VIDEO: Bicycle Rush Hour Utrecht (Netherlands) III, markenlei
While the state government has put public transport front and centre, with new projects like the North West Rail Link and South East Light Rail Line, its support for bicycles remains less enthused. Even in the 2011 election campaign, then Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell joked that if Sydney Lord Mayor had been in charge of building the Harbour Bridge then the bike paths would have probably met up, ridiculing what he saw as Ms Moore’s overly keen stance on bike infrastructure.
Mr O’Farrell, now the Premier, is backed up by Roads Minister Duncan Gay. Mr Gay has complained about the College St bike path, despite the fact that the RTA (now RMS) is of the view that College St was a preferred location for a bike path and that no traffic lanes were removed in order to create it (Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 20 August 2012). Mr Gay has also squashed any hope that a potential future bike hire scheme in Sydney could be exempted from the compulsory helmet laws, making it far less likely that such a scheme would succeed.
But it’s not just the Roads Minister that has put up obstacles to improving bike access. The Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian dropped the Greenway, a shared pedestrian and bike path in the Inner West, that was to go alongside the light rail extension to Dulwich Hill. Cost savings no doubt contributed to this decision, but the government’s budget shines a light on its priorities. Indeed, when the minister in the state cabinet who has been a strong advocate of public transport shows little interest in progressing such a project, it shows that this mode of transport has few friends in Macquarie St.
So when news emerged recently that the government was considering a new bike path along a pedestrianised George St, it’s difficult to give this the benefit of doubt. The Central Sydney Traffic and Transport Committee, created by the state government after the 2011 election and required to approve any new bike paths in the CBD, has stalled any new bike paths in the CBD since that date. This has meant that the existing paths have not been able to be linked up, improving connectivity for bike riders going from one part of the CBD to another.
Doing this with a new bike path along George St would achieve this. But in light of past experience, this may well just be another stalling tactic by a government that is just not interested in promoting cycling.