TAMWORTH’S cycling community has backed calls for a major upgrade of a local highway which the region’s two-wheeled commuters says is a major hazard.
Earlier this week, Tamworth councillor Mark Rodda drew attention to the New England Highway between Calala Ln and Greg Norman Dr, which he labelled a “goat track” and derided as “embarrassing and dangerous”.
Tamworth Bike Users Group (TAMBUG) spokesman Greg Johnstone says the highway is widely used, but also feared among cyclists.
“There’s good bits either side of it which is why it is popular,” Mr Johnstone said.
“But the part in the middle is dangerous.”
An online poll conducted by The Leader found the vast majority of respondents were in favour of the call for a New England Highway upgrade.
More than 78 per cent of the poll’s 300-plus participants said an upgrade was definitely “overdue”.
Close to 12 per cent said there’s bigger priorities, while nine per cent of respondents thought the road wasn’t that bad.
Some voters listed Wilburtree St, Dean St and Scott Rd as higher priority roads.
Mr Johnstone is part of a working group currently collaborating with council investigating ways and infrastructure to make cycling safer in Tamworth.
In partnership with council, the working group wants to see an education and awareness campaign rolled out and also safe cycling paths installed around the city.
Mr Johnstone spruiked the health benefits of adding cycling loops in Tamworth and said it could “improve lives”.
The working group held its first meeting this week and Mr Johnstone said the next leg of the mission was to establish the priorities of the community.
He said the establishment of a “family friendly route” potentially near the CBD was a key topic at the working group’s first meeting and “linking with established infrastructure” was a possibility.
The safe cycling group is still in its very early stages, Mr Johnstone said getting more information from the community was the top priority at the moment.
“There’s a very diverse group of users in the community,” he said.
“The next step is getting more information about popular routes in town.
“So we’re inviting people to join the TAMBUG page on Facebook and send in some comments.”
The mayor’s word
Col Murray responded to Cr Rodda’s highway diatribe with a letter to the editor:
In response to the story titled ’Tamworth Regional Councillor Mark Rodda calls for New England Highway upgrade’ published in the Northern Daily Leader on Wednesday on Wednesday November 29, I would like to clarify that Council has already made progress to see a stretch of the New England Highway between Calala Lane and Greg Norman Drive improved.
This road is under the jurisdiction of the State Government however that doesn’t mean Council is complacent in its attempts to see it upgraded.
We have $90,000 allocated in the 2017/18 budget to commence the survey and design work to ensure that the project is ready to start as soon as State Government funding is available.
We are working closely with Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson on this project to see it come to fruition, and I would like to commend council staff on the proactive approach they are taking for these important projects.