Newcastle Cycleway Movement and Bicycle NSW have been actively engaged with RMS in order to get the best possible outcome from the Newcastle Inner City Bypass –
Rankin Park to Jesmond.
For context, Newcastle Inner City Bypass links the Pacific Highway at Bennetts Green and the Pacific Highway at Sandgate. This particular bypass point is in a high traffic area (40,000 to 60,000 vehicles daily) between Bennetts Green, Charlestown and Jesmond shopping centres, John Hunter Hospital precinct, the University of Newcastle and the Pacific Highway. RMS predicts this would avoid 11 sets of lights, reducing travel time by 80%, but what about the cyclists and the active transport future of Newcastle?
Bicycle NSW sent a submission during the RMS’ community consultation period for 4 main points for the original proposal.
1. End to End Separated Cycleway
The proposal does not include a safe, separated cycleway from end to end. This is a major omission, and repeats the mistakes that have been made in most recent motorway projects. No consideration of this concept has been included. Instead it is proposed that bicycle riders use the road shoulder.
Riding on the road shoulder where the speed differential to the vehicles is high, does nothing to encourage Active Transport. It is well known that about 70% of NSW people would ride more regularly if it were safer and more convenient.
At present in NSW over $10 billion per annum is being spent on transport infrastructure. Only about $60 million per annum has been allocated to cycling infrastructure, ie about 0.6% of the total. The NSW Government has a stated aim of lifting the cycling transport mode share to 5%.
2. Southern Interchange
Active Transport improvements to the present proposal for the Southern Interchange. These include a shared path on the western side to link to the bypass. This should be further developed by RMS and included in the final proposal.
3. Hospital Interchange
The present proposal for the Hospital Interchange includes a shared path on the northern side of the over bridge. This shared path then crosses the bypass exit ramp at an unprotected crossing. This crossing is unsafe and must be corrected. It is not acceptable to create new hazards.
4. Northern Interchange
At present the shared path that runs along the south side of Newcastle Road provides a safe and continuous Active Transport route. The present proposal breaks this continuity by having three signalised crossings. The Level of Service for riders and pedestrians would be greatly diminished as they wait for a green phase. There is no mention of Bicycle Lanterns on the crossing, and so under present NSW Rules, the bike riders would need to dismount and walk across the crossings.
This proposal produces a disincentive to Active Transport.
Project update from the community consultation can be found here, but what were the results?
1. Separated Cycleway
This primarily requires a bridge from the existing path near the University, (just outside the northern scope of these works) to the proposed bypass bridge over Newcastle Road. From here a large number of Uni Students would still accept riding the shoulder but even more would prefer a separated path. Riders heading south from the hospital already use the Lookout Road lights even though there are no safe provisions there. No future vision from RMS in terms of the further use of this segregated pathway.
2. Southern Interchange - traffic lights from the bypass shoulder to Lookout road.
3. Hospital interchange - fantastic, works for both motor vehicles and active transport.
4. Northern interchange - proposal looks good. Provided the gradients and sight lines are still ok
Bicycle NSW and the Newcastle Cycleway Movement has been highly involved with this project and worked closely with RMS. Ultimately it is there decision. We’re excited for the majority of this project but there is still areas for the RMS to improve on for the future of active transport in Newcastle.