more water-loving birds.

We were impressed with the plantings all along the road and cycle track. Plants must have been put in a year ago or more, as they seemed well established. In areas near housing, there were noise reduction walls, which were very attractive too.

One of the protected wetland areas, and a fenced-off culvert.
Note the surface of the track (photo by John)

Attractive, established planting (photo by John)

Noise reduction walls (photo by John)

Seating is provided every so often (photo by John)

I was in awe of all the planning that must have gone into the whole project – road, bridges, cycle track, plantings, wetlands ... No wonder it took three years to complete. It certainly is a beautiful result.

As we approached Paraparaumu, the Expressway went across one of the many new bridges. Here, the cycle track dips below the level of the road to its own bridge across the Wharemauku Stream. The track crosses another shared path, which leads from Coastlands shopping centre to Paraparaumu Beach, past the back of the airport.

The road bridge over the Wharemauku Stream, and the track between Coastlands and the beach

The road bridge on the far left and the foot/cycle bridge in the centre right

The Expressway bridges fly over several roads – Kapiti, Mazengarb, Otaihanga, and Te Moana Roads – while the cycle track crosses them at road level. Some of the crossings have buttons to activate cycle warnings to motorists. At the Te Moana Road traffic lights, there are even separate crossing lights, with appropriate symbols, for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.

Push buttons are provided to ensure cyclists’ safety

Between Raumati and Otaihanga, the cycle track runs on the left of the Expressway heading north. At Otaihanga Road, the track goes under the Expressway, and continues on the right hand side.

The bridge over the Waikanae River must be the longest, and here the bike track runs right next to the Expressway. On quite a few occasions, we’ve watched progress during the building phases of this bridge from below, on the Waikanae River track. It was interesting to see it from the top this time.

The Waikanae River bridge (photo by John)

Looking down on the Waikanae River track. There is access to the tracks
on both sides of the river from each end of the bridge

On the bridge, we met a young woman taking photographs. We exchanged hellos, and she said that a bit further along, we would meet the Prime Minister and the local MP. They were cycling a stretch of the track as a “photo opportunity”. I asked who she worked for, thinking she was a newspaper or TV reporter, but she said she worked for the PM – “I’m the PM’s photographer”.

Sure enough, before long, we saw them coming towards us, looking – as one news report described them – “like a pair of Mormons spreading the good word” in their white shirts and ties. 

Bill English, Prime Minister, and Nathan Guy, MP for Otaki

Mr English saw me taking a photo and stopped to talk. He was interested in my e-bike, and asked how far we were going on the track, and how often we biked. He was very patient while I fiddled with my phone to take another photo of him.

Me and the PM – and presumably a bodyguard? (photo by John)

He stopped to chat – only in NZ ... (he probably just wants my vote!)

Just here the cycle track diverts from the Expressway and goes through a short stretch of Waikanae suburban street. I found out later that this circumvents an area of historic Māori land, a wāhi tapu, belonging to the whānau of the author Patricia Grace. She refused to give up her ancestral land for the Expressway, and in 2014, she won her case in the courts. 

Further along, there is a retaining wall, which is decorated with stylised Māori patterns.

The retaining wall below Patricia Grace’s land

Near the intersection with Te Moana Road, we met a cluster of media people, armed with TV cameras and microphones, waiting for Bill English to return. I watched the TV news that evening, and while he commented on lots of other matters, he did not say anything about the Expressway or the cycle track.

Between Te Moana Road and Peka Peka, the surface of the track became rougher. Hopefully this will be remedied as time goes on. Work on the track is still going on, as evidenced by a small digger we encountered along the way.

The track was a bit rough in places (photo by John)

Work on the track is still going on (photo by John)

We made our way to Peka Peka for lunch at Harrisons. The Expressway ends at Peka Peka and rejoins the old SH1. The cycle track stops here too. Although there is signage pointing to Otaki, there are apparently no plans at this stage to extend the cycle track to Otaki, even when the next section of Expressway is built – something which has the Kapiti cycling community up in arms.

Some stretches of the cycle track are also suitable for horse riders – with a strip of grass running alongside it.

The cycle track also functions as a bridle path in some places (photo by John)

Coming up to the Mazengarb Road intersection on our way back (photo by John)

We biked 34 km that day (17 km each way). After we got back to the car, we drove to Paraparaumu Beach for an icecream, but had to use the old SH1 from Raumati, as there is no on-ramp there. However, we enjoyed driving a short stretch of the new Expressway from Paraparaumu to McKay’s on the way home.

Note: Alastair Smith (of Folding Goldies fame) has also written an account (here) of the cycle track, which he refers to as Te Ara Kapiti.



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  2. Very good blog, keen to take my bike out and explore!

    1. Thank you, glad you enjoy the blog. Enjoy your explorations!