CALLS to improve Tamworth road safety for cyclists have been mounted as new figures reveal the rising rate of hospitalisations among push-bike riders.
The Leader understands Tamworth was knocked-back for a $3 million grant from the state government to build a connected cycling network throughout the city.
But cycling advocates say the health and safety benefits of integrating cycling paths into local infrastructure cannot be understated or overlooked.
Greg Johnstone, president of the Tamworth Bicycle Users Group, said consideration should be made for cycling lanes when new roads are being built.
"There's a lot of surveys the world-over that show an exponential growth in people taking-up cycling when there are safe cycling tracks available," he said.
Mr Johnstone has been working with Tamworth Regional Council to improve the cycling options in the city.
He said he was heartened by commitment to the cause shown by councillors and executive staff but called on the state government to lift its game and see the benefits.
There are currently a number of cycling lanes in Tamworth, but they have "broken sections" and "terminate" leaving cyclists "nowhere to go for a couple of the kilometres", he said.
In winter last year, the council launched a community survey calling for locals to have their say on what needs to be added to build the city's reputation as a cycling town.
The survey has closed and its results will be put to the council and on public exhibition later in the year as part of the "active living strategy".
An overall transport masterplan will also be developed to cater for expected future growth with the council currently focused on CBD car parking within this strategy.
It comes as new figures revealed nearly 160,000 cyclists were hospitalised after incidents on roads in the last 17 years, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
The rate of hospitalisations has risen an average of 1.5 per cent each year over this period.
Within this period, over 650 cyclists died in cycling crashes.
While Mr Johnstone said there was a good level of respect shown by Tamworth motorists towards cyclists since the introduction of safe passing laws, he said work still needed to be done.
"Ideally, we would have a network that commuters would be ride around Tamworth and access their shops and schools safely," he said.