On and off-road cycling infrastructure proposed as part of the Little Hartley to Lithgow GWH Upgrade
The Great Western Highway Upgrade Program – Little Hartley to Lithgow, Review of Environmental Factors (West REF) deals with the proposed new GWH upgrade from the bottom of Victoria Pass and Lithgow.
The West REF proposes three actions for improving active transport and opportunities for safe recreational cycling. These include:
Two and half (2.5) metre road shoulders, which will improve safety for on-highway road cyclists;
three services roads (which are mostly sections of the current GWH repurposed as a local road) with 2 metre shoulders that may serve also to provide off-highway cycling access between the bottom of Victoria Pass and Jenolan Caves Road (with exit options to Coxs River Road and Browns Gap Road); and
an option to include a shared path between Little Hartley and Lithgow (this is to be bedded down with Lithgow City Council).
The BMCSF is supportive of all three proposals with some important caveats including maintaining current B-double access restrictions on the off-highway service roads and connecting local roads, suitable access to Mt Victoria from Little Hartley for off-highway cyclists (e.g easiest gradient available to enable persons of average fitness an opportunity to use the path), and separation of cyclists/ pedestrians from traffic on the shared path. A summary of recommendations is set out in the table below.
The West REF does not deal with the proposed upgrade between Victoria Pass and Evans Lookout Road. Reports in the media indicate that as well as the short and long tunnel options for the Blackheath section, an even longer tunnel is being considered which could exit at the bottom of Victoria Pass. The West REF does not indicate which of these options will be put forward in the forthcoming Blackheath section Review of Environmental Factors. It is understood, however, that cyclists will be prohibited from using the tunnel (regardless of whichever option is taken forward) and the current Victoria Pass does not have sufficient shoulder width to allow safe passage for on-road cyclists.
The BMCSF submission proposes two options to provide cyclists with access between Mt Victoria and Little Hartley. The first is for safe shoulders / or dedicated lane on Victoria Pass in both direction for on-road cyclists. Safe shoulders should be made possible whether or not Victoria Pass is repurposed as a local/ tourist road or continues to be part of the GWH.
The second involves incorporating Berghoffers Pass into the proposed off-road shared path network from Little Hartley. This would link TfNSW proposed Lithgow to Little Hartley shared path to Mt York.
The BMCSF recommends an off-road shared path linking Mt York and Evans Lookout Road, Blackheath, which is the extent of upper Mountains Cycleway currently being proposed by TfNSW as part of the Katoomba to Blackheath GWH duplication.
If the TfNSW proposals and BMCSF recommendations are adopted by the NSW Government, it would mean residents and visitors would benefit from an off-highway shared path between Katoomba (near Old Bathurst Road) and Lithgow. This would be a significant benefit for the slow tourism and over night stays in the upper mountains and it would also open up tourism development opportunities along the service / local roads and shared path, particularly between Little Hartley and Jenolan Caves Road. This route could form an off-highway tourist drive/cycling route. It would also be an important step forward in the BMCSF's vision for a cross mountains cycling / touring and active transport network commencing from the Nepean River which utilises the Glenbrook Tunnel on the eastern escarpment.
The BMCSF submission in full can be downloaded below. A link to the GWH Development website where the REF can be downloaded is also provided.
Summary of Recommendations
Active and Recreational Cycling - Road Environment (cycling safety and heavy vehicle access limits)
The BMCSF supports the proposals for an on-highway 2.5m shoulder for the length of the GWH and also a 2m shoulder on the three service roads.
The BMCSF encourages TfNSW to continue to upgrade existing or construct new sections of the GWH to ensure the approved heavy vehicle access limits to enable safe passage for on-highway cyclists
For safety reasons, the BMCSF strongly opposes any changes to B-double access on the local road network, which includes no B-double access to Coxs River Road, restricted emergency access only for 19m B-double to Browns Gap Road and permitted 19m B-double access to Jenolan Caves Road. Any permitted B-double access on the service roads should be for the purpose of accessing properties and limited to 19m. The BMCSF would reconsider its position on changes to B-double access to local roads if safe places to ride were also proposed on the impacted local roads.
Active and Recreational Cycling - Signage
The BMCSF recommends meaningful signage for on-highway and off-highway cyclists (e.g highway exits to Service roads for Mt Victoria) and tourism mapping bill-boards.
Connections to Mt Victoria and Blackheath (on-Road)
It is recommended that Victoria Pass be made safe for cyclists with an adequate road shoulder in both directions, including an oversized shoulder for fast descents.
Connections to Mt Victoria and Blackheath (Off-Road)
It is recommended that Berghoffers Pass be incorporated into the proposed shared path between Little Hartley and Lithgow (see above) and the road/ trail surface upgraded so it is suitable for on-road bikes without degrading its heritage character. Factors relevant to determining which materials to use for the road surface could include, safety, accessibility, heritage, durability and treatments which reduce maintenance costs and ensure longevity of the asset.
Shared Path between Victoria Pass and Lithgow
The BMCSF supports the concept of shared path between Victoria Pass and Lithgow for the opportunity it provides for greater participation in cycling, tourism and economic development. It is recommended that complete separation from motor traffic be achieved for the entire route of the proposed share path to encourage the highest level of participation / use. All surfaces should be properly sealed and smooth and not consist of loose gravel or stony surfaces and gradients should be consistent.
Connected Shared Paths (places where people want to go)
The BMCSF submits that the trailhead at Berghoffers Pass and Mt York Lookout be connected by a shared path to Blackheath.
TfNSW should consult with Lithgow City Council about creating a safe shoulder or path for cyclists on Browns Gap Road, at least to Hartley Vale, for the return link from the Mt York MTB trails.