The Newcastle cycling community is grieved and outraged at the recent death of one of our own on the New England Highway at Tarro this past week.
Firstly we must acknowledge that this is a deeply personal and sensitive time for the man’s family and friends, as they come to terms with this tragedy. We must give them time and space to go through the whole process of grief.
We feel for the pain you are going through.
However this is a timely reminder of the dangers of sharing high speed roads. Many of us feel anger over the senselessness of this incident; I think we should be angry. Over the 30 plus years since the inception of NCM our members have been calling for improved infrastructure to many black spots in our region, including this one.
Over those years we have worked with all three levels of government and while there has been much frustration we have also achieved some success. No-one knows what tragedies have been avoided by cyclists now using the Fernleigh track rather than riding the Pacific Highway through Charlestown. In recent years NCM representatives have been fostering good working relationships with both Newcastle and Lake Macquarie councils, as well as the local RMS. We appreciate there is a willingness to listen, and involve cyclists in planning improved cycling infrastructure. We appreciate the recent commitment of funding for key black spot programs like the Hannel Street crossing [watch this space].
I don’t think the way forward, from this tragedy, for the cycling movement is to argue about this black spot vs another, nor blame public servants or governments. Nor do we want to exploit the grief of this family. But similarly we must not do nothing. We can not let this happen again.
On the 26th July 2012 RMS published a report titled Cycling on Higher Speed Roads. I’m yet to adsorb it, but they acknowledge, “The greatest road safety benefit will be achieved by separating cyclists from high speed vehicles. However cyclists are lawful road users and they shouldn’t be restricted from roads unless alternatives are good quality, lower speed, just as direct and do not present a higher overall risk to cyclists. ”
I do not support the continued mix of high speed traffic and cyclists, but will be advocating for continued planning for cyclist friendly infrastructure. Along the Sandgate to Maitland route, NCM has proposed a separated cycle path along the Hunter Water pipeline, which I believe has the potential of being the Regions next iconic cycleway, on a par with the Fernleigh Track.