Fernleigh Track


Fernleigh track is Newcastle’s greatest cycling asset. It is long, (15k), entirely off-road, fairly flat and meanders through beautiful and varied bushland. The tunnel provides a dramatic moment and the remaining pieces of rail infrastructure provide interest. It also connects many suburbs, from the Eastlakes area into the inner city suburbs. From Adamstown, other paths further connect to suburbs such as Waratah, the university and even the inner city, though not quite as well connected in that direction.
This makes it ideal for both commuter and recreational cyclists as well as a very useful cycling training facility. Being able to ride for that distance with very few road crossings and no motorised traffic is a godsend to the avid fitness cyclist.
Being a shared path, there are always numbers of walkers and others on scooters or skateboards. This creates an eclectic mix of users which leads to the inevitable associated differences of opinion regarding its usage.
While these can be nasty they are not insurmountable and have not lead to any serious incidents or deaths.
So why are there not more such facilities and is this the ideal way to cater for cycling?
I would argue that off-road tracks like this, while being a huge asset to any city, are not where cycling infrastructure money should be prioritised.
Cycling needs to be highly visible to the rest of the population to promote its uptake. It also needs to follow the roads so cyclists can reach their destinations easily, which are the same destinations as motorists.
Routes along roads are also safer for cyclists at night. A lone cyclist, especially female, would be safer beside a road.
This is inherent when a large, and often significant, amount of money is spent on one project. It takes all the budget for cycling infrastructure without delivering a lot to existing cyclists or encouraging uptake among would be cyclists.

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