From pop-up to permanent: more Sydney cycleways proposed

Andrew Chuter and his daughter Fiona on the Bridge Street, Erskineville pop-up cycleway. Photo: Chris Southwood/City of Sydney/supplied.

By ALEC SMART

The City of Sydney Council is seeking community feedback on creating a number of new cycleways around the inner city, which will “fill missing links in the City’s bike network and make it safer for locals riding to school and to work”, according to an official council statement.

This is in addition to their 20 November proposal for a new 1.7km cycleway in the CBD, part of which – 700 metres along College Street – will follow the exact same route of a cycle path demolished by the NSW Government in January 2016.

The recent Life in Sydney 2020 survey, commissioned by the Committee for Sydney, found a 52 per cent majority of Sydney residents support new cycling lanes across the city.

However, there have been murmurings of dissent across social media that the new cycleways – several of which will follow the 10km of ‘pop-up cycleways’ erected during the Covid-19 lockdown in June – seek to make permanent temporary routes chosen without proper public consultation.

Although the City of Sydney claims the new pop-up bike paths “serve more that 16,000 bicycle trips each week”, some locals, such as Gordon Stevenson – a resident of the Paddington/Surry Hills area adversely affected by the loss of 23 neighbourhood parking bays and lane closures on the Moore Park Road/Fitzroy Street pop-up bike path – have misgivings.

“Residents are most concerned by the precipitous nature of this project, resulting in people only being informed 3-4 days prior to commencement. There seems to have been no invitation to be involved or comment at all,” Stevenson told this journalist when the pop-up paths were installed.

“I rang Transport for NSW – they knew nothing and referred me to RMS – who also knew no information. This project is very unclear and very undemocratic,” he said.

City of Sydney councillor Angela Vithoulkas, of the Small Business Party, echoed his sentiments when she recently told the Sydney Sentinel: “An integrated safe cycleway is a welcome addition to the city, but it’s important to note that our residents and business owners have been severely impacted by poorly executed and unsafe pop-up cycleways recently and will understandably be cautious of this announcement.”  

Decongestion

The Sentinel asked Bastien Wallace, the General Manager, Public Affairs, for safer cycling organisation Bicycle NSW, if she thought implementing pop-up cycleways was a tactic to get the public used to proposed new bike paths, or more likely to annoy people reluctant to accept them.

“Neither,” she replied. “The implementation of the pop-up cycleways without public consultation relates directly to the Covid-19 legislation and the need to decongest public transport to avoid the spread of the virus like we have seen overseas. 

“Sydney and NSW needed to reduce crowding on public transport in order to avoid a London style super-spreading event. The City of Sydney is then carrying out community consultation in order to establish whether the pop-up cycleways should be retained or changed. This provides ample opportunity for people to have their say, but in the meantime greater numbers of people being able to travel safely by bike is helping to keep communities Covid-safe.”

Wallace added: “Bicycle NSW supports moves to provide cycleways and speed reductions that help more people ride their bikes safely in NSW. Most of the pop-up cycleways provided are segments that align with the Principle Bike Network. Nothing is ever without problems, but a lot of the supposed safety concerns trotted out by anti-cycling lobbyists just represent efforts to stop safe cycling.”

Further afield, pop-up cycle paths installed in Erskineville and Alexandria have seen a massive take-up in bicycle usage, while simultaneously calming vehicular traffic. More than 90 per cent of bicycle users surveyed by the City of Sydney reported that they felt safer now they have a separate cycleway, instead of riding among vehicles.

Andrew Chuter, President of Friends of Erskineville, insisted the temporary cycleways through his home suburb have had a positive impact on the whole community, not just cyclists.

“The pop-up cycleways were a really good thing to introduce during Covid to provide alternative and more socially-distancing ways of getting around,” he said.

“You’ve got a lot more people cycling and walking up Bridge Street now and it’s changed the ambience of the area. People are congregating and talking to each other at cafes and parks. It’s a vibrant public space now in a way that perhaps it wasn’t in the past.

“There’s more options for people walking and for kids getting safely to school. My 12-year-old daughter likes to scooter to school and I ride on to work. I like that connection of travelling with her. It’s a really enjoyable way to start the day.”

Matthew Perkins says he and his children have started riding to school more regularly since the pop-ups were built. Photo: Chris Southwood/City of Sydney/supplied.

More info & feedback

For more information – and to give feedback on the proposed Erskineville/Alexandria cycleway connections (until 5pm Monday, 18 December) visit:

www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/proposed-works-maintenance/have-your-say-new-cycling-connections-alexandria-erskineville

For more information – and to give feedback on the new cycleways for Oxford, Liverpool and College streets (again, until 5pm Monday, 18 December) visit:

www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/proposed-works-maintenance/have-your-say-new-cycleways-oxford-liverpool-college-streets

The results will be reported back to Council for consideration.

The City of Sydney-produced Sydney cycling map can be downloaded at:

www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/lists-maps-inventories/sydney-cycling-map

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