CERYS Smith plans to approach Lake Macquarie City Council with her ideas about how to make the shared bike path along the foreshore safer for cyclists and pedestrians, after hatching the ideas as part of a school project.
The St Paul's Catholic College Booragul year seven student, 13, is a participant in the Catholic Schools Office's online virtual academy, an extension program for highly gifted students.
Participants were tasked at the start of term three with coming up with solutions to real-world problems in their local community.
Cerys said her idea had already been germinating for a few months.
"I first identified it when I heard my Mum and other people talking about how the bike path had become more unsafe to use during the COVID-19 period when everyone was down there trying to exercise as much as they could without being able to use the other facilities that weren't open during the time," she said.
"Lots of people were complaining about how overcrowded it had become and the dangers that were occurring that weren't really noticed before."
Cerys said she regularly cycles the path between Eleebana and Speers Point to meet up with friends or exercise with her family and had noticed the changes herself.
"Using that path towards the Warners Bay area it's really hard to get past people, it's kind of scary - you don't want to run into anyone there - more than it used to be," she said.
Cerys surveyed path users and visited as an observer.
She concluded there were three main problems.
Firstly, existing signage about cycle safety was close only to Warners Bay and "cluttered".
"The font and writing on the signs is not very clear to read when you're passing by even as a walker, it's faded and small and some of it is peeling away and there's just not much of it... a lot of information is crammed onto them."
She said away from Warners Bay, there was no lighting on the path.
Thirdly, she said, there was a "lack of communication between cyclists and walkers".
"It can sometimes shock walkers when cyclists go by a bit too fast or too close."
Cerys outlined three solutions in her project: expand lighting to the entire pathway; erect new signage at more frequent intervals that is clearer with"more pictures and symbols and bigger texts", as well as hand out bicycle bells to riders.
She designed three bells, including an Aboriginal art style depiction of the lake and pathway.
"It was a great feeling to show my hard work to the panel [which provided feedback] and it felt really worth it in the end," she said.
"It's important for everyone's health to be able to go out and use these paths and making them better really encourages people to get out. It's bringing the community together, using these kind of facilities."
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