Draft Cycling Strategy and draft Cycling Policy

The Draft Cycling Policy, Draft Cycling Strategy and Draft Cycling Strategy: Guidelines for Implementation have closed for public comment.

Over the last 10 years, cycling experiences have evolved in our parks. This increasing demand has resulted in the need for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to review and replace our current Sustainable Mountain Biking Strategy.

The scope of this new strategy is broad. It includes all types of cycling experiences in our parks. It is complemented with a more detailed set of guidelines for implementation and updates to our Cycling policy.

  • The Draft Cycling policy builds upon our experience from previous versions and has been updated in parallel to the draft strategy. It identifies in a legislative framework where cycling is permissible in parks.
  • The Draft Cycling Strategy outlines our vision, objectives and priorities for the provision of cycling experiences.
  • The Draft Cycling Strategy: Guidelines for Implementation provides further details on the processes and procedures that National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) will apply to assess, approve, manage and monitor cycling opportunities within NPWS estate as detailed in the Cycling Strategy.

Public exhibition provided members of the community with the opportunity to have a say in the planning and management directions for cycling experiences on parks across New South Wales. Opportunities to comment closed 30 January 2022.

Cycling in national parks

We provide a variety of cycling experiences across New South Wales, including single track experiences, tracks with technical features, road cycling, cycle paths and management trails. We have over 30,000 kilometres of management trails, which provides shared access to park visitors.

The image below shows the locations of existing cycling experiences in our parks.

Map of cycling experiences locations

To discover more, visit Things to do (cycling) on the NPWS website.

Things to do (cycling)

Why is a new Cycling Strategy being prepared?

Over the last 10 years, the demand for cycling experiences, changes in equipment and desire for a variety of authorised cycling experiences, particularly off-road mountain biking, in our parks has increased.

The draft Cycling Strategy sets a precedent for managing the conservation of natural and cultural heritage values in our parks as a priority and then allows for the development of compatible cycling opportunities. Not all cycling activities will be suitable in all parts of parks.

The draft Cycling Strategy details a clear framework for how we seek to provide for, and manage, cycling opportunities within parks. The processes for cyclists to work with National Parks and Wildlife Service are made clear. We intend to work collaboratively with stakeholders and other land managers to tackle key challenges including, unauthorised tracks, the safety and enjoyment of visitors on multi-use trails and the provision of park visitor facilities.

The draft Guidelines for Implementation address the way we will deliver the Cycling Strategy, including the approval process for new tracks and networks, the rehabilitation of unauthorised tracks, how we will work with external parties (including volunteer groups) and our management of cycling experiences. These documents will replace the Sustainable Mountain Biking Strategy 2011.

Why is the Cycling Policy being revised?

The revised Cycling Policy provides clear guidance and flexibility for minor changes to be made to cycling access in parks in response to environmental, safety or visitor experience issues, without plan of management amendment, while ensuring significant changes are supported by park plans of management.

Key updates have been made to align the Cycling Policy with the Cycling Strategy, including reference to the Australian Mountain Bike Trail Guidelines track difficulty standards and provision of information on the development of cycling opportunities.

How does the strategy support conservation of park natural and cultural heritage values?

Through coordinated planning, assessment and monitoring processes, we will continue to conserve both the natural and cultural values of the parks as a priority. This will be achieved through the use of park zoning, closure and rehabilitation of unauthorised tracks, incorporation of educational learning opportunities into experiences and monitoring track/network performance. The development of any new tracks requires a comprehensive environmental impact assessment.

Does the strategy consider cross tenure collaborations in the development of new cycling experiences?

The Cycling Strategy encourages us to work with other land managers to explore and progress opportunities to enhance cycling experiences and to consider visitor facilities required to support experiences. The suitability assessment in the guidelines provides a method for undertaking a 'landscape view' of opportunities and constraints in a region to assess the suitability of cycling experiences on park.

Can mountain bike riders access management trails (also referred to as fire trails)?

Cycling is supported on management trails in all parks, except for nature reserves and wilderness areas, where it must be specifically permitted in the plan of management. Management trails can be closed to visitors at different times for safety concerns and park management activities, including hazard reduction burns and maintenance works. Closures are communicated through alerts on the NPWS website.

How does the strategy address e-bikes?

The Cycling Strategy and Guideline for implementation refer to e-bikes as power assisted bikes and uses the NSW Vehicle standard definition - track design guidelines provide design standards and safety considerations. Provided they align with the NSW vehicle standard definition – e-bikes are permitted on the same tracks as non-power assisted bicycles.

How are multi-users (e.g. walkers, cyclists, horseriders) considered?

The site suitability and multi-criteria assessments in the Guideline for implementation document considers different users within a park and along tracks. Good communication such as track head signage and track information on the NPWS website will also assist appropriate use of tracks. In addition, user etiquette is highlighted as key to providing good experiences for all users.

How does the strategy interact with plans of management?

Cycling as a visitor activity is enabled in the plan of management for that park. The Cycling Strategy provides park managers with assessment tools for planning cycling experiences at a regional level through the suitability assessment (Guidelines Appendix B). Where considered suitable, details individual track assessments in a park using the multi-criteria assessment tool (Guidelines Appendix C).

How does the strategy help with on-ground compliance?

The strategy provides guidance for coordinated planning, assessment, and intersects with the revised Cycling Policy. On the ground, the strategy recommends improving signage at track heads and investment into the design and maintenance of tracks to provide riders with the opportunity to use authorised networks. Indirectly, the guidelines show clear pathways for community involvement in the development of authorised tracks and the closure and rehabilitation of unauthorised tracks; it also focuses on the continued development of rider etiquette and stewardship.

What if mountain biking is not suitable for a park or within areas of a park?

The strategy provides the tools to help to consider this option through the suitability assessment process (Guidelines Appendix B) and notes that this may be an outcome. The Strategy and Guideline for implementation documents both deliver the key message that not all cycling activities will be suitable in all parks or all parts of parks. Some parks may use zoning to define where certain activities can be undertaken to avoid impacts to sensitive areas or where they may interfere with park management activities.

Why are there so many assessment processes for the development of mountain bike tracks?

The assessment processes outlined in the Guideline for implementation document are designed to ensure that the environment, heritage and visitor experiences are all considered in the planning and development of recreational activities. All new tracks (including walking, horse-riding, and cycling) on park must undergo appropriate environmental assessment processes.

Why is the multi-criteria assessment process so complex?

The multi-criteria assessment considers three criteria related to the protection of park values, the visitor experience, and financial sustainability in the development of a track. Indices that clarify intended outcomes, and a scoring system for each, will ensure consistent assessment of opportunities and should help provide transparency in decision making.

In trials of the process, feedback from our stakeholders has been positive and has also helped ensure its fit for purpose. The multi-criteria assessment process is a scientifically proven process and assists managers to arrive at a balanced outcome that considers all factors equally as required by our statutory obligations.

How will the strategy allow for and manage cycling events?

Not all areas within parks will be suitable for cycling events. The Cycling Strategy refers to the NPWS events, functions and venues policy for further information about holding events on park.

How can I volunteer with National Parks and Wildlife Service in track maintenance and the rehabilitation of closed tracks?

The Cycling Strategy outlines opportunities for people to volunteer in the maintenance of tracks and rehabilitation of closed tracks. The best way to volunteer in your local park is to speak with your local area office and see what opportunities are available. You can contact us through the numbers listed on the NPWS website. Please note that offices may be unattended during government shutdown such as the COVID 19 pandemic and volunteer programs may be suspended.

How does the strategy manage unauthorised tracks?

Unauthorised tracks often proliferate through national parks and can be constructed without due consideration of important environmental or cultural values or user safety.

The Guideline for implementation provides clear pathways for proponents to engage with us to develop authorised cycling experiences on park. The Cycling Strategy recommends that a track audit be undertaken in parks before any new tracks are developed. The closure and rehabilitation of unauthorised tracks form an essential part of our role of conserving and protecting our environment and natural values.

Unauthorised track building is illegal. Compliance programs, including penalties for damaging and clearing native vegetation, earthworks, and bringing in materials for track construction, are also outlined and will continue to be enforced. We will also establish campaigns to encourage greater stewardship and a culture of self-regulation amongst users.

Can I cycle on all tracks in national parks?

You can cycle on tracks that have been identified for cycling in the park plan of management and that are signposted as permitting cycling. You can not cycle on walking tracks.

What we mean by a track is defined in the Cycling Policy. A track is usually narrow and not open to motor vehicles (other than motorised wheelchairs or other mobility devices).

Can I cycle on all management trails in national parks?

You can cycle on all open management trails in NPWS parks and reserves except for those in nature reserves and wilderness areas. Cycling on management trails in nature reserves and wilderness areas is only permitted where it is specifically approved in the reserve plan of management and signposted as such.

What we mean by a management trail is defined in the Cycling Policy. These 'vehicle-width' trails are used by the department for park management activities but are not open to public motor vehicles.

Have the rules changed about where you can ride bicycles in national parks and other reserves?

The rules are the same. The policy has just been revised to make them easier to understand.

Are electric bikes allowed everywhere regular bicycles are?

Yes, provided your electric bike aligns with NSW Road Rules.

How does NPWS open up new cycling opportunities?

Any new cycling opportunities in NPWS parks and reserves will need to align with the Cycling Policy, the Cycling Strategy and Guidelines for implementation and be consistent with the park plan of management. They will also be subject to an environmental impact assessment.

Can I ride off-track through the bush in national parks?

No. However, there may be some unique circumstances when off-track cycling may be permitted, such as beach or snow cycling, but only with consent from National Parks and Wildlife Service and only for one-off or short periods. Any proposal for this sort of activity would be subject to environmental assessment and be tightly controlled.