An increase in cycle trail users across Central Otago and Southland is leading to calls — for both riders and walkers — to be considerate of one another in the leadup to the busy summer period.
With more than 300km of trails throughout the region — some offering spectacular but challenging terrain — people of various riding and walking abilities are donning their active wear and hitting the outdoors.
This increase in trail traffic has led to calls for users to be careful.
ACC statistics for Central Otago and Queenstown Lake districts reveal cycle injuries rose annually for the past four years.
In 2018 there were 596 cycling-related ACC injury claims in Central Otago and 829 in the Queenstown Lakes area.
As of August 31, 2021 there were 532 claims in Central Otago and 1035 in Queenstown Lakes, with the summer cycling season yet to get under way.
Age Concern Central Otago co-ordinator Marie Roxburgh said she was concerned about older adults being injured on the trails.
Many regularly used the cycling and walking trails for exercise; however, they were being put at risk by people not using them safely, Mrs Roxburgh said.
A fall could result in injury which would take much longer for older adults to recover from, but equally importantly could result in a loss of confidence and independence.
She was aware of some near misses near the Alexandra Bridge and on the new Lake Dunstan Cycling and Walking Trail, she said.
‘‘I know of one lady who has had a big fall, and there needs to be an awareness — keep to the left. A lot of cyclists don’t even know to keep to the left.’’
Cyclists needed to remember they shared the cycleways, she said.
‘‘They are dual use — they are for walkers and riders.’’
The introduction of e-bikes, which reached higher speeds but were almost silent, was also a challenge.
‘‘[Older adults] don’t hear the electric bikes coming up behind them — they come up behind walkers quietly and people don’t know they’re there until its too late.’’
Riders should use bells when coming up behind people, she said.
It was not just older adults walking on the trails cyclists had to be aware of, but also parents with young children in prams and on bikes, she said.
Mrs Roxburgh said she was worried about cyclists coming around blind corners at speed and the potential for crashes.
Tourism Central Otago general manager Dylan Rushbrook echoed those sentiments, saying he was aware of stories where people’s behaviour on the trails had been ‘‘less than desirable’’ and put others at risk.
“It is pretty common sense, you can come across someone coming in the other direction around a blind corner and so, just like you would on the open road, you need to stick to the left and respect the terrain you’re entering into,” Mr Rushbrook said.
Keeping safe on the trails was not just about having an awareness of other users, but also of people’s own limitations, he said.
“I have heard of instances where people may be overestimating their own abilities, or underestimating the difficulty of the trails.”
Each trail was graded, letting people judge their own experience and fitness against what was required.
“Do your research, understand what the trip will entail and be prepared. You’re going into the outdoors; take the right gear with you and make sure your equipment is up to the challenge ahead,” he said.
St John had emergency access response plans for the many walking and mountain bike trails across region and dispatched the appropriate resources accordingly in the event someone required emergency care.
In many cases, due to the remoteness of the trails, an air ambulance was required.
St John Central Otago territory manager David Baillie said it was important people took steps to protect themselves when heading out. on the trails.
“People can protect their own safety before setting off on a trail by not attempting anything beyond their physical capability, telling someone where they’re going, and carrying a cellphone with GPS capability, or a locator beacon if cellphone coverage is poor,” he said.
“In addition, they should also always take plenty of water, sunscreen and a first aid kit with them as we head into summer and the trails are likely to get busier over the coming months.”