Our Pennant Hills Civic Trust has been working for slightly over three years in conjunction with our colleagues from the Beecroft Trust, local state members Matt Kean, Damien Tudehope, Councillor Emma Heyde and Bike North to promote a well-designed bike path joining Pennant Hills to Epping. From Epping, cyclists would have access to a number of existing bicycle friendly trails. Our longer term plans include a north extension from Pennant Hills towards Hornsby.
In 2017 the State Government earmarked $5 million for this project. Stage one was a grant to Hornsby Council of $500,000 to determine the route, feasibility study, costs and basic engineering issues. This stage is nearing completion. Recently Council advised it has insufficient money for the full Pennant Hills to Epping route, so they’re going to take a staged approach: Beecroft to Cheltenham is the first priority. Council staff think they have a good route worked out which disturbs the minimum number of trees.
We have strong views on the preferred route from Pennant Hills. We DO NOT WANT white elephant infrastructure that will not be used by the community. We DO WANT a path that can be used well by many people, including keen cyclists like Matt Kean, weekend family outings, oldies with mobility scooters, mums with prams, pedestrians, walkers, kids on bikes and scooters.
If we get the wrong route then elite cyclists will enjoy it but the community will not get value from the NSW Government $5m spend on this infrastructure.
As we all know the first stage route from Beecroft to Cheltenham is reasonably flat and there are some quiet back roads which may be suitable for a bike path. The challenge has always been the hilly topography between Beecroft and Pennant Hills. In fact, to the best knowledge of your Trust, the only gently graded path between Pennant Hills and Beecroft is the rail corridor!
There is no doubt that NSW Trains officials are extremely protective of the rail corridor land, sometimes for excellent safety and operational reasons; sometimes for less obvious reasons. We are getting support from Matt Kean to press our case but in the end, it will be a difficult issue to resolve to everyone’s satisfaction.
It would be a shame to find the project stalls because a gently graded path is impossible to build except at unacceptable cost.
The Trust is seeking “left field” ideas from its members and readers of The Monthly Chronicle so we can put forward a range of ideas to open the discussion and make progress. We don’t need to hear “it’s all too difficult; let’s delay again”.
I saw a recent article on cycling making the point that with continuing falls in the price of battery powered bicycles together with improved robustness and range we might be approaching a situation where safe cycle paths would not be so dependent on gentle grades. Using battery assistance to tackle hills could make even the more challenging slopes accessible to a wide range of cycle enthusiasts.
So, we’re throwing the question to our readers:
• Should we encourage the experts looking at routes between Pennant Hills and Beecroft -and indeed further extensions to this bike path- to consider what could be achieved if they considered both human powered bikes (for the super fit) and battery assisted bikes (for we average riders)?
• What left field ideas do our readers have to break the impasse between steep grades along existing made roads/paths and the gentle but jealously protected rail corridor?
Let’s have you views and together we can make this bike project a reality.
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