"If you build it, they will come."

This slight variation of a quote from the classic Kevin Costner 1989 film Field of Dreams best describes the latest statistics on usage of the Ngaruawahia section of the Te Awa River Ride.


Since the November 2017 opening of the Perry Bridge over the Waikato River near Ngaruawahia, the average weekly usage of the cycleway by cyclists has increased 435 per cent from 133 to 711, while the average weekly number of walkers has risen 12 per cent from 348 to 391.


Waikato District Council chief executive Gavin Ion says the stats are a reflection of the nature of the project to build the bridge across the Waikato River and complete the Ngaruawahia section of the Te Awa River Ride.


"Council collaborated with its contractors, funding partners and local community to ensure this bridge and cycleway would make a difference to the local area," says Mr Ion.


"These numbers confirm that this is happening. It means that more people are keeping active in and around Ngaruawahia. Whether they be locals or visitors, it is only great news for the local community and local businesses."


General manager of the Te Awa River Ride Charitable Trust, Jennifer Palmer, says the reception to the Ngaruawahia section of the cycleway has been incredibly rewarding.


"We have been absolutely thrilled to see these numbers. We've known, anecdotally, that the Ngaruawahia section and Perry Bridge have been extraordinarily popular but this data exceeds our expectations," she says.


Chair of the Te Awa River Ride Charitable Trust, Simon Perry, says he is extremely pleased to see the latest stats.


"These numbers confirm something we've always believed to be true; 'build it and they will come'.


"We've seen the same increases across other sections of Te Awa — it's not just more people on bikes but more business for the local cafes, more guests at our hotels and B&Bs, more bike hire operators — the list goes on and on.


"We're looking forward to completing the Hamilton to Cambridge section over the next few years and seeing the vast social and economic benefits that will continue to be generated."


The last word should go to a user of the cycleway, and that is Horotiu School student, 12-year-old Kayla Pickens, who is loving the new bridge and cycleway.


"Before the bridge, we used to bike to the gate to see the progress, turn around and bike back. Now we bike from Ngaruawahia to The Base on the cycleway.


"We used to do it in the summer holidays all the time, but now it's usually just once a week in the weekends. I bike to a meeting point by myself and meet my friends along the way."


- NZHerald

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