Business owners and cyclists say they are stunned by the absence of cycle lanes in plans for the upcoming Barton Highway duplication, warning the NSW government economic and health benefits will be lost without the lanes.
The highway will be duplicated from the ACT border towards Murrumbateman as part of the first of four stages of safety improvements, with work expected to begin in the second half of 2019.
While the duplication of the notorious stretch of road has been widely welcomed, the lack of cycle lanes in the plans is a sore point for many who see it as a missed opportunity.
Wendy O'Dea, the president of local business group Makers of Murrumbateman, said the number of visitors to the village had increased in the past 10 years as Canberra's northern suburbs expanded.
Mrs O'Dea, who owns Dionysus Winery, said the addition of cycle lanes to the highway would create cycle tourism opportunities and attract even more people to local businesses like the wineries and Robyn Rowe Chocolates.
"At the moment, we're kind of limited to [visitors] in their cars or on tour buses," she said.
"The Abode Hotel here hires bikes out and people love it because they get to ride between the wineries and have a great day out.
"Some people drive in and then cycle, but [cyclists] at the moment tend to stick to the roads off the highway."
Glenn Cocking, who helps people with disabilities cycle as part of Pedal Power's Fitability tandem cycling program, said he regularly rode up the Barton Highway.
He described the current conditions for cyclists as "pretty rough and ready".
"The verge is quite narrow and the traffic can be quite heavy and intimidating," Mr Cocking said.
"[The duplication] is an opportunity to put in bike lanes. They're already changing things."
Canberra Off-Road Cyclists vice-president Darren Stewart said the success of cycle trails in other wine regions including the Yarra Valley proved the potential for cycle tourism around Murrumbateman.
Mr Stewart, who along with Pedal Power has written to the NSW government to lobby for a cycleway as part of the duplication, said the infrastructure would also encourage more people to get active by riding bikes.
"It makes complete sense that while they’re doing this major infrastructure, this tiny bit extra gets put on," Mr Stewart said.
Ross Hampton, who is developing a community-led plan for a network of cycle routes in the Yass Valley, said cycle lanes on the highway were crucial to lay the foundations for cycle tourism in the area.
"We are on the edge of this massive growth corridor and we've got some of the best local businesses, but there has got to be a way to get out there without risking life and limb on the road," Mr Hampton said.
In a community update released this month, the NSW government said a cycleway would be considered as part of the strategic business case for the Barton Highway. The business case is part of the third stage of upgrades, while duplication from the ACT border towards Murrumbateman is the first stage.
A NSW Roads and Maritime Services spokeswoman said the government was "working with the Yass Valley Council to investigate options for improving safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders".
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