All too often bike infrastructure planning in NSW focuses on cities and urban riders, but rural and regional cycling needs attention too.
Issues For Regional Bike Riders
The roads connecting many homes and towns may be relatively narrow, have unsealed shoulders, no lighting, potholes, be regularly littered with fallen branches or other debris, have higher speed limits and obstructed sight-lines.
Roads in rural and regional communities are more likely to experience flooding than most roads in metropolitan communities, and the movement of wildlife, livestock and farm equipment can also create additional challenges for riders.
Few rural and regional roads have adjacent paved footpaths, much less shared paths or cycleways. However, unlike cities and suburbs, there is often more space to enable improvement.
Improving Cycling In Regional Areas
The installation of paved shared paths and cycleways can be transformative in rural and regional communities, not only for bike riders, but for parents with prams and people who depend on mobility assistance devices. Where this is not possible, creating wider, smooth, sealed road shoulders and ensuring they are cleared and well maintained can help.
Unfortunately the photograph taken in the Port Stephens LGA is all too common in parts of NSW. A bit of ‘hot mix’ applied to a pothole soon crumbles, even on a road with only local traffic.
This area of the road is where bike riders would usually travel, and with the sun at the right angle it could be easy to be dazzled and not see the pothole clearly before hitting it.
It wasn’t safe to stop and photograph some of the roads with 70km/h and 90km/h speed limits, as there was no road shoulder, but many resembled patchwork quilts and were especially damaged on bends. This isn’t just a problem for bike riders.
Poor road surfaces can cause crashes for motorbike riders and car drivers, and without road shoulders there is nowhere safe to pull over, to turn around, for emergency or roadside assistance workers to park and do their jobs.
In a range of meetings with the NSW Government, articles, submissions, technical meetings related to road shoulders and infrastructure, Bicycle NSW has called for better road maintenance, and for road safety measures that enhance rather than endanger rider safety.
In Sydney’s Harbor City we have begun working with ConnectSydney, the contract partnership responsible for State Road maintenance, and we hope the lessons learned can be expanded state-wide.
“People in rural and regional NSW need infrastructure that supports safe cycling, for transport, active recreation, and to attract visitors when COVID-19 measures are over,” said Bicycle NSW General Manager of Public Affairs, Bastien Wallace.
“We encourage Councils, and State road maintenance contractors to include the needs of bike riders in their plans, and to reach out if you need our help,” said Bastien.
If there are unsafe areas to cycle in your community, we encourage you to share them with your council via email or social media.