Calls to get cyclists off Illawarra footpaths

Wide racing tracks around football fields, segregated bike lanes and better cycle links between suburbs have been flagged by local cyclists as ways of getting bicycles off footpaths.

Illawarra cycling club vice president, Simon Britten, said cyclists would only ever ride on a pedestrian footpath as a last resort.

‘‘Riding a bike on a footpath is fraught with danger, everything from people walking dogs to kids on scooters. Anything above walking pace would be a dangerous on a bike,’’ he said.

‘‘For kids on training wheels, paths are perfect. But for anyone riding for sport, it would be like playing football in the middle of the road. You wouldn’t even contemplate using a path in Wollongong.’’

Mr Britten said he does not take his own children on cycleways for the danger posed by pedestrians.  He cited ‘‘criterium courses’’ used in Sydney, dedicated bike tracks around parks or sports grounds, as a solution for cycling in the city.

‘‘Cycleways benefit both cyclists and pedestrians,’’ he said.

He cited JJ Kelly Park or Stuart Park as suitable for such criterium tracks.

‘‘Three or four metres wide bitumen courses around the park, which cyclists could use as a racing or training venue,’’ he said.

Erica Gray, a recreational cyclist and member of the Illawarra Bicycle User Group, said riding on footpaths is sometimes the only option when going for a long ride in the Illawarra. She regularly cycles from Wollongong to Shellharbour, riding on the road when possible, but is sometimes forced onto the footpath in dangerous or busy sections.

‘‘It’s simpler to ride on the road than ride around people on the path, but sometimes you can’t avoid it,’’ she said.

‘‘I will ride on the road in a group because of safety in numbers, but I don’t feel confident riding on busy roads when I am riding on my own.’’

Ms Gray suggested installing special bike lanes with raised dividers on roads, as well as improving links between cycleways, to reduce problems caused by cyclists on the roads.

‘‘Riding around the lake is excellent if you can avoid the highways, but there are gaps in the connections,’’ she said.

‘‘The bike lanes are great too, because you can ride on the road but also feel quite safe.’’

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