Build it and they will come

Blue Mountains Connected Communities Alliance chair Hereward Dundas-Taylor and Upper Mountains Bicycle Users Group spokesperson Suzanne Kowalski-Roth believe a cycling trail the length of the Mountains would provide a safe alternative for commuters, families and tourists.

Blue Mountains Connected Communities Alliance chair Hereward Dundas-Taylor and Upper Mountains Bicycle Users Group spokesperson Suzanne Kowalski-Roth believe a cycling trail the length of the Mountains would provide a safe alternative for commuters, families and tourists.

Community groups have ramped up their push for a cycleway that runs the length of the Mountains.

At a meeting last week the Blue Mountains Connected Communities Alliance, Upper Mountains Bicycle Users Group, Blue Mountains Economic Enterprise, Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism, council representatives and interested business owners were unified in their support of a trail in the Mountains.

BMCCA chairman Hereward Dundas-Taylor said the groups would like to see two trails - an unsealed trail suitable for mountain bikers, and a sealed trail suitable for families, tourists and inter-village commuters, which would also provide a safer mode of transport than riding on the road.

"The sealed cycleway will hopefully also have the flexibility to double as an emergency vehicle access whenever the highway is cut off or blocked due to accident or heavy traffic," Mr Dundas-Taylor said.

He said the cycleway would also boost tourism and economic growth in the region.

"It is hoped by establishing each of these it might also attract a national/international cycling event in the years ahead with the 'if you build it, they will come' vision," he said.

He said the Mountains could host triathlons, using the gorges for the swimming element of the race.

The BMCCA is compiling a comprehensive submission to Roads and Maritime Services as part of its Katoomba to Mt Victoria highway upgrade, seeking funding for a section of the proposed trail between Katoomba and Mt Victoria.

Funding of $1 million has already been allocated for an unsealed trail which mostly utilises the rail corridor. But BMCCA and UMBUG estimate the total cost of funding a sealed trail is around $7 million. They are hopeful funds from RMS will be forthcoming.

"The safety of other road bicycle users, including children, the elderly and women is important," said UMBUG spokeswoman Suzanne Kowalski-Roth.

"Government reports into crashes recommend cyclists be segregated on arterial roads. Cyclists deaths are at an all time high in Australia, jumping from 33 in 2012 to 50 in 2013. Fourteen of these cyclists were from NSW. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get it right for all cyclists from young children to older cyclists and everyone in between.

"We applaud council's efforts to establish the track from Katoomba to Blackheath and would like to see RMS do the right thing and fund a quality segregated path, accessible to all types of emergency vehicles otherwise we fear it's only a matter of time before someone is killed cycling on this stretch."

Mr Dundas-Taylor said: "The health benefits of using these cycle ways should not be ignored and the ability to do these activities safely away from the trucks and cars that have claimed lives of cyclists and pedestrians also can't be ignored. If it saves just one life..."

He said the history of the first Australians as well as the first explorers could be exhibited along the tracks that would take in world class views, as well as passing cafes and local businesses.

"Extending the stay of tourists by just one day to take in these sustainable activities would have an enormous impact on our community and economy while improving job opportunities," Mr Dundas-Taylor said.

In September council is expected to start work on the Katoomba to Medlow Bath unsealed section of the trail, with work expected to be complete at the end of the financial year.

There are numerous unsealed trails in the Mountains, in particular the well-used Anderson's and Oaks Trails in the Lower Mountains, and Mr Dundas-Taylor hopes these and other trails could be connected.

The groups are hopeful that commercial businesses who would benefit economically from the tourism generated may consider contributing to the cost of the trail.

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