As we’ve all been told to stay at home, everyone is doing their best to get the exercise they need in their own town, but that’s not always easy if the only palace you have to walk, run or cycle is competing with traffic on local roads.
A group of Northern Rivers locals is proposing a family-friendly exercise route on country roads to be known as the ‘Hinterland Loop’
The Hinterland Loop would involve traffic calming interventions across the that runs through the communities of Clunes, Rosebank and Corndale.
Traffic calming interventions will make it safer for those who have young children, prams, bikes and mobility issues to exercise locally, without a fear of being hit by speeding cars.
The group of locals from Bangalow, Dunoon, Dorroughby, Whian Whian, Rosebank, Corndale, Bexhill, Clunes and Repentance Creek was motivated by the lack of places currently available for Hinterland communities to exercise in the Covid-19 lockdown.
More people on the roads
Clunes resident Dr Cara Wong has ended space to exercise and walk her toddler. ‘We noticed a dramatic increase in the number of people with prams, young children and older members of our community on bikes exercising on The Loop following the “exercise locally” edicts that were passed by government,’ she said.
‘Currently, unless you live by the coast, there are no decent family and mobility friendly tracks to walk, run or ride in the Hinterland area. However, we have some of the most spectacular country roads and you get an amazing perspective of its beauty walking along them compared to when you are driving.
‘As a parent of a young child, I was very concerned to see that some motorists were not changing their behaviour and slowing down as they passed on often narrow, windy roads, despite the marked increase of pedestrians using the roads of The Hinterland Loop to exercise.
Dr Wong says that without building awareness in the community that people are using this route to exercise, and for motorists to slow down on these roads, we may see yet another tragedy on our roads. ‘This is something which has become sadly all too familiar in the Northern Rivers.’
Communities around the world have seen a huge uptake in the number of people purchasing bikes, and exercising in their local communities, as a response to the Covid-19 restrictions. Many cities are responding by sectioning off part of their roads to allow people to exercise locally. Australia, and in particular, regional Australia is seriously lagging behind.
‘We understand that in regional Australia, there can be no alternative route between A and B,’ said Dr Wong. ‘However, what this initiative is proposing is the opportunity to allow the community a relatively small stretch of tertiary backroads, that are pram and mobility friendly, on which they can feel safe to exercise.
‘We would like motorists using the Loop to be aware they are sharing these roads with pedestrians, so drive with extra care and precaution.
Dr Wong says the group has been really inspired by the positive feedback from the community and similar initiatives going on around the world. ‘We really hope that Lismore Council will get on board and support this initiative by putting in place traffic calming interventions so that the Loop is safe for the community members that are using it every day. Such an action by council aligns with their strategic objective of an inclusive and healthy community.
‘Drawing attention to The Hinterland Loop will only serve to improve the health outcomes of the broader Lismore community.
While the restrictions were lifted slightly over the weekend, allowing for people to call on friends and family as a ‘care’ precaution, social distancing and exercise locally rules may stay in place for a long time to come.
‘The Lockdown has allowed us all to imagine a better world – a world that we want to live in,’ said Dr Wong.
‘We welcome Lismore council’s support to make The Hinterland Loop a safe place for the community to exercise locally, so that we are not continuously forced to travel to the Coast in order to exercise in safety.
‘We know that physical health is strongly related to mental health, and the pandemic has caused many people significant stress and anxiety.
‘The Hinterland Loop will remove barriers to exercise and as such, provide a very simple way to improve the physical and mental health of our community.’
The group have started a change.org petition to encourage council to get on board the Loop.
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