Council hears plans for designated safe cycle loops in Tamworth

Safety first: Greg Johnstone is launching a campaign for more designated bike tracks and loops around Tamworth after an accident with a truck on the Oxley Highway almost cost his mother Judy her life. Photo: Chris Bath 101017
Safety first: Greg Johnstone is launching a campaign for more designated bike tracks and loops around Tamworth after an accident with a truck on the Oxley Highway almost cost his mother Judy her life. Photo: Chris Bath 101017

Greg Johnstone fronted Tamworth Regional Council on Tuesday night with a grand plan to revolutionise cycling pathways around Tamworth, with safety and access the top priorities.

While Mr Johnstone, an avid triathlete, has “been aware my whole life the need to promote safe cycling”, it wasn’t until his 77 year old  mother was struck by a truck cycling along the Oxley Highway near Westdale that he decided to actively begin a local campaign.

Judy Johnstone is facing a slow recovery from the seven bone breaks and traumatic brain injury that the accident left her with.

“She (Judy) is still in a wheelchair, and has got back 85 per cent of her brain function so far. The breaks should heal but we have a long road yet,” Mr Johnstone said.

With the benefit of hindsight Mr Johnstone said he always knew that the Tamworth region wasn’t “cycle friendly”, a reality that lay in stark contrast with the fact the  city is about to build a world class velodrome and criterium track at the Sportsdome.

“Mum used to always ask is there was somewhere safe she could ride in Tamworth,” Mr Johnstone said.

“The answer is no – there are no options.” 

Mr Johnstone would like to see Tamworth Regional Council immediately roll out an educational program on road rules and user safety, such as Orange Council has recently done with the A metre matters campaign.

He would then like to see some real planning and coordination go into the development of cycle paths and loops, such as the Dubbo Council have recently installed.

“Dubbo is a cycle friendly city – the council actively promotes the paths and loops and have done a lot of work to make it safe. We have a huge cycling community but are completely behind other towns of our size.” 

“There is a real disconnect between the amount of people cycling and looking to get healthy, and having no safe places to ride, especially considering that we are about to get a multi-million dollar velodrome and crit track just off the Sydney Highway – Young kids are going to want to ride their bikes there.” 

He has started the Tamworth Bicycle User Group (TAMBUG), who he hopes can help cycle users coordinate with TRC to come up with workable plans to not only design the bike paths, but also help with grant applications and funding.

“Tamworth is the fattest city in Australia apparently, so we think there is room to apply for a health grant, we will also look at the Inland Development Fund,” he said.

“It can cross inter-departmental boundaries, but is going to need a coordinated effort. I am going to drop the idea on council, and then just keep following it up until we get it done.”