3 August 2023

Tandem cyclists saddle up on safer tracks with new upgrades improving access for a local charity

| Keeli Royle
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Two people on a tandem bike at Lake Illawarra

Exsight Tandems Illawarra advocated for a safety upgrade to the Lake Illawarra bike track. Photos: Supplied.

A local charity that provides tandem bike rides for those who are unable to ride solo can now offer safer services due to upgrades to the shared path around Lake Illawarra.

Exsight Tandems improves cycling opportunities for people in the region who are vision impaired or are restricted in their ability to ride a bike, but the group’s president Geoff Stratton said in recent years a popular track off Yallah Bay Road, near Tallawarra Power Station, had been causing members concern.

“There were bollards there and a bar that goes across the path and it made it difficult and dangerous,” he said. “The problem is our bikes are twice the length of a solo bike so we don’t have the same manoeuvrability.”

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Mr Stratton said the volunteer-run group was already limited in the tracks it could safely use and the Lake Illawarra route was a rare opportunity, both for members and riders.

“This ride is something that means something to us,” he said. “It’s very difficult to get away from the busy traffic.

“Around the lake it’s peaceful, it’s a beautiful ride, and for us it’s meant that we can do a 50 km ride and that gives us that chance to challenge ourselves and to take people on rides that they couldn’t imagine.”

New widened pathway from road with bollards

The new entrance has been widened, with bollards redesigned to improve cyclist access. Photo: Supplied.

The group advocated to improve the track’s safety and eventually connected with local state member Anna Watson and Minister for Planning Paul Scully, who secured funding for the upgrade.

“When Exsight Tandems contacted me about the pathway, I contacted Crown Lands and Wollongong City Council straight away,” Mr Scully said. “I’m glad that we’ve been able to help deliver an upgrade that allows tandem cyclists to have equal access to cycleways around Lake Illawarra.”

The bollards were replaced with a new design to allow safer bicycle usage while still stopping traffic access.

Also, the path entry was widened, with a dirt section paved to provide a better connection between the carpark and the shared pathway.

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“This is a win-win that has more safely opened the path to tandem and other bicycles while still restricting motor vehicles to ensure safer recreation for pedestrians and cyclists of all abilities,” Ms Watson said.

Mr Stratton said although it had not been an easy process, the group was extremely grateful to see the work completed.

“It was dangerous for everybody, really, so this improvement meant quite a lot to us,” he said.

Crown Lands invested $15,000 in the project, which Minister Scully hoped would help the charity continue its contribution to the community.

“This is a great outcome to support the fantastic work Exsight Tandems does to give vision-impaired and other cyclists who can’t ride alone access to buddy rides,” he said.

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