It might be only a glimmer at the moment but there's definitely light at the end of the tunnel for Mountains cyclists.
They are one step closer to their goal of creating a bicycling and walking network in the Lower Mountains to promote tourism and recreation, following a state government commitment of $1.5 million to restore the Glenbrook tunnel.
Called the River to Mountains Cycling Network, the plan put together by the cyclists consists of a 14-kilometre network of shared cycling and walking paths - all on public land - linking the popular Nepean River Walk to the Glenbrook town centre, Knapsack Reserve and the Tramway/Chalmers lookout trail and a safe route to Glenbrook National Park.
The proposal was put together by the Open Glenbrook Tunnel Campaign in conjunction with Blue Mountains Cyclists - an alliance of groups and individuals including the Blue Mountains Cycling Safety Forum (BMCSF), Western Sydney Mountain Bike Club and Springwood Cycling. It also has support from both Blue Mountains and Penrith councils.
David Tritton from the BMCSF said the recent state government boost for the historic Glenbrook Tunnel (also called Lapstone Tunnel) was only the first step in making the River to Mountains Cycling Network a reality.
"We want part of that [grant] money to be used to do the design for the overall concept plan so we can then apply for further grants for the overall project, which we cost at $10 million to $15 million," Mr Tritton told the Gazette.
"We think the economic benefit for the project will be considerable in terms of the additional tourism that it will bring to the Blue Mountains community, and also the opportunity it will bring for the local Penrith and Greater Sydney areas to have this sort of recreational and historical interest and opportunity in the Lower Mountains.
"It's not just about the active transport - which is a fundamental part for cyclists to travel between Penrith, St Marys and Blue Mountains - but also safe access off Great Western Highway. The back roads cyclists use now, around the back of Lapstone, are really steep and hilly, so these impose limits for active cyclists.
"The route we are suggesting at Nepean River and the tunnel and tunnel gully is approachable to most people."
This is the most exciting active transport plan that Blue Mountains has set out to achieve.David Tritton, Blue Mountains Cycling Safety Forum
"It's got something for everybody, for locals and tourists it's a place of interest, an outing. This is the most exciting active transport plan that Blue Mountains has set out to achieve."
Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill said: "This vision has my full support. I recognise the benefits it will bring to the health of our community but also the macro-economic stimulus."
"I will work with the forum and its leaders in making this plan a reality," he said.
A spokesperson for Penrith City Council said: "Penrith City Council supports Blue Mountains City Council in its delivery of future stages of a regional shared path connecting our two council areas."
Mr Tritton and the Blue Mountains cyclists hoped their plan would become one piece in a broader cross-mountains arterial cycle way.
"The BMCSF is in discussions with Transport for NSW to have an M7-style cycleway from Katoomba to Blackheath," Mr Tritton said.
"We have a solution in the lower mountains in the concept plan. We have a potential solution in the upper mountains. And over time, we'll have to work out the areas in between, which may be a combination of cycle ways and local roads."
Mr Tritton said he was most excited about his first ride through the Glenbrook tunnel.
"At the moment the corridor is weed-infested and not accessible in parts. To have that fully rehabilitated and opened to the public will be the highlight of this project," he said.
"And not to have to ride the back roads of Lapstone to get up to Glenbrook, that is a highlight too. It will make it a lot easier for younger and older people and those of average fitness. It will be a great outcome for cycling and for the community."