And resilient communities
We have written about how rail trails support regional communities. They do so by connecting people and towns, and providing an income stream through tourism which builds economic resilience. Strong communities are better able to help each other during tough times and benefit from the good. As the Northern Rivers continue to endure centennial and millennial climate extremes, having alternatives to car-dependence is an advantage. For example, after Lismore flooded, fuel was in short supply and the roads were inaccessible by car. But locals were still able to get around, access supplies and check on each other by bike.
Another benefit of rail trails is being able to provide safe, beautiful paths to school.
Imagine travelling to school by rail trail!
Active transport is a fundamental environmental and human right. But, due to lack of safe infrastructure, especially in regional communities, more than 50% of children are driven to school. As a result, according to the Diabetes Institute, 25%of children and 67% of adults are considered overweight or obese. This in turn has wicked health and economic implications affecting individuals and societies for generations. Yet children have a right to be healthy and get to school safely.
One of 26 bridges along the planned 156 km Northern Rivers Rail Trail (Photo credit: Deb Howells, Northern Rivers Rail Trail Supporters)
Stokers Siding is blazing healthy trails
Stokers Siding is a tiny village in Northern NSW along the old Casino to Murwillumbah line (1894- 2004). Now, local kids and families can ride to school along the Northern Rivers Rail Trail without a fear of cars. This is a great result because active kids are happier and better able to focus. They are also more likely to grow into happier, healthy adults. So, let’s make every day a ride-to-school and ride-to-work day!
Entry to different worlds. The Burrungbah Tunnel (Photo credit: Deb Howells, Northern Rivers Rail Trail Supporters)
To Kiwis who ‘have perfected the art of repurposing disused train lines this seems like old news.’ (NZ Herald)
The Northern Rivers Rail Trail is one of only two such pathways over 20km in NSW. However, this first section of the 132km rail trail is well worth a visit. Indeed, feature writer Jessica Wynne Lockhart had a great day out:
“I effortlessly glide along the freshly paved path flanked by fields of sugarcane. And in the distance, the peak of Wollumbin (Mount Warning) pierces the cloudless sky.” (NZ Herald).
Jessica also noted the thriving businesses along the rail trail, such as Harris’ Bike shop which relocated to the Murwillumbah Railway Station. The Tweed Regional Gallery and the many B&Bs, cafes and restaurants welcome local and international visitors. Even on a week day, the trail is buzzing with riders and walkers of all abilities. As infrastructure progresses, one crucial detail continues to dissuade many potential visitors to NSW rail trails.
Regional bicycle groups call for fairness for bikes on country trains
Dismantling, boxing and weighing bikes just to board TrainLink is a major deterrent to regional tourism. Consequently, this burgeoning area of cycle tourism continues to prefer Victoria, NZ and Europe over NSW. This is because the outdated TrainLink policy doesn’t support Roll-On Bikes on All NSW Trains.
Bicycle NSW CEO Peter McLean said ‘Boxing bikes is an unfair rule that disadvantages regional NSW. If you’re in a city or any other state, just roll your bike onto the train. TrainLink needs to allow roll on bikes on all its NSW regional lines. That way cycle tourism and particularly e-bike tourism will be a windfall for regional economies.’
Please sign our petition calling for simple adaptions to the current fleet of Trainlink rail carriages and coaches to allow for bicycles to travel without having to be boxed.
Meanwhile in the Snowy Mountains and valleys…
Big open skies over the Monaro region. (Photo credit, Monaro Rail Trail)
Prior to the state election, Steve Whan said that NSW Labor supports the development of rail trails, particularly the Monaro Rail Trail. Also, if elected, he promised development assistance due to the profound contribution of rail trails to regional communities and economies. The March election result therefore bodes very well for the future of the Monaro Rail Trail.
Hey, want more rail trails and cycleways?
“Bicycle NSW has been campaigning for safe, accessible bicycle infrastructure for almost 50 years,”says Bicycle NSW CEO Peter McLean. “If you care about the environment, health, cost of living, social equity and childhood independence, join Bicycle NSW now.”