The comments from Colleen Bannister (Soapbox, June 27) – regarding the cycle races held between Gunnedah and Tamworth last Sunday – are in need of reply.
On Sunday there were two separate cycling events conducted by separate organisations. The first was the annual Gunnedah-to-Tamworth Cycle Race, via the Gap Road and Werris Creek, conducted by Tamworth Cycle Club.
The second event was the last stage of the inaugural Santos North Western Tour, which was also from Gunnedah to Tamworth but over a longer route, via Quipolly and Werris Creek, which was conducted by Cycling NSW.
The only common organisation was that the two events shared a start and finish area.
Each year, Tamworth Cycle Club makes application to NSW Police and the councils of Gunnedah and Tamworth region for approvals to conduct our Gunnedah-to-Tamworth races.
On Sunday last, over six races, almost 200 cyclists successfully made their way to Tamworth under authorisation by NSW Police.
It is a standard requirement that the main groups in each grade have escorting flashing-light official vehicles to warn the motoring public. This is both a police requirement and a requirement of our club.
It is, however, impossible to provide an escort for cyclists who cannot maintain the pace of the race leaders. For this we have to rely on the patience and understanding of motorists not to cause harm to the cyclists as they overtake them.
Thankfully such patience was largely on display last Sunday. Sadly, however, such patience is often absent on any given day as cyclists go about their chosen form of exercise.
It should also be noted that NSW Police and Tamworth Regional Council approval was granted for the closure of the Lions Park area of Werris Creek Road, with qualified officials marshalling the detours that were in place.
This was to ensure safety of the cyclists, spectators and the motoring public in the finish area.
The finishes of race groups were under escort by NSW Police. The detours would have perhaps delayed motorists by a minute or so in extra distance.
The NSW Police approvals for our races permit cyclists to use the left lane and, for oncoming or approaching motorists, this might give the impression of the pelaton being “five abreast” as stated by your contributor.
However, very often this is a visual distortion in races. Cyclists form a “pace line” which is two riders wide and which sees one side of the line going forward, for riders to take their turn of pace at the front of the group, and the other side slowly drifting back having taken their turn at the front.
It’s a continuous “cycle” and is the fastest way to race – five abreast is simply unworkable.
In regard to having two sides to the pace line, please note that cyclists at all times are permitted by law to ride side-by-side (two abreast). This is largely unknown by the motoring public, hence the torrents of verbal and physical abuse thrown at cyclists every day by vehicle drivers and passengers, for simply exercising their legal right.
There is no requirement at law for cyclists to ride single-file. This from the NSW RTA website in regard to cyclists: “You are allowed to ride two abreast, but not more than 1.5 metres apart.” Please note again that our formal approvals to conduct our races permit use of the left lane.
Looking at the other, separate event, the Santos North Western Tour had traffic problems of its own which must be addressed by Cycling NSW if it is to hold that event again.
The members of Tamworth Cycle Club have worked too hard to have the public image of our events negatively impacted by the failings of others.
As a cyclist and member of Tamworth Cycle Club, I regret that on one day in the year our sport caused inconvenience to at least one motorist and that we were not able to plan for the travel contingencies of every member of the motoring public.
We have a strong working relationship with NSW Police, Tamworth Regional Council and Gunnedah Shire Council; we will continue to work with them toward reducing the impact of our future events on all stakeholders.
In the meantime, cyclists of all ilk look forward to improved levels of patience and considerate driving from motorists who share the roads with us.