If you were told your route to work, education, medical appointments etc was to be upgraded to make it safer, you would probably be grateful. Until you discovered the ‘safer’ route would add 15km to your commute in each direction. That is what Council are proposing with their ‘northern route’ option for a Mullumbimby–Brunswick Heads cycleway.
As a councillor, I chaired the committee that developed the Byron Shire Bike Plan. Community consultation told us that Mullum to Bruns is the most used inter-town link and generates the most safety concerns. This project was given highest priority ‘A’ rating as a response ‘to existing high cycle demand’ that ‘connects diverse residential areas’ and ‘significantly facilitates future growth’.
The ‘route options’ study does not discuss the Bike Plan data and consultation. The Bike Plan objective of responding to ‘existing use and demand’ is replaced with an objective to ‘attract… opportunities for tourism’.
We can ill afford expenditure of scarce cycleway dollars to be diverted from priorities that actually meet the daily transport needs of residents. Mullumbimby and Brunswick have cycling to work rates four to five times higher than the regional average. Add to that all the non-work reasons residents commute and it is clear that the priority must be to existing use and future residential growth in the southern route.
Expenditure on a rural northern route with no existing use will leave safety risks in the southern route unaddressed and cyclists increasingly exposed. Time-constrained commuters are unlikely to add significant time and distance to their journey and for most the northern ‘trail’ will be too far away to access. How exactly does this meet the safe transport needs of residents and priorities established in the Bike Plan?