Wollongong could soon become a city known around the world for its commitment to cycling, with the council unveiling a new 10 year plan to transform the way residents exercise and travel to work.
The council also plans to fast-track upgrades to several major cycleways and other facilities - including a criterium circuit and pump track - over the new few years, after a surge in demand for better cycling facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cycling features in two major agenda items at next week's meeting: the annual budget and the council's draft 2030 cycling strategy.
Over the next decade, according to the draft strategy, there will be 85 kilometres of new cycleways constructed including of 50km on-road cycling routes and 35km of off-road cycling routes.
The council will work with the NSW Government to fund significant cycleways alongside regional and state roads, including the Princes Highway, Crown Street and Lawrence Hargrave Drive.
It also will focus on connecting residential areas to the city centre and towns and villages by delivering missing cycling links, and work on developing more positive community perceptions of bike riding.
According to general manager Greg Doyle, who is quoted in the document: "Our vision is to make Wollongong a cycling city, and to be the place to ride".
With increased investment, a focus on safety and education programs, the council hopes to increased weekly cycling participation, from 12.9% to 20% by 2030.
Cycling to and from work trips will rise from 0.7% to 2% and the number of transport cycling trips will increase from 20.6% to 25%.
Cycling will also become safer, with a target to reduce cycling related crashes reported and more women - who currently make up a minority of cyclists - will be encouraged to participate.
The council notes the strong benefits that come with investment in cycling, including time saving, economic, environmental, social and health improvements. For instance, the strategy says cycling is "quicker on average than trips by car under 5km" and notes "cycling facilities are less expensive and take up less space than roads for cars".
"Cycling infrastructure extends public transport catchments and decreases congestion around major destinations," the plan says
"Cycling aids in reducing congestion. Traffic congestion costs NSW billions of dollars in lost productivity each year."
As for the immediate term, the council says the COVID-19 pandemic has "further increased the usage and demand for cycleways across the Local Government Area, and this in turn has identified the need to fast track the delivery of cycleways in priority locations".
Almost a third of all submissions received on the council's budget related to cycling, making it the second most commented on issue (after climate change).
The 47 submissions requested the council further invest in cycling related infrastructure and programs throughout the local government area.
In response, the council has increased its 2020/21 footpaths and cycleways spend by $1.8 million - including $875,000 from government grant - and will design and construct 15 new cycleway projects in the next three years.
The council will also design and build the new regional pump track at Cringila Hills ($650,000) and a new multi-use criterium track ($1.6 million) at a location to be determined.
If supported by councillors, draft Cycling Strategy 2030 will be placed on public exhibition for 42 days. The submissions will then be collated and, if necessary, the plan will be amended before it is adopted.
The updated budget is due for adoption at the council meeting next Monday.
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