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Newcastle
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
First National Altitude
First National Altitude

Technology keeps track of shared paths’ popularity

Lake Macquarie’s popular Fernleigh Track and Tramway Track will both now feature sensors to shed light on how often the paths are used.

It’s hoped the new technology will offer further insights into how and where Lake Macquarie City Council should invest further resources, according to community frequency.

The new sensors have found at home at the halfway point on Fernleigh Track, in Whitebridge, and near the Glendale TAFE, on the Tramway Track.

The 24/7 technology will count path users around the clock, automatically sending the data across to the council twice each day.

Prior to installing these sensors, the only user data available for Fernleigh Track was a biannual count. This was done manually, and estimated that only roughly 200,000 people used the path each year.

However, sensor data collected in early October showed more than 10,000 movements in just one week.

This figure counted an almost even number of cyclists and pedestrians and indicated a far greater annual total, closer to 500,000.

Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser said the new data suggested an increase in the tracks’ popularity since the beginning of COVID-19.

“Shared pathways provide a place for people to exercise, socialise and commute,” Cr Fraser said.

“Deploying innovative technology like these new sensors will help show us when and how they are being used.”

Section Manager Infrastructure Assets, Karen Partington, explained that the two different sensors had been installed at different locations in order to capture separate counts of both walking and cycling.

“This technology will improve our understanding of how people use the Fernleigh and Tramway Tracks, and will inform our future planning and management,” Ms Partington said.

She also added that more testing of the technology, over a larger time period, is still needed.

“The potential of this new technology is very exciting,” Ms Partington said.

“It will give us a much clearer picture of how important this kind of infrastructure is in our community.”

The council has been collecting and storing the information so far, but plans to make the live figures publicly available online are underway as part of Lake Macquarie’s open data initiative and smart city program.

Newcastle Cycleways Movement Vice President, Peter Lee, said he was excited by the potential of the new technology.

“These counters will help council understand the need to invest further in more active transport tracks,” Mr Lee said.

A community information session will be available online to provide updated information on current track projects.

This is to be followed by a live Q&A with the council’s project team.

It will take place from 5.30pm to 7pm on Thursday 5 November. Registrations are essential and can be completed at shape.lakemac.com.au/fast.