Pedal power proves popular

Cycle trails and cycle and walking tourism are more popular than ever, with nearly two million trips on the country’s Great Rides in one year, says Tourism Minister Stuart Nash.

“New analysis of data from the 22 trails which form the Great Rides shows an increase of nearly 700,000 trips in the year to February, compared to 2015,” said Mr Nash.

“The Great Rides offer intrepid travellers a low-cost and accessible way to see the best parts of the country by going off-road. The rides are graded from easy to expert, and offer something for riders and walkers of all abilities.

“Cycling and walking these trails is a great way to explore unique scenery and enjoy the best of local culture, architecture, food and wine. Cycle trails are growing in popularity with travellers who want to combine health and fitness activities with leisure and holidays.

“Cycleways and walkways are increasingly helping small regional communities to diversify their local economy. They support more tourism, accommodation and hospitality jobs. I encourage travellers to explore one this summer and support local businesses.

“Of all the Great Rides, the Hawke’s Bay Cycle Trail came out on top with 188,000 cycle trips and 220,000 pedestrian trips.

“It’s not surprising the Hawke’s Bay Cycle Trail was busiest of all. I know how popular it is from my own local cycling. Marine Parade in my home town of Napier is one of the most popular cycling paths in the country.

“Hawke’s Bay has plenty of other great trails, including the Tukituki Trail, which will nearly double in length thanks to the recently announced $750,000 investment,” said Mr Nash.

“Research shows that pre-COVID, more domestic visitors to Hawke’s Bay used the region’s cycle trails than international tourists, contributing an estimated $10 million-plus to the local economy. That’s an important advantage for Hawke’s Bay as border restrictions to keep us safe from the pandemic have seriously impacted visitor numbers.

“The report analyses data from automated counters on the 22 Great Rides between 1 March 2019 and 28 February 2020.  There are between one and 14 counters per Great Ride. The majority of counters or sensors can distinguish between cyclists and pedestrians, and also can determine the direction of travel.

“The highest users of the trails were pedestrians including walkers, runners and trampers, clocking up just over 1 million trips, followed by cyclists with 960,200 trips.

Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trails (NZCT), includes the Great Rides, Heartland Rides and some of the cycle trails in the Urban Cycling Network.

“Government funding of up to $2 million annually through MBIE supports NZCT to employ trail managers and meet some operational costs of the Great Rides. It also helps cover general maintenance and urgent repairs following extreme events, such as flooding.

“Along with other walks and cycle trails, the Great Rides are a wonderful reason to get outdoors and see New Zealand this summer,” Mr Nash said. 

For the evaluation report online, see:

Background information for editors:

Top rides
Ranking Great Ride Pedestrian trips Cycle trips Total trips
1 Hawke’s Bay 219,737 188,037 407,774
2 Queenstown 239,935 131,037 370,972
3 Tasman’s Great Taste 84,212 183,006 267,218

Summary of data

Over the 12 months from 1 March 2019 to 28 February 2020, there were 1,985,600 trips on the New Zealand Cycle Trail Great Rides, compared to 1,300,000 estimated in 2015.

  • 1,025,000 trips were by pedestrians.
  • 960,200 trips were by cyclists.
  • The St James Cycle Trail in the South Island was the quietest and least busy of the Great Rides at 1,822 cycle trips for the year.
  • The Hawke’s Bay Cycle Trail was the busiest, at 188,000 cycle trips and 220,000 pedestrian trips for the year.
  • The venerable Otago Central Rail Trail recorded 68,000 trips, with 13,000 by people riding the full trail (similar to 2015).

‘Pedestrians’ refers to walkers, runners and trampers. ‘Cyclists’ refers to mountain bikers, bikepackers, cycle tourers and any other cyclist.

For further information about the Great Rides, visit