The NSW Government has admitted “safety risks” exist at a light rail intersection in Newcastle where a cyclist died earlier this year, while also raising questions about tram projects in Sydney’s CBD and Parramatta.
- Documents reveal the Transport Minister had been advised that “road safety risks” existed during a review after the death of a cyclist
- Cycling groups say the Government had been warned of safety concerns at the intersection before the death in July
- Labor calls for the release of the safety review in light of other light rail projects in Sydney’s CBD and Parramatta
Danny Egan, 51, was crossing the tracks at the intersection on July 10 when he fell off his bike and hit his head.
The incident came after repeated warnings about the danger posed to cyclists who were getting their wheels stuck in the tracks.
In budget estimates documents obtained by the ABC, Transport Minister Andrew Constance said he had been advised that “road safety risks” did exist during a review carried out on the intersection after Mr Egan’s death.
“It was evident throughout this review that road safety risks to cyclists did exist throughout the section,” he said in the documents.
“The review has resulted in recommendations for not just Newcastle Light Rail but for all other light rail projects.”
A spokesman for the department would not comment on what safety recommendations to which Mr Constance was referring.
‘I find it frightening’
Newcastle cycling advocate Bernard Hocking said the Government was advised about the safety problems at the intersection about eight months before Mr Egan’s death.
“And that was after at least half a dozen people had been hospitalised,” he said.
“I was in the construction industry, and if an employer in the construction industry allowed those conditions to exist and that many people to be hurt, they would be facing criminal charges and jail time.
“I think it’s fair to say they have had a belligerent attitude towards cyclists; they’ve been so hell-bent on getting their light rail infrastructure at whatever cost that they just didn’t pay attention to other important issues.”
Mr Hocking, who owns a bike store near the intersection, said advice on the department’s website telling cyclists to cross the tracks at a 90-degree angle was not possible at that location.
“It’s particularly bad because bicycles have to cross triple tram tracks at varying angles, so you can’t take a single line and cross them safely.
“I find it frightening because you have to get in the way of traffic, you have to take the lane and move over the right-hand side to be able to cross multiple tracks at varying angles.”
‘There will be lessons learned’
Bicycle NSW general manager Bastien Wallace said the group had raised the issue with the Government in April.
“There are times when light rail has been constructed in Newcastle and here in Sydney, where it is not possible for a person riding to cross at a 90-degree angle to the track, and that was our deep concern,” she said.
“They can’t be expected to jump off the bicycle in front of the cars to push their bicycle across the track.
“You can’t be building intersections that have really dangerous angles and expect people to cross them on the bicycle.”
Ms Wallace said she’d had recent discussions with engineers in Sydney who she said were keen to tackle cyclist issues, and she was hopeful that the review into Mr Egan’s death would provide further direction on safety.
“I understand there will be lessons learned,” she said.
“There’s a design for Parramatta and they’ve got the opportunity before they start digging and shovelling to really consider it [the Newcastle review] there too.”
Call for release of safety review
Labor had repeatedly raised concerns about the safety of the light rail tracks while proposing options such as installing track inserts to stop bicycle tyres becoming wedged.
Jo Haylen, the Opposition’s spokeswoman for active transport, said the latest advice was an admission that the tracks were unsafe.
“This is an extraordinary admission from the Liberal minister that he failed to adequately protect Newcastle cyclists,” she said.
“He is backtracking on his previous statement that cyclists had to pretty much fend for themselves.
“Mr Constance should immediately release the full report of the safety review and explain why these measures weren’t put in place from the beginning.
“Given these recommendations will also apply to the CBD and Eastern Suburbs Light Rail, we need to see them now so the community can have every confidence the safest measures have been put in place before Sydneysiders are riding trams down George Street.”
Mr Constance is overseas and when contacted by the ABC on Wednesday, his staff initially said the review had not yet been finalised.