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Byron Shire
March 5, 2021

Trains and bikes can cohabit

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I’m hugely in favour of a rail trail. My transport is my electric bicycle and the rail corridor is at the bottom of our hill.

It saddens me to see supporters of TOOT with the impression that rail trailers are anti-train because nothing could be further from the truth. I’m also a supporter of TOOT.

Trains and bikes work really well together, check out Melbourne some time. Outside of rush hours you can put your bike on the train. We must always keep open the option of public transport along this corridor. There’s plenty of room and no reason to assume the different activities would be incompatible.

Electric powered pedal vehicles are booming across the planet but not here. We have a perfect climate for it but the roads are quite dangerous for bikes and seriously daunting for the less experienced.

A bicycle-safe corridor with gentle grades through the middle of the shire would not only be a major tourist attraction, it would also give this creative community an opportunity to redefine local transport. Mullum to Byron in summer would take far less time than would be spent in the average traffic jam.

It needn’t be a choice between one thing or another. Let’s get together, be creative and have it all.

Robin Harrison, Binna Burra

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  1. Hi Robin. My understanding is that TOOT went to the Rail Trail group many months ago and proposed exactly what you are suggesting. But the Rail Trail group wouldn’t have a bar of it – despite their ‘spin’ about ‘preserving the corridor if the train were ever to come back’ blah blah blah. Like you, I agree that the two can co-habit. But i seriously distrust the motives of the rail trail group because they seem to be intent on (as I’ve just heard in the last day) ripping up the lines and selling them for scrap. That of course would leave the opportunity (and funding) to create a nice smooth trail for bikes – but not too many options for people seeking a rail option so they can commute around the area by public transport.

    • Just to make it clear to any rail-trail supporters: The Greens are NOT SUPPORTING the conversion of the Casino – Murwillumbah Railway to a cycling and horse trail.

  2. I live along a section of the old railway line in between Bangalow and Byron Bay. A lot of the old train line is cut into/threw hills west of Byron Bay [not sure about north], with very little to no room either side of the train line that could accommodate a bike trail. With other sections that could quite easily accommodate a bike trail beside them

    To build a gently graded bike path [or even a steep one] on some parts of the railway land adjacent to the rail line would require quite substantial earth works. If the bike path can’t follow the existing train line. I wouldn’t think it would be viable [too expensive for the extra earth works that would be required].

    I think the only a way bike path would be viable with lite rail is if the bike path took a more of a zigzag approach. With some sections on railway land and some sections running alongside the roads.

  3. Robin,

    Let me put your mind at rest: TOOT totally supports what you describe. TOOT supports sharing the corridor.

    TOOT fully supports bikes BESIDE the tracks. In many parts of the corridor, especially around the towns, there is plenty of space for both rail and bike/walking tracks.

    TOOT also fully supports taking bikes INSIDE rail carriages. This is an excellent way for people to travel the area. The rail is there for the long distances (Binna Burra to Lismore is 30km, for example), and then you can use your bicycle to go the last km or two for your final destination.

    I’m a keen cyclist myself and I’d love to be able to use my bike in conjunction with rail to get around more than a few kilometres from my house.

    What TOOT doesn’t support is pulling up the tracks, or covering over the tracks for bikes. We say that once this is done then it becomes even harder to get rail services. It also means that the corridor loses its legal protection currently enshrined in legislation for rail corridors.

    Rail trail organisations are all about replacing the sleepers and tracks with paths. They talk about selling the rails for scrap metal. They are the ones who dont want to share the corridor.

    The local rail trail group is using a photo that shows people with bikes on a train platform. The tracks and sleepers are intact. The people are clearly waiting for a train. There is no visible path for the bikes. The group has no intention to run rail services, so why are they using this picture ? Are they hiding something?

    Just to be clear: TOOT supports shared use of the corridor. We want light rail services running on the tracks, and bikes either go beside the tracks on their own path, or they are taken by passengers on the trains. Anything less is a waste of community infrastructure for the long-term benefit for all.

  4. TOOT does support sharing the rail, including light rail services where you can bring your bike, surfboard, wheelchair or guitar onboard, and have paths beside the tracks where possible and connecting to stations. While a lot of people on the ‘rail trail group’ would also like to ‘have it all’, there are some people in the group that are ‘anti trains’ or don’t believe we can get trains back and they want to ‘preserve the corridor’ and ‘keep it in public hands’. Rail Trailers are now saying that they need an Act of Parliament to change Legislation that currently protects the corridor for Rail use only. But in 2009, when the government tried to sell of disused rail lines under the guise of the so called Rail Trails Bill, Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon said that “The government is being deceptive about its intentions. It is already possible to create rail trails in NSW. Many exist in the Hunter and an Act of parliament was not needed for them to be created. The premise of the legislation is fundamentally flawed and should be scrapped.” (http://www.echonews.com.au/news/rail-sell-off-unites-an-unlikely-coalition/387989/ )
    We should not compromise our rail infrastructure for a rail trail, we should aim higher than that and make repairing the track for light rail services the main priority.

  5. Interesting! Here in NA folks are so addicted to the 20th-century horseless carriage (“car”) in my town (Toronto) our “Rail Path” is now disused (roads OTOH clogged with vehicles, in a “rush hour” that can last most of the day). I’ve been trying to interest folks in Toronto with adding canopies/roofs along the planned bicycle route “path”, with south-facing solar panels (eg “thin-film”) on top as is already being talked about/developed in Europe. Our town has already passed bylaws to ban and restrict the “power-assisted” electric bicycle (max 500W continuous in Canada). Some might rudely suggest Canadians are a pathetic bunch. 🙁

  6. So this crew from elsewhere, supposedly with rail trail expertise, may be predatory raiders. That’s a lot of land and a lot of steel so the temptation is huge.
    I understand and agree with the reticence to using the rails. However we could make the trail out of potentially temporary panels spanning them. It secures the rails, it’s cheaper than many other options and can be modified into the future. And the stations stay protected by community ownership.
    However calling them rail trailers confuses them with those of us who’ll be using it and we can’t be having with that. Perhaps we could have a competition to find another name for them. The community needs to know about them.


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