Council plan to transform Illawarra into biking mecca

As part of the 2020 Community Strategy and National Cycling Strategy, Wollongong Council will implement a five-year bike plan it hopes will transform the Illawarra into a tourism mecca for cyclists, and generate more than $20 million annually for the region.

After more than a thousand submissions, councillors voted unanimously to adopt the plan on Monday night.

"The bike plan represents a change in approach from council towards cycling," said councillor George Takacs.

"Whereas previously cycle paths were just placed here and there, council is now looking at cycling paths more strategically, and how to make cycling more attractive for residents."

The plan will also encourage cycling as a transport choice, particularly for commuting and shorter trips.

Not only would the increased use of bicycles reduce greenhouse emissions, it would also ease traffic congestion and associated costs. Nationally, the cost of traffic congestion is estimated to rise to more than $20 billion by 2020.

Council hopes to double the number of cyclists in Wollongong by 2018, while reducing bicycle accidents by 25 per cent.

It aims to achieve these targets by developing a safe, connected network of cycle routes eventually running from the Royal National Park to Lake Illawarra and Windang.

Although currently there are more than 180 kilometres of cycleways along the Illawarra coastline, many are disconnected, while others are not wide enough to safely cater for both cyclists and pedestrians.

Some of the missing links that will be connected include Wollongong University to Figtree, the Princes Highway at Kembla Grange, Five Islands Road and Flinders Street, King Street and Shellharbour Road, and Hooka Creek to Kanahooka Point - one of the last missing cycle links around Lake Illawarra.

Much of the plan will be centred on the Wollongong CBD. Proposed new bicycle lanes in the city centre include Denison, Swan, Smith, Kembla and Crown streets, while existing lanes including Throsby Drive and Porter Street will be upgraded. Council has also recognised the need for more bike racks at major bus stops and train stations.

Mark Keegan from Avantiplus cycles in Wollongong believes the bike plan will be of great benefit to the community, but believes some key areas have been ignored.

"The bike plan itself is an awesome idea," he said.

"Unfortunately there are some areas that seem to have been ignored, such as placing bike lanes along Pioneer Road, and more space for mountain bike riders."

Although agreeing there are areas that could have received more recognition, Cr Takacs said these areas would be looked at in further detail in the future.

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