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Byron Shire
June 16, 2024

Bike Mullm to Bruns

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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?

Basil Cameron, Goonengerry


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12 COMMENTS

  1. The proposed Northern Route is about eight kilometres in total length. Perhaps Basil can explain how that is 15 kilometres longer than the southern route. In fact, depending on the destination in Brunswick Heads, there is very little difference in length between the two routes. Avoiding the multiple steep hills on Mullumbimby Road would probably make the Northern Route a faster ride. It would certainly be a safer route entirely separated from busy roads and avoid the costs and disruption of widening Mullumbimby Road and the need for safety extensive barriers.

    Rather than servicing Basil’s imagined “future residential development” on the Southern Route, the Northern Route would immediately service Ocean Shores which is only about half the distance from Mullumbimby compared to the Southern Route. The Southern Route can be developed later if the mythological residential development ever goes ahead. A smart council would levy those developers to help fund it.

    Let’s face it. Basil’s letter has nothing to do with cycling. It is all about his chronic pathological obsession with his futile railway plan. The Northern Route includes about 2.5 kilometres along the abandoned railway corridor where it would become part of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail.

    The fact that cycle way funding is limited is all the more reason to incorporate part of the rail trail which will attract separate funding.

  2. Well that was a lot of words of gobbledygook with no real explanation, reminds me of a Yes Minister episode !
    The northern route using the old slow steam age alignment rail corridor for a bike route is one of the best solutions for direct access between Mullum, Billi, Brunz and Open Sores . Yes I have lived in Byron Shire for 53 years and have walked , cycled or run along most of its backroads and trails .
    Unfortunately for Basil the Hogwarts Express train
    has lost its head of steam but electric bicycles ownership has boomed .

  3. Basil Cameron’s advice is incorrect. The proposed Northern route from Mullumbimby to Brunswick Heads is similar in length to the Southern option and avoids a very steep climb up to the Saddle.
    Part of the reason Mayor Michael Lyons is keen to explore the Northern route is that it uses the former railway corridor heading North from Mullum. Mr Cameron quite rightly refers to a shared path path from Mullumbimby to Brunswick Heads as having been identified by the community as a Priority A in the Byron Shire Bike Plan. Pointedly he avoided telling readers that the proposed shared path along the railway corridor was also identified as a Priority A in the Bike Plan. Part of the reason the corridor path is a priority is that it will potentially link to the Northern Rivers Rail Trail (NRRT) , and like stages one and two of the NRRT it is quite likely to attract funding from governments. The Northern route follows the corridor and then uses a quiet rural road that runs to near the Brunswick Valley Way . That leaves just a short path to be constructed at relatively low cost to complete the connection. The Northern route is likely to be funded and happen.
    It is of course wide open to suggest the real and unstated reason Mr Cameron does not want the Northern option, is that pursuing it and designing it will end the mythology around building a corridor path beside the disused rails.
    And heaven forbid, it might even prove popular with locals and visitors to the Shire, who can quietly pedal from Murwillumbah or Mullumbimby into Brunswick Heads and, without adding to parking issues, enjoy it’s natural and culinary delights and demonstrate just how well cycle touring fits with our Northern Rivers values.

  4. It seems that some of the above commentary has been rushed out without actually reading the detail in my letter. A great many assumptions are made in the above replies that have nothing to do with the either the content or substance of my letter. Sorry if it is all ‘gobbledygook’ to you Geoff, but that is what can happen when your ideology overtakes real world realities.

    It would also be useful if the above replies had a proper look at the bike plan…something that the route options paper doesn’t do. Strange as the whole purpose of the route options study is how best to implement the bike plan AND the data on which the bike plan was both developed and consultation undertaken with the community (something the route options paper does not do).

    It is clear enough in my letter, but to restate, the bike plan makes it clear the greatest need for an inter town link runs along the southern route between Brunswick Heads and Mullumbimby (not Ocean Shores, Murwillumbah or anywhere else). This is where the current use and safety issues are highest and paramount. The bike plan was prioritised around ‘exisiting high cycle demand/use’ that ‘connects diverse residential areas’. The route options paper neither examines or applies these criteria. The route options paper removes these and inserts new criteria…where exactly did these new considerations come from? Who decided on them?

    1. The existing high demand/use southern route draws on the following residential areas. McAuley’s Lane (currently rapidly expanding), Andersons Hill, Tyagarah, Myocum, Saddle Road, Bayside as well as the industrial estate and sporting facilities at Mullumbimby and Brunswick Heads.
    2. The priority of this project is to connect Mullumbimby, Brunswick Heads and the above residential areas. It is not to connect to Ocean Shores. This can be easily achieved by extending the southern route option north to Ocean Shores as is shown in the Bike Plan.
    3. The Bike Plan data shows a high current demand and use between Bruns and Mullum. The Plan identifies the existing commuter use/demand from Ocean Shores as precisely zero.
    4. Mullum to Bruns commuters made more submissions than any other and raised more safety concerns than elsewhere.
    5. Have a look at the consultation maps in the bike plan. They clearly indicate where the issues are and they are not anywhere near the northern route that currently has NO USE, NO DEMAND and runs through a rural area.
    6. Cycling commuters from places like McAuley’s Lane currently have a route of approximately 4-5 km to get to Brunswick or Mullumbimby. If they have to travel to Mullum or Ocean Shores to access the route, it will add 15km or more to their journey. This applies to the other residential areas connected by the southern route. No commuter willingly adds this to their time constrained journey time.
    7. If the northern route is funded, those using the southern route will be left with the same unsafe conditions as currently apply. A complete upending of the bike plan and opposite of what the community told us and what they expect.

    I hope this is clearer. Seems the above responses have more to do with an obsession with the rail trail, which is not the priority of the bike plan.

    Always up for respectful and informed discussion. This can be achieved by reading the original letter properly, consulting the bike plan and understanding what it is the community has said is the priority.

    Understanding or even acknowledging the difference between everyday time constrained commuter cyclists and your preferred occasional recreational (‘touring’) tourist cyclist would also help you to appreciate the community need.

    As the Chair of TIAC that undertook development of the bike plan and consulted with the community AND as an E Bike commuter, I stand by the southern route as being the best spend and in the best interests of our cycling residents.

    Perhaps Greg should have a closer look at the route options paper that shows the steepest and longest grade by far is on the northern route though this detail is conveniently hidden in the attachments.

    It seems the above correspondents want to make this about me to distract from the massive gulf between their desire to implement a pet project and the realities of what is happening and needed out there in the real world. May I suggest you step outside, open your eyes and put aside your predetermined ideology. Perhaps even try cycling…as a commuter.

    • It is surprising that someone so recently in Council , the Chair of the Council’s transport advisory group , and someone so quick to point to the priorities of the Byron Shire Bike Plan, is not aware that under it a “corridor path” – which is what the rail trail is called in Orwellian “Byron-speak” – is also a Priority A under that Plan. Indeed it is listed in the Plan as as IT001 (Intertown route 001).
      Apart from the obvious priority in linking the four largest centres in the Shire , because it forms part of the greater Northern Rivers Rail Trail , and links the Shire to other LGAs, a Byron “corridor path” will be able to attract regional economic development funding. That leaves the possibility of accessing other funding windows more focussed on increasing cycle safety and uptake to meet additional Bike Plan priorities, including the relatively modest additional cost of completing the link to Brunswick Heads under the Northern option, and the priority paths in Byron Bay and in Bangalow for which the Shire now has design funding.
      Perhaps Mr Cameron needs to take off the Byron blinkers and overcome his ideologocal prejudices against any cycling that is not commuting, so he can appreciate the massive popularity of rail trails and the funding that has brought to Tweed , Richmond Valley and Lismore LGAs . Like Mayor Lyon and Cr Pugh, he might consider how to leverage that funding to create links between Mullumbimby, Brunswick Heads, Billinudgel , Ocean Shores, and the Tweed , and inthe future wirh Byron Bay, Bangalow, Ballina, and Lismore.

    • The total length of the complete circuit formed by the Northern and Southern routes amounts to a little over 15 kilometres. Apparently Basil’s cyclist was riding from McAuleys Lane to Saddle Road if they were going to experience an increase of 15 kilometres by taking the Northern Route.

  5. McAuleys Lane to Mullum Council Chambers via the old rail corridor is 3km . Mullum to Ocean Shores via old rail corridor is 4.7km . Ocean Shores to Billinudgel via old rail corridor is 1km . McAuleys Lane to Tyagarah Rd via old rail corridor is 4.8km. Tyagarah to Bayshore Drive Snail Train Station is 4.8km with Quarry Lane halfway between .
    Mullum to Billi via old rail corridor is 8.7km with the steepest gradient being 1 in 50 (wheelchair ramps are much steeper at 1 in 14 gradient).
    Mullum to Bayshore Drive is 12.6km .
    Having walked the line from St Helena to McAuleys Lane a few times over the past 5 years the notion of reinstating a slow very light snail train will never happen , workers and tourists want a reasonably fast public transport system .
    Only Michael Lyons has done a ground truthing walk along the line , a few other councillors did a short walk along the line from Bayshore Drive to Quarry Lane after David Michie spent months hand clearing it . Even Arcadis did not venture into the worst sections of the line between Tyagarah M1 and McAuleys Lane or the St Helena section.
    Because some councillors avoid ground truthing walks they are just repeating hearsay from other ‘supposed experts’ who also haven’t walked the line .

  6. When in the last term of Council we moved to bring the Bruns-Mullum cycleway forward as a BUDGET priority, it was because of the high level of concern from existing cyclists…commuter cyclists, who were experiencing increasing safety issues in the southern route options. It was not our intention to leave these cyclists to continue to endure these conditions. Simple

    You guys are rail trail enthusiasts. I get it, but this project was always about commuter cyclists on our roads and in our neighbourhoods in a high use, high demand corridor. It was not about funding your recreational wants.

    • Basil still hasn’t explained how a cyclist taking the Northern Route from anywhere faces a 15 km longer journey than the southern route when the entire circuit formed by the Northern and Southern Routes combined is a little over fifteen kilometres in total length.

      The Northern Route is not just about recreation. It represents a viable alternative for travel between Mullum and Brunswick Heads . It is very similar in length to the Southern Route and mostly away from the road traffic entirely.

      I would like to see both routes constructed. Getting going on the rail trail, which will be funded separately, would be a sensible move.

  7. Shortest routes for getting from to Billinudgel, Ocean Shores and Macauley’s Lane is via the old railway corridor .
    The safest and no steep gradients route is also via the railway corridor.

    Getting to Brunz from Mullum would sound nice along Saddle Rd but it has very steep gradients at both ends (I run along it ). Best solution is exiting the rail corridor at Synotts Lane and head east but looking at a route along the edge of the river (as per David Michie’s plan) away from the steep ridge line that the engineers had the bike/walking going over .
    The old rail corridor in Newcastle , the Fernleigh Track is a very popular commuters route and for children as it is a dedicated pathway without cars .

  8. The shortest, safest and flattest route for cycling commuters and children between Mullum and Byron Bay is via the old railway corridor. I am a triathlete and riding along Myocum Rd , Mullumbimby Rd and Gulgan Rd for training is so dangerous, steep and narrow .
    Electric bikes allow average speeds to be 25kmh easily and hopefully the limit will be increased to 30kmh like other countries.

  9. Yesterday the council voted unanimously to proceed with the investigation of the northern route. Not surprising given the sensibilities described by the respondents above.

    The unanimous decision indicates that it is former councillor Cameron who is out of step with “real world realities”. He never did explain how he arrived at the bizarre conclusion that it would be a 15 kilometre longer journey on the northern route while everyone else could see the two routes were virtually identical in length.

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