New Zealand’s first carbon sink bike park proves that cycling benefits everyone
If you think that climate change and mountain biking are about as disparate as George Bush and Barack Obama, think again. But where’s the connection? Most of the classic rides lie well below the snowline and safely above the high-tide mark. Unlike mountaineering or skiing, surely our sport isn’t going to be affected by a little change in the weather, right? Wrong! Climate change is already impacting on mountain biking and cycling in general, and not only in the obvious ways.
Just over a year ago, we presented a submission to the Wellington Regional Council, encouraging them to promote cycling. We
covered the usual points – health and fitness, reduced traffic congestion, saved costs – all of which are valid but have been covered as many times as the Beatles’ Yesterday. So we threw in a new argument, one that after decades of scientific research had suddenly hit the Top 10: global climate change.
We didn’t actually know much about it at the time – we hadn’t even seen An Inconvenient Truth! – but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports were getting ample airtime on National Radio, so we Googled them and started reading. Written by 600 climate scientists and thoroughly peer reviewed, the reports from the IPCC are both credible and astounding. By the last page, we realised two crucial things.
First, climate change is the most persuasive argument for cycling there has been in donkeys’ years. Why? Because although cycle commuting still is a bit fringe, climate change is now mainstream and local government politicians, whether they are cyclists or not, are scrambling to reduce transport emissions. All of a sudden, cycling looks like a darned good paracetamol for the transport planner’s headache. Secondly, despite the depressing predictions, there is the potential for us to offset our own greenhouse gas emissions in positive and rewarding ways.
It took us about six months of researching and talking with friends to settle on Project Rameka, New Zealand’s first carbon sink mountain bike park, a venture with a list of advantages as long as the Heaphy. The most obvious is its location. Project Rameka is situated in Golden Bay, at the end of the popular Rameka Track, and aims to extend this much-loved classic by five squiggly kilometres. The first kilometre might even be ready by summer. Further plans include two link-tracks, to entice riders to burn fat doing loop trips rather than burning oil on a long shuttle from one end of the Rameka to the other.
Another advantage is that the 50 hectares of marginal farmland we’ve bought is ideal for growing trees. Forest is great for biking through, but it also draws carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, absorbing the carbon into the wood and releasing the oxygen into the atmosphere. That magical process is so important that governments and businesses around the world are now paying landowners simply to grow trees! Such an incentive is bound to have spin-offs for many mountain bike areas (rumour has it that Makara Peak will become Wellington’s first official carbon sink).
So we’ve combined our love of mountain biking with a passion for forest restoration. The result is a response to climate change that’s serious fun. But it’s just one solution. You might think up some other crazy plan, just as serious, and just as fun.
Project Rameka’s HQ is The Quiet Revolution Cycle Shop in Takaka. If you’re passing through, check it out and drop off a donation. To read more about the project visit projectrameka.carbonsink.org.nz. An entertaining video about climate change can be found at www.youtube.com/user/wonderingmind42