New sensor technology puts shared pathway usage counts on track

Published on 27 October 2020

Mayor Kay Fraser and Newcastle Cycleways Movement VP Peter Lee with the new sensor (2) (Custom).jpg

New technology installed on Lake Macquarie’s Fernleigh Track and Tramway Track will help shed light on exactly how many people use the popular shared paths each year.

Sensors at the Fernleigh Track’s halfway point at Whitebridge and on the Tramway Track near Glendale TAFE will provide 24/7, minute-by-minute usage counts, with data uploaded to Council automatically twice a day.

Lake Macquarie Mayor Cr Kay Fraser said anecdotal evidence suggested a spike in the popularity of shared paths since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Shared pathways provide a place for people to exercise, socialise and commute,” Cr Fraser said.

“Deploying innovative technology like these new sensors will help show us when and how they are being used.”

Section Manager Infrastructure Assets Karen Partington said two different sensors had been installed at each location to capture separate counts for cyclists and pedestrians.

“This technology will improve our understanding of how people use the Fernleigh and Tramway Tracks, and will inform our future planning and management,” Ms Partington said.

Previously, the only available usage data about the Fernleigh Track was from a biannual manual count, which estimated about 200,000 people used the former rail corridor each year to commute and for recreation.

However, initial data from the new sensor suggests the true figure might be significantly higher.

Sensor data collected earlier this month counted more than 10,000 movements in just seven days, comprising an almost even number of cyclists and pedestrians.

If those numbers remain consistent, the annual total is likely to be closer to 500,000.

However, Ms Partington said more testing of the technology and a larger timeframe of use were required.

“The potential of this new technology is very exciting,” she said.

“It will give us a much clearer picture of how important this kind of infrastructure is in our community.”

Council collects and stores data from the sensors, but Ms Partington said plans were underway to make the live counts publicly available online.

“This will be part of our open data initiative and smart city program.”

Newcastle Cycleways Movement Vice President Peter Lee said it was “exciting times” for cycling in Lake Macquarie, with the Speers Point to Glendale shared pathway “coming along nicely”, and the Fernleigh Awabakal Shared Track (FAST) project poised to get underway.

“These counters will help Council understand the need to invest further in more active transport tracks,” Mr Lee said.

An online community information session providing an update on the FAST project, followed by a live Q&A with Council's project team, will be held from 5.30-7pm on Thursday 5 November. Registrations are essential and can be completed at shape.lakemac.com.au/fast.