Cycle Trail Design Guides

With the recent release of the Department of Conservation's own service standards for tracks; organisations, clubs and land managers may be wondering which specification they should be using when designing, building and auditing trails on their land. There are now three design guides for New Zealand, sitting with three different organisations as follows:

Recreation Aotearoa
NZ Mountain Bike Trail Design and Construction Guidelines (2018)

NZ Cycle Trail (for MBIE)
NZ Cycle Trail Design Guide (2019)

Department of Conservation
DOC Cycle Track Service Standards (2020)

The good news is that there is a very good level of consistency running through the three documents in the key areas of trail design and specification. NZCT assimilated key information from Recreation Aotearoa's work into their 2019 update, and DOC have drawn key information from both the Recreation Aotearoa and NZCT guides for their service standards. The level of consistency is such that a trail built or audited to any of the three guides will fit equally well within the targeted grade category (Grade 1 Easiest to Grade 6 Extreme). And importantly, for the user experience there should be little noticeable difference in either expectation, enjoyment or safety.

And that's all great, you may say, but which one should I use? Recreation Aotearoa recommends this approach, which fits with the desired purpose of each document:

Each guideline has a specific purpose while delivering similar end products. The NZ Mountain Bike Trail Design and Construction Guidelines is the only one of the three to detail specific requirements for descending trails - this area is absolutely relevant with modern trail systems, where often the majority of trails in a network are directional.

We wish you all enjoyable and safe biking out there!

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