BMCSF calls for a holistic approach to planning active transport networks in Blue Mountains LGA
Updated: Sep 21, 2021
In a submission to TfNSW for the Medlow Bath section of the Katoomba to Lithgow GWH duplication project, the BMCSF sets outs its broader vision for a holistically
approach to active transport networks in the Blue Mountains LGA. The submission also focuses on the specific design issues raised in the Medlow design and recommends some improvements for consideration
Mr David Tritton, President of the BMCSF said; "it is important that development of the GWH pay deference to the Blue Mountains as a ‘Place for People’ because the success of the Blue Mountains economy is tied to this outcome as much as the success of the economies of the Central West and Central Tablelands are tied to the GWH being an efficient transit corridor. Therefore, it is necessary to balance ‘movement’ and ‘place’ and provide a pathway to realise quality active transport networks in the Blue Mountains which connect its town centres and the area to the Nepean, Hawkesbury and Lithgow LGAs".
Summary of the Submission
The design of the GWH highway can achieve a balance between liveability and a movement corridor by supporting a safe road system which includes adequate road shoulders for vulnerable road users and lower speed limits through urban town-centres. It should also include high quality active transport networks. This should consist of off-highway shared paths which connect to town centres, schools, railway stations, popular trail heads for mountain biking and bushwalking and provide safe highway crossings for cyclists and pedestrians.
In the coming years it will be necessary to upgrade legacy sections of the GWH, including in the lower Blue Mountains, to fully realise the economic benefits of the Katoomba to Lithgow duplication project. These upgrades, as well as the current Katoomba to Lithgow project, must protect and enhance the Blue Mountains community and their built and natural environments by constructing or establishing integrated, resilient, and accessible transport networks and places including safe road shoulders and shared off-highway paths and highway crossings.
The proposed upper mountains cycleway must be viewed as part of an overall network solution which enables short trips between the town centres of Blackheath and Katoomba but also encompasses larger distances travelled between other centres and connections to other destinations, including off-road mountain bike and walking trails. Longer cycling trips are something which are increasingly within the reach of cyclists of ordinary fitness levels using E-bike technology. Access to e-bikes is likely to influence greater uptake in cycling and choice of transport for short and medium distance trips. Further, quality, well designed, safe network of cycleways in the Blue Mountains will attract visitors and this will in turn benefit the tourist economy.
The submission critiques cycling aspects of the Medlow Bath section of the GWH duplication and upper mountains cycle path construction, for different cycling abilities, against the features of a good cycling network recommended in the RMS Cycling Guidelines. These criteria include (1) Safety, (2) Coherence, (3) Directness, (4) Attractiveness, and (5) Comfort.
Summary of Recommendations
Bellevue Crescent shared road space
Consideration should be given to ensuring that the entrance to the shared road area from the proposed Bellevue turning circle is regulated by traffic calming devices. Signs should indicate motor vehicle access is specific to residents only. The road or road area should be properly signposted to indicate its function as a shared space and off-street parking should be deterred (e.g no parking signs and/or physical barriers such as plantings) if it will impede safe access for pedestrians and cyclists.
The area or scope of works for the Medlow section of the cycleway should be well lit with street lighting especially in zones where cyclists and pedestrians are likely to come into conflict with motor traffic at road crossings, driveways and in shared user road space. Lighting is also important for the personal security of users of the asset at night and is more likely to deter anti-social behaviour if there is a higher risk of being observed by passers-by.
Clear signage and pathway markings and separation barriers:
With respect to traffic turning off the highway into driveways (e.g. at the United Petroleum) it is proposed that in addition to warning signs, green paint be used to identify to motorists that the driveway area is also a thoroughfare for cycleway and pedestrian traffic. The vegetation buffer between the GWH and shared path should be a consistent width of at least 1m and as far as possible and avoid widths less than this.
Cycling infrastructure should form a coherent entity, link major trip origins and destinations, have connectivity, be continuous, signed, consistent in quality, easy to follow, and have route options and be attractive to enhance user experience. The proposed upper mountains cycling trail must not seek to ‘tie into the GBMT’ (e.g. around Foy Ave) but replace or upgrade it in its entirety between Blackheath and Katoomba. This means for any part of the existing GBMT the new upper mountains cycle way utilises, must aim to identify and remedy the inherent design problems in the original trail.
Shared path surface
Skid resistant surfaces areas are as much about safety as comfort. All surfaces should be properly sealed and smooth and not consist of loose gravel or stony surfaces.
Investment in the cycling-built assets must be sufficient to match the tourism, recreational and active transport desired outcomes for the long-term success of the project. If TfNSW seeks to use or borrow from the existing GBMT to operationalise its constructed elements of the cycle network, then it must own the outcome for the whole network.
Directness and Seamlessness
An impediment to directness is the proposed railway station access gantry crossing which will require cyclists to break a journey and either carry their bike up the stairs or use the lifts provided, walk across the gantry, and descend the stairs or use the lift on Railway Parade. The BMCSF would prefer ramps than stairs and lifts to avoid dismounting and have uninterrupted flow, however, we have suggested improvements around Station Street and the signalised crossing which may in fact provide a more direct route to Coachhouse Lane. We also recommend some bike storage be provided at Medlow Bath Station for commuting passengers to ride, park and use public transport.
Rail Bridge Crossing near Station Street (on Road Cyclists)
The shoulder less bridge is a legacy safety issue which, without appropriate treatments, will impair the entire upgrade and result in additional costs if treatments are deferred to future years. The costs of ‘do nothing’ may be measured in increased additional travel times and congestion for through traffic and risk of harm or injury to vulnerable road users. It is inconceivable that cycling over the bridge is sustainable in the longer term from the point of view of safety or rapid movement of motor traffic, given the increased traffic volumes including larger mass, longer heavy vehicles. To kick the problem down the road now, will mean it is more expensive to fix in the future. It is recommended that a road shoulder be provided in either direction, or in the alternate (which could be in the form of a short roll on and roll off separate cantilevered platform to permit on road cyclists to safely cross the bridge).