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Cycle Park use soaring

Taranaki Velodrome Trustees with Sarah Ulmer. Photo courtesy of Fairfax Media. Photo: Andy Jackson
Taranaki Velodrome Trustees with Sarah Ulmer. Photo courtesy of Fairfax Media. Photo: Andy Jackson

Children and whanau are pedaling to safety thanks to the opening of a new section of the Taranaki Cycle Park in Bell Block.

The junior skills circuit, which opened in November 2015, adds to a top-class facility that already contains a velodrome and road circuit.

Since its completion, use of the park has soared.

The junior area is set up like a town with working traffic lights, a roundabout, stop and give way signs, pedestrian and railway crossings as well as a bridge.

Youngsters learn the rules of the road in a safe environment while having fun. And it doesn’t stop there: A shade sail, seating, bike racks and water fountain complete the area.

Nearby is a rubber learning pad, obstacle course and pump track to provide more challenges.

A $135,000 grant from the TSB Community Trust was instrumental in development of the project. Earlier a grant of $100,000 helped to establish the velodrome at the park.

The latest child-friendly development is a major achievement for the Taranaki Velodrome Trust, responsible for maintenance of the park.

“It’s a whole family facility, from toddlers upwards. It’s a great way to gain confidence before you go out on the road,” says trust secretary Pam Coe. “The area was barely finished and the kids were already out there.”

During November 2015 visitor numbers spiked with over 5,000 passing through the gates compared to the average monthly figure of about 2,000.

Opened in September 2012, the park initially began as a velodrome but trustees soon realised its potential.

It sits alongside the region’s coastal walkway, meaning cyclists can avoid traffic altogether if they bike from New Plymouth.

Cycling Olympic champion Sarah Ulmer, who visited in November 2015, said she had never seen such a comprehensive facility and believed it could boost talent coming from the region.

Biking is one of the fastest growing recreational and sporting activities. Similar junior facilities exist in Napier and the Hutt, but the location of this park, as well as its combination with a velodrome and road circuit, make it unique.

A host of groups use it: Competitive cyclists who race twice weekly, para athletes, triathletes, and harriers and walkers, who appreciate the road surface.

Paralympics NZ has booked a training camp for January 2016 and school and pre-school groups are making use of it for functions or skills sessions.

Mrs Coe says that long-term there are more possibilities such as a cyclo-cross course, bike polo and cycle speedway.

In the meantime there is a summer of cycling by the sea to enjoy.