It’s not just die-hard racing fans that are making Wollongong an exciting place to be this week.
Over the weekend, enthusiastic weekend bike riders were joined by families and groups of friends all keen to soak up the action that marked the start of the UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong.
The city’s retailers, restaurants and bars were open, and there was feeling of anticipation around the foreshore area. Whether it was participating in the Wollongong 2022 Community Ride on Saturday, lining the street barriers across the city and cheering on the riders and their crews as they flew past on Sunday, or checking out the Spin Fest activities in the Mall and surrounds, there was something for everyone.
“What I want to say to those who are concerned about coming into Wollongong for fear of large crowds or difficulty finding a park is, don’t be. Parking is available, public transport is running and there is a real and tangible atmosphere in the city at the moment and it would be such a shame for people to miss out on that,” Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM said.
“Standing on lower Crown Street yesterday it was wonderful watching the families, couples and friends standing on the side of the road whooping and cheering as the riders came past at such incredible speeds.
“There is plenty of room for people to move about and apart for some really coveted spots like on the start line, you’re not shoulder-to-shoulder with other people.
“In talking to community members as I moved around, it was clear people were really engaged in the event and enjoying being part of something that is so exciting for our city.”
Cr Bradbery said that while 300,000 people were expected to cheer on the world’s elite cyclists, they were not going to all be in the city on one day.
“We’re not talking about feeling mobbed and like you’re in a crowd of people like at the Royal Easter Show or at a football grand final,” he said.
“The 300,000 people are over the nine days, with the final day of racing next Sunday expected to be the most popular with 50,000 to 75,000 people spread out across the 70-plus km course. There is plenty of room for everyone to have their bit of space on the course and enjoy the speed and skill of these riders.”
Cr Bradbery said one of the things he is hearing is how people were surprised how easy it was to get into the city.
“There has been a lot of information go out into the community asking people to plan ahead but that doesn’t mean you can’t move around. You just need to consider whether your favourite routes are the best option,” he said.
“Those people saying Memorial Drive or M1 are closed are wrong. Until next Saturday they are not affected by traffic changes at all. If you’re travelling to Wollongong from anywhere north of Fairy Meadow, once you’re on Memorial Drive, you follow it through to Masters Road and come into the city from the south.
“It’s easy, and there are plenty of parking options available. Plus, the shops, restaurants and bars are all open for business and there are a range of exhibitions, markets and live performances as part of the Spin Fest program. It’s a great time to be in the city regardless of whether or not you’re into bike riding.”
Wollongong City Council General Manager Greg Doyle said he was really pleased the way the first few days of the event had run, and the broadcast was capturing some of Wollongong’s highlights in a really exciting way.
“The city is looking great and we’ve staff on the ground keeping it in tip-top shape right across this week,” he said.
“We’re used to dealing with lots of people along our foreshore areas over summer and have plans in place each year to manage litter, and public amenities. We’ve just upped the ante for this event and we’re seeing the city shine as a result.”