Cyclist fearful of fatal Tarro overpass

IT is the stretch of road on any cyclist’s mind when they set off to ride from Newcastle to Maitland.

Described yesterday as the ‘‘skinniest section of the New England Highway’’ and the ‘‘most treacherous stretch in the Hunter’’, the Tarro railway overpass claimed the life of a 57-year-old Wallsend man on Thursday when he was knocked off his bicycle and over a guardrail by a vehicle travelling in the same direction.

The man, believed to be an experienced rider who frequently cycled in Newcastle and Maitland, fell down an embankment to his death.

Josh Stephenson, co-owner of Drift bike shops in Kotara and Maitland, said he had feared for his life while traversing the Tarro overpass.

‘‘When I turn for home from Kotara that section of the road is the one thing I think about the whole way home [to Maitland]’’ he said.

‘‘If I can just get through there I’ll be safe.

‘‘The shoulder goes from three metres to nothing and is the one major point on the highway where cyclists and motorists have to share the road.’’

Ted Anderson, of Ted’s Bike Shop in Green Hills, said cyclists had nowhere to go if traffic was heavy and had to risk entering the road with cars travelling up to 90km/h.

‘‘It’s the skinniest section of the New England Highway,’’ he said.

‘‘You’ve got to squeeze yourself as skinny as you can and hope that the drivers behind you see you.

‘‘It’s a disaster zone – the whole Hexham to Beresfield area is.’’

Another cyclist, Jarrod Dovey, who regularly rides from Thornton to Newcastle and back, said he was devastated when he heard the news. ‘‘It was an accident waiting to happen,’’ he said.

‘‘Everybody who rides it knows it’s dangerous.’’

A Newcastle Cycleways Movement member told The Herald last night that the organisation had met regularly with representatives of the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) and Lower Hunter councils this year to try to address the Hunter’s most dangerous roads.

‘‘The Tarro overpass had been made a high priority by the cycleways movement and the RMS had been aware for a long time that it was a dangerous stretch of road that put cyclists at risk,’’ he said.

An RMS spokeswoman said last night a concept design for a roadside barrier and cycle path adjacent to the bridge was being finalised.

‘‘We estimate about $7million would be needed to install the safety improvements,’’ she said.

‘‘In the interim, RMS will immediately investigate whether additional warning signs or line marking changes are needed at this location.’’

She said there had been no other bicycle crashes near the bridge in the past five years.

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