NEW England’s motorbiking mecca may be reduced to just another route with the introduction of reduced speed limits along the Oxley Highway from Walcha to Port Macquarie.
Its beautiful scenery and challenging corners attracts riders from all over the state, but that could all change with sweeping speed limit reforms by the NSW Roads and Maritime Serives (RMS).
Almost 80km between Walcha and Long Flat will drop from 100km/h to 80km/h, while 27km of the mountain section will go from 100km/h to 70km/h.
A number of reductions on the coastal side of the mountain have already been implemented.
The region’s motorcycle enthusiasts have started a petition to reverse the changes, which has already gained thousands of signatures in just two days.
Tamworth Ulysses branch president Mark Paynter said reducing the speed limit took away the route’s appeal for motorcycle riders.
“Every weekend there are riders who go from the coast and back or vice versa,” Mr Paynter said.
“You reduce the speed limit and it takes the fun out of the mountain. Many riders won't bother now – and that’s going to impact local business that rely on the weekend motorcycle tourist.”
Parliamentary Secretary for Roads and Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson understood why riders loved to travel the route, but said “safety and speed go hand in hand”.
“Reducing the speed limit might take the gloss of the ride, but so will a crash and someone losing their life,” Mr Anderson said.
Mr Paynter was sceptical the changes would improve safety, as there would always be a small minority of riders who “get their ambition and ability mixed up”.
Since 2008 there have been 44 crashes along the road, with 27 involving motorcycles – 75 per cent of crashes were caused by speeding.
The Centre for Road Safety and Roads and Maritime Services carried out a route safety review of the highway in November 2013.
The findings of the review led to recommendations, which included reviewing speed zones and mobile phone coverage to facilitate improved post crash response times.