All three tiers of government speak of their commitment to fostering a healthier community, and indeed many measures have paid great dividends. Think breast screening, quit smoking measures, immunisation, and more.
However, in regional areas such as the Northern Rivers there is relatively little encouragement for the healthy pursuit of cycling and the provision of safer cycle ways, especially in comparison to the many millions being spent on roads (much of it for the benefit of people passing through the area, not living here).
Lismore City Council told GPSpeak that its local government area has around 14km of dedicated cycleway, a tiny proportion of the road network. In 2011 it adopted a
Cycleway Plan (Provide link to document) with $1.8 million having been spent since then, initially funded fully by the NSW Government when cycleways were adjacent to state roads, and matching funding 50/50 for cycleways on local roads.
In the 2013/14 financial year the state government changed its policy, and now provides 50/50 funding for all road-proximate cycleways.
The reduction has produced a significant drop in construction. In the 2013/14 year a mere 450m of cycleway were built in Lismore, at a cost of $200,000.
Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell provided GPSpeak with the following comment –
“The reduced funding will result in Council’s Cycleway Plan stalling in its implementation”.
“Once upon a time everyone thought Lismore was far too hilly for cyclists and only children on bikes were catered for in local parks such as Wade Park. In recent years, however, many of our adult residents have taken up cycling as a leisure activity. It’s now not uncommon to find groups of cyclists on our rural roads any day of the week or to come across them at our local cafes getting a caffeine hit before the ride home.
Steadily, but not as fast as some would like, Council has been implementing our Cycleway Plan of widening existing footpaths to cater for cyclists and building new cycleways, including some on the road.
The Plan gives priority to travel on major routes between ‘attractors’ such as schools, shopping precincts, sporting grounds and other well-used precincts. Council has taken advantage of full State government funding for cycleways on state roads, and 50:50 funding for our local roads, to implement more of the Plan each year.
Unfortunately the state government has now significantly reduced its funding. The 100 per cent funding for cycleways on State roads is now 50:50 and there is no funding available for cycleways on local roads. The reduced funding will result in Council’s Cycleway Plan stalling in its implementation.
Today, cycling in Lismore is largely for fitness and leisure but if funding is reinstated to improve infrastructure and join up existing cycleways to provide a better network, as workplaces provide bike storage, lockers and showers and as motorists learn to share the road and be respectful of cyclists, I can see the day where cycling to and from work in Lismore is no longer a rarity.”