It’s not all about the bright lights of Sydney: when it comes to vying for global attention in the land Down Under Wollongong is gearing up to make its mark.
Just an hour’s drive south of Sydney, coastal Wollongong is Australia’s 10th largest city. It’s considered one of the country’s most ‘liveable’ cities thanks to its mix of beaches, cosmopolitan lifestyle, cultural and sporting activities and connectivity to Sydney. However, if you ask one of the 213,000 people who call ‘The ‘Gong’ home, it’s a small town at heart with a strong sense of pride for its natural attractions, the great mix of its residents’ diverse cultural backgrounds, its laid-back lifestyle and its rugby league and basketball teams.
Wollongong’s secret will truly be out in two years’ time when the 2022 UCI Road World Championships come to the city.
That’s when its lush escarpment and coastal road tucked between towering cliffs and golden beaches will be broadcast to the world, revealing an area that offers diverse biking opportunities : hills, relatively flat roads, coastal paths and plenty of wind!
The Council is committed to supporting cycling opportunities to suit all skillsets and riders, and its community has embraced its five-pillar approach to facilitating cycling; safe, convenient, planned, ‘business, tourism & events’, and innovation.
“This strategy is an important document for Wollongong and provides a clear and coherent approach to how we’re supporting cycling in the city,’’ Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM said.
“We’re determined to support all categories of riders, regardless of whether they’re passionate or occasional cyclists, to feel empowered to get on their bike. This Strategy puts in place the measures that ensures active transport is an option for everyone.’’
Through the Strategy, Wollongong will build an additional 50km of on-road cycling routes and 35km of off-road cycling routes by 2030. This means the existing shared path and cycling network will jump from about 130km to nearly 215km. This will include significant cycleways along regional and state roads as well as improved local roads.
Council has also increased its spend for this financial year on footpath and cycleway infrastructure by $AUD1.8M. This funding will see Council design and construct 15 new cycleway projects in the next three years. These projects include dedicated on-road cycling lanes in the Central Business District (CBD), and pop-up cycleways in suburbs. Council is also building a series of mountain bike trails within a dedicated park space that will cater to all riders from beginners to advanced.
2022 UCI Road World Championships to leave their mark
Council’s Cycling Strategy 2030 supports and amplifies the existing Wollongong-2022 Legacy Plan, which was developed in conjunction with AusCycling, the NSW Government and Council. The Plan’s focus is to ensure the 2022 UCI Road World Championships leave a lasting impression on Wollongong and the surrounding region.
Meanwhile, the Legacy Programme for the 2022 UCI Road World Championships has started initiatives to promote cycling and cycling safety and offers a 3-year $AUD300,000 Legacy Partnership Programme funded by the NSW Government. Community groups and businesses can access grants for delivering innovative community-focused programmes and projects to promote cycling.
An additional $AUD300,000 in legacy funding will support AusCycling’s Ride Nation Schools Programme giving 10,000 primary school-aged children in Wollongong access to bike education, programmes and activities.
Councillor Bradbery said the council was committed to working with its partners and the community to develop positive perceptions of cycling.
‘’What we’ve seen this year is a dramatic increase in cycling participation rates as people sought other ways to get about, looked for new ways to exercise, or enjoyed additional downtime as daily life had an unexpected shake-up.
“This Strategy will provide more and improved cycling opportunities and it ties in so nicely with the upcoming UCI event. I’m sure Wollongong will be the focus of a lot of positive conversations and attention across the world come 2022.’’
Wollongong’s efforts to improve cycling infrastructure is being applauded by key industry bodies.
Duncan Murray, Chair of AusCycling said: “This announcement is incredibly significant and reinforces our shared ambition to ensure the 2022 UCI Cycling World Championships delivers a lasting impact that benefits cycling in Wollongong and through NSW. The infrastructure being developed by council will be an incredible resource for the entire community for years to come, encouraging people to ride their bikes as a fun, accessible leisure activity.”
Sentiments echoed by Wollongong 2022 Chair Mr Dean Dalla Valle: “The Wollongong 2030 Cycling Strategy will amplify the Wollongong 2022 Legacy Plan and provides a strong building block heading towards the 2022 UCI Road World Championships, which will establish Wollongong as a globally recognised major event and cycling tourism destination.
NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said the 2022 event would create new and enduring opportunities for NSW and the south coast region.
“The NSW Government is proud to support the 2022 UCI Road World Championship. Profiling Wollongong on the international stage as a cycle-friendly destination will attract new markets to Sydney and NSW, providing a boost to local economies.”