"The safer the environment, the more people who are going to ride a bike – it's as simple as that".

 (Bicycle NSW chief executive Craig Meagher reported in the SMH, 'NSW cyclists lag the rest of Australia as fewer choose to ride: survey', 19 June 2017).

'Safety is a key factor that people consider when choosing to ride a bike' 

 

(Transport for NSW, Sydney's Cycling Future', 2013).

Doing Nothing is not an Option

Dangerous for Cyclists and motorists

The Great Western Highway (GWH) between the Todarellos fruit house and Bellevue Street, Faulconbridge was one of the first sections of duplicated road in the Blue Mountains. 

  • It contains a number of severe pinch points for cyclists caused by non-compliant road shoulder which are limited to less than 40cm in both directions.

  • Carries a high volume of motor traffic travelling at speeds at or more than 80km per hour (according to RMS, about 28,000 motor vehicles per day in each direction - approximately 12% of which are heavy vehicles)

  • Has Armco rails on east and west lanes which:

    • limit the width of the shoulder, and

    • forces cyclists to ride in the traffic lane

  • Does not permit motor vehicles to pass safely with at least 1.5 metres clearance as required by NSW traffic law in speed zones of more than 60km per hour.

  • Without a local network between Faulconbridge and Woodford, it is the only choice for cyclists travelling from the lower to the mid or upper Blue Mountains.

  • Contains a blind corner with a restrictive Armco fence west bound obscuring cyclists from traffic approaching from the rear.

  • Contains steep drop-off of pavement edges presenting a stability hazard to cyclists

 

  • Environmental factors may also increase the hazard. The rising sun is an impairment to east bound early morning drivers and could result in a failure to see a cyclist ahead sharing the slow traffic lane or riding on the lane edge white line.

  • If the right  lane is occupied, it is not possible for traffic in the left lane to pass cyclists. This is even more hazardous when lanes are occupied by heavy vehicles.

RMS unmoved to upgrade road to make it safer

 

RMS have not committed to any further highway upgrades at Faulconbridge to make it safer for cyclists and other road users citing, amongst other things, road safety performance data and crash history.

 

However, crash data from RMS’ Centre for Road Safety is sourced from notified crashes to police and also hospitalisations. It is therefore not a reliable source for accurately determining the number of crashes involving cyclists as a substantial proportion of non-fatal pedal cycle crashes are not reported to police or hospitalisation. Near misses may also be an indication of risk but are not likely to be reported. 

 

On 29 March 2016, the Blue Mountains City Council (BMCC) commissioned a safety audit of the areas of the highway discussed in this report, after the RMS refused to do one. The audit report states (at p6):

 

One of the main findings, highlighted in the audit that follows, is that there are a number of severe cyclist pinch points…The existing non-compliant shoulder widths comprise the primary hazard in these instances and ought to be a high priority for further investigation.

The existing road shoulders are non-compliant with the Australian guidelines for safer road design for high-speed roads

Austroads claim that the risk of serious or fatal injury to cyclists increases on high-speed roads. As speeds pass 64km per hour, the probability of a fatal accident exceeds 1000%.

Austroads recommend:

  • Full separation of cyclists and motorists for a high speed road (ei >80km p.h) with more than 5,000 motor vehicles .

  • Shoulders are sealed and at least 2.0 m wide. However, Austroads also assert that even a shoulder of 1.5 metres wide has been shown to reduce the incident of crashes and the severity of injuries to cyclists.

  • Additional width for higher heavy vehicle traffic to safely pull over where the shoulder is next to a safety barrier.

 

Hazardous, non-compliant road shoulders are a deterrent to road use by cyclists

 

The NSW Government, together with other members of the Australian Transport Council, committed in 2010 to a safe road system. This means roads are designed to reduce the incidence and severity of crashes.

A safer route between Faulconbridge and the mid-mountains is likely to encourage cyclists of varying abilities in greater overall numbers well as increase the frequency of trips and the participation of women in the activity.

 

This means ensuring that all high-speed roads should cater for a range of cycling abilities. A separate bike path is more suitable for cyclists who want to feel safe and be away from high-speed traffic but less concerned about speed.

Cycle Count

volunteer cyclist count over 3 weekends between 25 March and 9 April 2017 showed lack of safety is a deterrent to cyclists travelling between Faulconbridge and Linden.

 

Conservatively, it is estimated that there are around 70 cycling trips[1] on this section of highway on Saturdays and about 60 trips on Sundays:

  • Very few cyclists counted were women (4%)

 

  • The large majority appeared to be experienced cyclist

 

Inferences which can be drawn  from the cycle count include:

  • More cyclists, representing a wider section of the community are likely to use the road if the section were safer

  • The fact that other cyclists maybe avoiding the section of road does not justify in-action by the road authority. The combination of high traffic volumes, high speed limit, and unsafe conditions means that the risk of harm to current users is not just foreseeable but highly probable.

  • These conclusions are consistent with State wide data. According to Transport for NSW, about 70 per cent of people in NSW either ride regularly or would like to ride more and say they would if bike riding was made safer for them (TfNSW, 'Sydney's Cycling Future' 2013).

The Solution is simple

  • Building/ extending the shoulders to a safe standard would reduce the hazard for current cyclists. It utilises existing infrastructure and benefits motorists by providing a break down lane in the event of an emergency

 

  • The long-term aim should be to have a separate bike path linking the local road network between Henry Parkes Parade, Faulconbridge and Station Street, Woodford (ie. there is no local road network between these two locations).

[1] Cycling trips refers to an aggregate of counts for both east and west bound trips over the survey period for Saturday and Sunday respectively.​

RMS Diagram explaining that motorways with speeds more than 80km should have a dedicated bicycle shoulder of 2m. 

Austroads claim that even a shoulder of 1.5 metres wide has been shown to reduce the incident of crashes and the severity of injuries to cyclists.

​If the right  lane is occupied, it is not possible for traffic in the left lane to pass cyclists. This is even more hazardous when lanes are occupied by heavy vehicles.

I would cycle more if the road is made safer their for cyclists, but I avoided it since April 2, 2016 as I was forced to ride in the east bound traffic lane because there is no shoulder. I was forced off the road and into the ditch by a vehicle avoiding another vehicle that was turning Right over the Triple Solid White line into the Metro Service Station. As a result I now have two bulging discs in my back which still causes pain to this day.

Andrew Fuge

Hazelbrook

I feel vulnerable and exposed on this short section of the highway. I certainly will not ride this section on my own. If there is a bunch of us tackling it together I may consider it but even then the potential for a major incident is just not worth it. As a lower mountains resident I would love nothing more than to be able to ride safely to Katoomba on a regular basis. Instead I am forced to ... load my bike in the car and drive to a location past the pinch point to enjoy what the upper mountains has to offer. 

 

I would definitely ride the road between the Metro Service Station and the Fruit House on a regular basis if it was made safer…

Michelle Williams

Glenbrook

Being able to ride local roads away from the highway traffic is the best way to commute / ride on the Mountains, so I wholeheartedly support a separate bike path. It needs to be constructed from a material that can be safely ridden on ALL bike types - gravel paths are not a viable option to get more people out riding their bikes. I am committed to fitness and a healthy lifestyle and would love to see the opportunity for more people / families out on their bikes in a safe environment

 

Michelle Williams

Glenbrook

The investment of public money to undertake recent road resurfacing on the east bound lane near Bellevue St at Faulconbridge  was an opportunity to create a road shoulder. Instead RMS removed what little shoulder there was.

My usual Saturday routine was to have a warm up ride; I usually rode to the fruit market at Faulconbridge, used the truck turning lane to turn and head down to Penrith to join a group from Panthers Triathlon Club waiting at the tennis courts.

 

On 5th March 2005, I didn’t arrive to join the group. I have no recollection of that day (nor of the six months that followed) but I have pieced the morning together based on my usual habits, speaking to the police and returning to the site….

If you did not read Jenny's powerful story on our home page, click here to continue reading

Jenny McGowan