Does the government have an anti-bike bias?

Posted: July 31, 2013 in Transport
Tags: , ,

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.

The current separated bike path network in the CBD is made up of 3 North/South paths which do not currently connect up, as well as one East/West path which links up to only one of the other paths. Click to enlarge. (Source: Open Street Map)

The current separated bike path network in the CBD is made up of 3 North/South paths which do not currently connect up, as well as one East/West path which links up to only one of the other paths. Click to enlarge. (Source: Open Street Map)

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.

Current and proposed bike paths for City of Sydney. Click to enlarge. (Source: City of Sydney)

Current and proposed bike paths for City of Sydney. Click to enlarge. (Source: City of Sydney)

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.

  1. Sam says:

    The downside of Clover Moore’s bike path building success is that this issue has become incredibly politicised. Not totally sure as to why this is, as this is not as apparent in England but probably partially due to the us vs them, cars vs bike narrative that has arisen locally and been done to death on talk back radio and tabloids. In my view the Liberal Government is not really any worse than Labor previously, especially when Costa was the Roads Minister. The next year or two and a new bike strategy will enable us to better judge them….

  2. Jim says:

    There are problems with bike paths where they do exist. I’ve had personal experience in Penrith of cyclists behaving aggressively towards pedestrians who they think get in their way.
    There is no interest from the various levels of government to enforce what rules do exist. Penrith reduced their bike paths after a legal issue re. insurance etc. Until all this is sorted there won’t be interest from other local government bodies.
    Also there is no incentive to provide these paths when they don’t provide any income. If bike riders paid a registration or similar fee that could be used to provide the needed infrastructure there would be more support.
    I don’t think there should be any exemption re. helmets. I don’t believe it would make a difference as without helmets the insurance would be astronomical, or should be.

  3. shiggyshiggy says:

    I think the bike path down George Street is a terrible idea. It would do so much harm to the potential for a partially pedestrianised George Streets cross street connectivity. I don’t want to stereotype but Sydney cyclists in the city appear to be overwhelmingly male and wear far too much lycra. They go far to fast, and are as bad if not worse in their treatment of pedestrians. We should be increasing pedestrian access in the CBD, not decreasing it. Also, how many cyclists can this (potentially fully realised) network carry per hour, and at what cost(in monetary terms). Is this just an elitist granola eaters taxpayer subsidy, or will this actually create a SUBSTANTIAL AND COST EFFECTIVE form or public transport in THIS CITY?

  4. alister says:

    @shiggyshiggy – Cycle ways are cost effective and high capacity:

  5. shiggyshiggy says:

    @alister- the same arguments were once made for cars. What I spoke of above still stands in relation to pedestrian access and safety.Cyclists in Sydney appear to be as aggressive as motorists in their interactions with pedestrians. Until some way is found to lesson this the creation of a cycleway spine down George Street will be a disaster.

  6. MrV says:


    You are 100% correct. The inner city cycle network needs to be designed so that cyclists don’t act like they are in the downhill mountain stage of the Tour de France.
    Also I would suggest it has been a huge waste of money creating dedicated cycleway. Reason for this is that they are really only utilised in the morning and evening peak, outside of those times they are deserted and it would be more beneficial to have a wider footpath as parts of the CBD footpaths get quite congested with office workers/shoppers etc, – especially those parts where they have decided to squeeze in dedicated cycleway.
    You could still have a dotted line or maybe a tactile cobblestone (or similar) to segregate the pedestrian from cyclist part of the footpath, but have signage to indicate the hours that the cycleway are in dedicated operation, outside of those times it is OK to use as a wider footpath (of course cyclists can still use it at any time).

    My second point is that if you have dedicated cycleway down george st it is going to create all sort of traffic light intersection issues. You will need to have light phases for cars, pedestrians and the tram (when it gets built). To have another light phase for cyclists (esp for RH turns, as exisits in some places at the moment) George st will become a nightmare. If you are going to create dedicated cyclist infrastructure why can’t it run along a parallel st rather then the main street.

    Also I’m wondering if a tax on lycra would be useful to fund some of this infrastructure ….

  7. john c holmes says:

    I live in brisbane and will fail like other two if helmets are forced upon it . Northern beaches no one wears those stupid helmets .they make u look like a fool.bogans dont even wear them.thats telling u something.dont waste your time syd.drop helmet or prepare for same a bogan and I even know that smarten up fools ditch the dicky plastic stack hats.and live wind in hair freedom we are not in north korea

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