Risk seen in shared trail

Cyclists admire the view from The Edgar Bridge on  the Queenstown Trail.  Concerns have been raised by visitors about the speed some cyclists are travelling on the trail and the danger that potentially poses to walkers. Photo supplied.
Cyclists admire the view from The Edgar Bridge on the Queenstown Trail. Concerns have been raised by visitors about the speed some cyclists are travelling on the trail and the danger that potentially poses to walkers. Photo supplied.

Concerns have been raised about the difficulties of cyclists and walkers sharing the Queenstown Trail, which is barely three months old, but the trust behind the trail says measures are being implemented to improve safety.

Pat Hamell and his wife, Fil, have been visiting since December on their annual three-month holiday from Ireland and the couple say they have been regularly frightened while out walking by the speed of cyclists on the trail.

Mr Hamell said those associated with the building of the trail had done a good job, as they had provided a clearly popular facility.

However, he said he and his wife felt fortunate not to have been hit by cyclists, as the speeds they rode at, combined with the blind corners of the trail, meant there was ''an accident waiting to happen''.

''So far, I have managed not to be run down, but I feel I am very lucky.''

He said his concern was not just for himself and his wife, but also for the cyclists themselves, as if they were to fall the injuries would be serious.

Mr Hamell suggested a bylaw requiring cyclists to carry a bell to be used 40m behind walkers to warn them.

He also thought reducing the pace of some of the cyclists would be a good idea and those wishing to race were better using the roads and specialised tracks.

''If people use it responsibly it would be a fantastic amenity and used for years to come. It's mainly an education thing.''

Queenstown Lakes District Council community services general manager Paul Wilson said a speed limit for the trail was not an option, as it would not be enforceable, nor had a bylaw requiring cycles to have bells been considered.

Queenstown Trails Trust chief executive Kaye Parker there was no choice but to share the trail and there had to be respect from

cyclists and walkers alike.

She said the ''shake-down'' period of the trail was still unfolding and there would be many more changes in its first year.

This included signage around blind corners for cyclists and a possible ''Big Bell'' scheme from the trust, whereby bells could be bought from the trust by all users and some money would go towards trail improvements.

Mrs Parker said the trail website included a feedback page, which she encouraged all users to contribute to.

''We are looking at our signage continually, but we need to be told first,'' Mrs Parker said.

Although some actions could be taken to decrease risk of accidents, the topography of the trail's surrounds meant some of the blind corners were unavoidable.

The trust and the council were investing heavily in signage, she said.

''We knew, for the first summer, we would be constantly improving the trail.''

She said the key to the trail's shared success was respecting one another and keeping to the mantra ''stick to the left and pass on the right''.

Commercial operator of the trail for Around The Basin bike tours, Steve Norton, sympathised with the Hamells' concerns but did not believe there was any real danger in cyclists' speed or manner.

While taking the daytime tours throughout summer, Mr Norton said he had not seen many walkers on the trail and the tourist riders he had taken on the track had been ''very cautious''.

He said trail users would benefit from ''slow down'' signs on steep downhills, as sometimes cyclists need to be reminded of other traffic.

''Sometimes cyclists can get a bit selfish and be in their own head space so need that little reminder.''

Mr Norton's only real concern was about dog owners who allowed their pets to run in the pathway of trail users and on to neighbouring farmland.

Although there had been feedback about dogs running in front of cyclists travelling at high speeds, there was not a council rule the dog must be on a leash,

Mr Wilson said.

''We think everyone can share the trail. [It] just needs responsible behaviour from everyone.''