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December 4, 2021

Ballina joining rail trail network?

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More bikes heading to Ballina?

Ballina councillors are considering the potential of linking up with the forthcoming rail trail network with new bicycle routes, but not using the old rail route which closed in 1943.

Speaking for the Northern Rivers Rail Trail, Pat Grier AM told councillors at their last meeting that work was under way with $35m in the can, and a strong business case that rail trails brought ‘quality tourism’ wherever they were built, with $2.70 anticipated to be returned for every dollar spent on construction.

Mr Grier said he had recently made a presention to Ballina GM Paul Hickey outlining the ‘fantastic’ benefits of connecting Ballina’s existing cycle path network with the rail trail at Bangalow, initially using quiet existing roads, such as the now bypassed section of the Pacific Highway, potentially creating a separate circuit which could be marketed in Australia and internationally.

Cr Sharon Cadwallader said the rail trail represented a great job creation opportunity for Ballina Shire. ‘For a long time now, I’ve watched this funding roll out around our neighbours and thinking, why aren’t we part of this?’

Ballina Shire Councillor Sharon Cadwallader. Photo David Lowe.

She described the rail trail connection idea as an opportunity Ballina could not afford to miss.

Sooner rather than later

Cr Keith Williams also spoke in support of the idea. ‘This is this is actually a really important thing to make sure we start now,’ he said.

‘Don’t wait until the rail trail’s built, and then say all we want to connect – we need to be planning this stuff now to make sure that as the rail trail is rolled out, and gets closer to us, that we’re not forgotten.’

Cr Eoin Johnston said that although connecting to the rail trail would be expensive, and require grants, he had seen how rail trails had changed rural communities for the better in New Zealand and Victoria.

Other speakers discussed potentially connecting the cycle path networks of Lennox Head/Ballina and Byron Bay, despite such discussions between the neighbouring councils fizzling out in the past over disagreements about the route. Cr Ben Smith suggested it was actually state government policy to eventually have cycle path networks connecting up along the coast, but the will and funding had not yet eventuated.

Cr Cadwallader suggested it was a matter of forward planning, as with roads. She said that cycling was a dominant part of the culture of Europe, and something Australia could emulate. ‘I believe this is the future… [Cycling] sits within a healthy community. It’s part of our vision for our shire, our vision statement.

‘I just think this will be fantastic. We’ve got to start the planning in order to be able to get some grant money happening. But yes, I think it’s a great opportunity that we shouldn’t miss.’

Ballina councillors voted unanimously to receive a report on options and costs to link to the rail trail, and also agreed to re-commence discussions with Byron Shire Council about building a bikeway between Lennox Head and Byron Bay.

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  1. “Ballina councillors are considering the potential of linking up with the forthcoming rail trail network with new bicycle routes”
    I wonder how long this will take to implement after the “Ballina Coastal Cycleway” was over 10 years in the making.
    Then again…
    What about considering a cycleway from Alstonville down to connect with the West Ballina cycleway?

    • You are right mixed used paths connecting to the rail trail is a long term dream. The concept we have discussed with Ballina Council is to signpost the quiet but generally wide former Pacific Highway – the Hinterland Way for example, or the old Highway alignment to Wardell over Burns Point ferry, – and improve its safety with better lane marking or some paths, as opportunities like resealing or funding grants become available. The old highway is already popular with local cyclists happy to ride on quiet roads ; the hope is to popularise it with visitors and to attract a wider range of cyclists with strategic improvements to make a safer cycling environment.
      I’ve been looking at extending the concept from West Ballina to Alstonville. Perhaps a mixed use path to connect to the old Bruxner Highway alignment might be a possible link .

  2. eBikes too, are going to be a major force, driving ( or is it riding? ) the attraction of linking many adjoining routes to the spine arterial of the Rail Trail.
    Our upcoming council elections in December are a prime opportunity for us voters to accelerate progress towards ousting Byron Shire’s out-dated and stagnant dream of yesteryear, thwarting the amazing advantages of utilising its section of the derelict corridor into a world class modern Rail Trail for a huge cross-section of our community to enjoy exploring our gorgeous region.

  3. Just a minute there, what happened to our “shared” path ! Now it’s “Ballina Coastal Cycleway”.

    For nearly thirty years I was part of a small group who fought to have the shared Coastal Recreation Path become a reality. The original approved path was three metres wide, allowing for reasonably safe usage by pedestrians and bicycles. In fact, the path was drastically reduced in width. I, as one of many, am unable to use the coastal recreation path, or indeed any of the other recreational paths, at all due to the proliferation of cyclists who ride at great speed, who fail to use a bell (if they actually have one) and expect pedestrians to give them free passage without even slowing down. The noble concept of a shared path has been trashed. If linked to the rail trail system it will, in fact, become the Ballina coastal cycleway.

    It is obvious that the connection to the rail trail system has great appeal but the existing shared pathways in Ballina are already inadequate and if the concept is to be advanced, in the interests of public safety, all bicycles need be confined to their own dedicated path. I, for one, would love to be able to use the coastal recreation path again.


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