Newcastle's cycling community has rejected a NSW government ban on riding along part of the city's tram route as a "lazy" and "pathetic' response to the death of cyclist Danny Egan.
Cyclists will be banned from riding on the 340-metre mixed-running section of the light rail line in Scott Street from Wednesday, which is Ride to Work Day, after a safety report following Mr Egan's death in July.
Cycling advocates said the Centre for Road Safety findings highlighted a lack of planning in the light rail project and "incompetence" in assessing its risks.
Mr Egan, a 51-year-old father of three, died in July after falling from his bike on the mixed-running section of the line at the intersection of Scott and Pacific streets.
The review makes eight recommendations to improve cyclist safety and future light rail planning.
Centre for Road Safety executive director Bernard Carlon told the Newcastle Herald on Tuesday that the safety audit had found an "intolerable" level of risk for riders cycling in both directions in Scott Street.
"We must take action to remove that risk for bicycle riders," he said.
Safety audits completed before the line opened rated the risk as lower.
Newcastle bike shop owner Bernard Hockings said the report confirmed what cyclists had been telling the government for several years.
"For them to say they did a safety assessment when they did it and they assessed it as a high risk, but now they do another assessment and assess it as a higher risk, just shows that they're incompetent," he said.
Any mug could have and did tell them back at the beginning that this was going to be disastrous.Bike shop owner Bernard Hockings
The latest review was conducted in August by an independent team of road safety auditors and a cyclist advisor. The audit team was not involved during the tram's design or building phases.
It found cyclists travelling in the westbound traffic lane on Scott Street, at Pacific Street, had to cross the light rail tracks at an angle that was not perpendicular, presenting a "trap hazard".
"The issue is exacerbated by the lack of permanent advisory signage," the review said.
"The existing temporary signage is not positioned at the point of need, being located at the far end of the intersection after a cyclist has passed the hazard."
The audit rated crash frequency as "probable" and crash severity as "serious". It gave the same safety ratings for an eastbound section of Scott Street at Newcomen Street.
"Before the fatality they had been independently rated as high-risk, based on an expected lower crash frequency," the report said.
"This audit differed from the previous (pre-opening) audits as it found there was a higher chance of the risk being realised.
"The higher predicted frequency [of accidents] resulted in the risk rating for this event increasing from 'high' to 'intolerable'."
Mr Hockings said the report's finding that "cyclists should be considered in the initial design phases" of future tram projects showed the government had "ploughed ahead" with the Newcastle light rail with little regard for anything else, including cyclists and Hunter Street business owners.
"The best we can do now is try and fix up their mess," he said.
Newcastle Cycleways Movement president Sam Reich's submission to the audit proposed converting the footpath on the north side of Scott Street to a shared path for eastbound bikes and road markings for westbound cyclists showing how to cross the tracks at Pacific Street.
NSW Police called for removing bikes from Scott Street and diverting them to a shared path between Newcomen and Watt streets.
Mr Carlon said his team was working with City of Newcastle on alternative cycling routes.
"There will be a shared path on the footpath adjacent to that section," he said. "We'll be working with Newcastle council about what the medium-term solutions are, because we want to resolve that quickly. But certainly we'll be providing alternative options for cyclists."
But the council said it feared "the government's proposed changes will create additional risks".
"The city has raised its concerns about the potential for the state government's changes to simply shift the risks from the light rail route to adjacent paths managed by the city and has asked the state government to consider how best to mitigate the overall risk to this important part of our city," a spokesperson said.
READ MORE: Council revives cycle path for Hunter Street
The public affairs manager of advocacy group Bicycle NSW, Bastien Wallace, said a safe alternative was needed "as rapidly as possible".
"As a short-term solution, excluding people from areas based on safety might be necessary," she said.
"But you need to be aware just doing something overnight like this means people won't be able to complete their journey.
"My hope is an education approach will be taken, that this won't just turn into whole a lot of police officers issuing a lot of very expensive fines to people tomorrow."
Mr Reich said he had met on Tuesday with representatives from the Centre for Road Safety and would hold the government to its promise of providing an alternative route for bike riders.
"They're going to have to prove to me that they're taking that seriously and they're doing that in a workmanlike fashion, because to date a lot of undertakings have been made and not delivered, including preserving an active travel corridor along the heavy rail line, which is now blocked by development," he said.
"We're not really happy with the overall result, but we're not really in a position to recommend to cyclists that they ride in an unsafe environment.
"The approach they take to road safety is sort of after-the-fact: build the environment, assess whether it's safe, and then adjust the criteria to try to make it safer."
The fact is we just built it and now we're saying, 'Oops, we can't have cyclists here.'Sam Reich, Newcastle Cycleways Movement president
He said better planning would result in more people cycling and fewer people driving into an increasingly congested part of the city with limited parking.
"We've had three broken bone injuries that I'm aware of plus other first-aid injuries, so it was obvious that it was a frequent occurrence, and a fatality, so the risk was intolerable.
"On that basis I'm not surprised that they are banning cyclists, however, we did submit a proposal that would reduce the risk, we felt, considerably by showing cyclists how best to negotiate the track at that intersection.
"This is a main street of the town, and the fact is we just built it and now we're saying, 'Oops, we can't have cyclists here.'"
Newcastle state MP Tim Crakanthorp said the cycling ban was "a stark admission that the government absolutely failed to plan for active transport as part of the light rail project".
"Even after a number of serious accidents at this intersection received extensive coverage, months before the fatality, the report reveals that these incidents were not captured, investigated or addressed by Transport for NSW - this is an indictment on this Government," he said.
READ MORE: Mounting accident toll a clear sign of problem(2018)
Newcastle Greens councillor John Mackenzie, the chair of the council's Cycling Working Party and Liveable Cities Advisory Committee, said the report showed how little the government cared for cyclist safety.
"All it does is limit the liability of the state government for future accidents while doing absolutely nothing to improve the safety of cyclists in our city," he said.
"Planning for the light rail was bungled by the NSW government from the outset.
"The provision for safe cycleways or any other form of active transport was a token afterthought.
"The so-called revitalisation project was supposed to provide a safe way for cyclists to navigate the inner-city, including separated cycleways.
"At least, revitalisation was supposed to consider the interface between light rail and a cycleway network.
"Instead it has introduced more hazards for cyclists and wilfully put the safety of our community at greater risk, with fatal consequences."
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He said the Revitalising Newcastle program had created more demand for cycling, but the government was now discouraging people from riding.
"Access to the inner-city right now is a nightmare, with residents and visitors having to navigate road closures and a chronic parking shortage.
"This is the reason why so many people are taking up cycling in our city.
"Rather than support this uptake of cycling, the NSW government's response today does the exact opposite and says to cyclists, 'Go somewhere else.'
"This is a do-nothing response from the NSW government that creates an unenforceable exclusion zone, makes no effort to improve access for cyclists or any other active transport in the city, makes the whole area less safe and only serves to blame the victims for any future accident or fatality."
Mr Egan's widow, Jodie, declined to comment.
Mr Carlon said the review had considered new technology being trialed in other parts of the world to fill the gap in the tram tracks, but the inserts were not advanced enough to use.
"Some of the ones that have been raised in media are in development, rather than actually used in practice," he said.
"We're going to do a market sounding with a view to, if we are convinced the technology could work, trial some of that technology."