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Government backflip on cycling safety

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Danny Egan was riding across the tracks of the Newcastle Light Rail in 2019 when he fell and hit his head.

Following the accident, in budget estimates documents, 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.

The NSW Government conducted a safety review, however, it supported a report from the US, saying extensive experiments in Switzerland indicated that flange filler was not appropriate for light rail tracks due to the frequency of trams.

Separate analysis conducted by Transport for NSW’s Assets Standards Authority also supported this finding.

Now, more than a year later, the NSW Government has backflipped, and is considering filling the flange-way gap to reduce the risk to cyclists and other road users.

The advertisement on the government’s eTendering website details that a ‘light rail flange-way filler solution,’ would help ‘mitigate the risk to other road users such as cyclists, wheelchairs, baby strollers and similar pushchairs.’

It also notes that ‘a wheelchair or baby stroller, if stuck in the flange-way gap, could topple, which could injure the occupant and put them at risk of being struck by the light rail vehicle, which may not be able to stop in time.’

Newcastle State MP Tim Crakanthorp said the delay to act was negligence.

“They resisted, and resisted, and resisted this flange-filler solution, even after a cyclist tragically died on these tracks,” he said.

“This is negligence, pure and simple, and waiting so long to do what we all knew was the appropriate solution, while continuing to put people at risk, is a stunning display of pig-headedness.”

NSW Shadow Minister for Active Transport Jo Haylen said the delayed action demonstrated the NSW Government had placed the safety of pedestrians and cyclists at the bottom of the priority pile.

“From the earliest stages of the Newcastle Light Rail, the minister was warned the tracks were a risk to cyclists, wheelchair users and pedestrians with prams,” Ms Haylen said.

“The minister must explain why it has taken a year since the government’s own review found the Newcastle Light Rail posed an ‘intolerable risk’ to cyclists for him to take action and put a solution in place.

“I welcome any measure that improves the lives of cyclists and pedestrians but, time and time again, this government considers their safety to be an inconvenient afterthought. It’s not good enough.”

The Newcastle Weekly has sought comment from Minister Constance.

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