Newcastle, located 162 kilometres north of Sydney is the second largest city in NSW and was one of the first Australian cities to establish a bike advocacy group and develop an official, Council endorsed Bike Plan. Both of these milestones were achieved over four decades ago.
Despite Newcastle’s head start, other Australian local governments have since overtaken the City of Newcastle in terms of development of a cycling friendly environment. But recently there has been some progress with a couple of major projects having just opened.
One is a ‘temporary’ protected cycleway on Hunter Street, Newcastle’s famously long main city street.
City of Newcastle received $525,000 as part of the New South Wales Government’s Streets as Shared Spaces program to deliver the cycleway and trial a range of safety measures.
The project trials a reduction to one travel lane on each side of the road to improve pedestrian safety and allow for parking to be retained, a reduction in the speed limit to 40km/h, and safe buffer zones with plastic bollards.
Newcastle Lord Mayor, Ms Nuatali Nelmes, said the community has been clear in stating it would like to see more dedicated bike lanes throughout the city.
“Cycling is a genuine transport option for families, commuters and recreational users, which is why expansion and improvement of the cycleway network is essential and stands as one of the city’s Priority Projects,” Mayor Nelmes said.
Meanwhile, a larger, permanent new facility has just been completed – the first stage of the City Centre to Merewether Cycleway, which is a 1.1km shared path along Watkins Street, between Glebe Road and Merewether Beach. This project cost $3.1 million and links a popular nearby beach to the city centre.
Sam Reich, President of Newcastle Cycleways Movement would prefer if the City of Newcastle called this and other cycleways in the area ‘shared paths’ because they are shared with pedestrians and not protected on-road cycle lanes.
But he is happy to see progress both on Hunter Street and the Merewether Beach project.
“In general the city is becoming more cycling amenable,” he said. “Depending upon the results of the Hunter Street pop up cycleway, this will inform the design of the next stage to be built to the west from this along Hunter Street. We’re pushing for the cycleway to go all the way to Mayfield (about five kilometres) which is beyond what the Council is currently planning.”
Some of this article was first published in councilmagazine.com.au