Editorial: Driven to despair

Aslan Shand, acting editor

Cars, cars, everywhere, and nowhere to escape.

How Byron Shire approaches the issue of transport in, around, and into the Shire is no longer just a question for Byron Bay.

The simply ridiculous situation that has prevailed for more than 20 years in accessing Byron Bay is now having a serious impact on the rest of the Shire. The once-far-quieter towns of Brunswick Heads, Bangalow, and Mullumbimby are feeling the increasing ripples out of the Bay, not only in higher property and rental markets but also in the increased volume of traffic and consequent parking issues.

In England and throughout Europe, where towns often have narrow streets, lack parking, and have significant heritage values, the key traffic solution has been Park and Ride. Cities like Cambridge in the UK have reserved town centres for pedestrians and cyclists – with exemptions for taxis, buses, and a select few local vehicles. Even large retailers are prepared to accept that the benefits of limiting the times they can have deliveries etc outweigh the challenges.

So if a town like Cambridge, and numerous other cities around the UK and Europe, can have Park and Ride at the key entrance points to the city or town from the highway, why is it such a challenge for an apparently green shire like Byron?

The implementation of the Byron transport and bus hub is highlighting the fact that a whole new approach to how the Shire engages with visitors’ needs to be considered. While access is a key element, how that is managed is even more important.

Many would consider ideal a transport hub four kilometres from Byron Bay, the Cavanbah Centre, providing mini-bus transport, a cycle and walking path into town and a walking track to the solar train. Yet the state authority Transport For NSW sees this distance as a reason not to have the transport hub at this location.

For comparison, two key Park and Rides in Cambridge are around three and six kilometres from the town. They provide regular and reliable bus services to people visiting the town for both work and shopping.

Controlling the number of visitors and changing the way they access and interact with our towns and the broader Shire will be key to ensuring that our towns retain their individuality and unique flavour. It is these elements that make them a place people will want to come to in the future as well as places we want to live.

Being driven into accepting a transport hub in Byron Bay that doesn’t reflect the local area and not thinking ahead for the other local towns will mean that we end up overridden in the look, culture, and feel of the places we call home.

Dynamically managing this space for tourists and locals alike needs to take into account innovative ways to take cars out of our towns, slow down our visitors, and enhance the important elements of the region. This needs to involve park and rides, creating pedestrian areas in some of our towns, charging visitors a damn fortune to park in our towns if they don’t want to use our park and rides, and limiting access to ecologically fragile areas and ecosystems.

How we do this fairly and with equity for all is the real test of Byron Shire.

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2 responses to “Editorial: Driven to despair”

  1. Len Heggarty says:

    When the brake is put on the train and its forward motion is derailed and railroaded then the car the main vehicle of transport seems to breed and multiply as there are small cars, baby cars and big cars just like an extended family as if the car was alive in proliferation and its disease in multiplication is spreading. And when we have a problem of too many cars it is easy for politicians and councillors to kick the can down the road. The roads that the cars travel on cannot be built fast enough for the breeding and breathing and speeding of the speeding growth of the car in its travel is ever increasing. “Hey son have you found a park yet?” “Well, there is that place full of trees?” “I mean’t a car park, where cars park, son.” “What about over there with all those meters put there by council?” “What about it, we are tourists, so we get it easy in Byron son”
    So sometimes the cars travel on gravel as the tar is still to be laid while the money is still coming to the town and its council to be paid and ratified that the road should even be made.
    Here they come, here they come on a Friday afternoon or a Saturday morning for the weekend for the family day at the beach causing a bottleneck on Ewingsdale Road, the tourists, with mainly one way in and way way out of The Bay causing traffic congestion and traffic snarls as the town coughs and splutters as the congestion around about here and around about there causes indigestion. Has anyone a suggestion?

  2. Peter Hatfield says:

    Park and Rides can work well but generally in conjunction with disincentives to bringing cars into towns by congestion tolls or most commonly be parking fees. As most vehicles even in a tourist centre are still Byron Shire locals that only works if parking is tightly controlled and the fee is applied to Shire locals and Byron Bay workers, and not just casual visitors. The Bay is busy but with the wait for public transport and paying a return ticket – $8 on the train – as long as it is cheap to park there is little reason not to drive.

    Encouraging people, to walk or cycle another way to reduce traffic. If we can get implement quality cycle paths in and out of the town centre and to major destinations like the schools, and ,imit the speed of traffic to the 30kph now common in residential areas in Europe, you will have fewer parents driving to and fro taking kids ot school at peak hour and more people cycling to work and shopping or whatever.

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