Once again the NSW government has gone back on its word, this time in regards to implementing a separated cycleway network in the Sydney CBD.
After having devised a new transport master plan for the Sydney CBD, reports have emerged that the self- described “biggest bike lane sceptic in the government”, the Minister for Roads – Duncan Gay, has decided to install a “peak hour only” (6am-10am & 3pm-8pm) cycle path along the Castlereagh Street route. The decision to trial this new concept has been made after a campaign by headed by conservative activist Jai Martinkovits, who complained that loading zones had disappeared under the proposed cycleway plans.
This campaign, Save Our Street, claims that the cycleway is a decision of the Lord Mayor Clover Moore, a well known cycling advocate. While the Lord Mayor has in fact worked with the appropriate authorities such as the Roads & Maritime Service (formerly RTA) to implement a select amount of cycleways, the campaign incorrectly attributes the Castlereagh cycleway route to the Lord Mayor. In fact, the new transport master plan, drawn up when plans for the George St light rail line and pedestrian mall were announced, included a cycleway network, determined by the State government’s own transport bodies. To run a personal attack campaign on the Lord Mayor for this cycleway route conveniently forgets this fact – though when have conservative-based campaigns ever sticked to the truth?
In any case, precisely how such a “peak hour only” cycle path works in practice is unclear. Presumably, there would be no car safety barrier – as per the other cycleways that have been installed, meaning that it is likely to be just a painted lane on the road.
How cyclists and drivers will be able to understand a unique time-based application of one particular cycleway within the Sydney CBD cycling network is also unknown. Any rational person would suspect the trial will show many problems in regards to cyclist safety and aggressive road user behaviour between cyclists & motorists, as users try to understand the new bizarre traffic conditions this trial will impose.
Many questions of course start to be raised when you start to think about the practical application of this concept.
Will vehicles be fined and towed when parked in the cycle path during peak hours, or will cyclists just have to divert their travel and ride in the peak hour traffic? (In doing so, any safety benefit is automatically negated.) Will cyclists be fined for not travelling on the dedicated cycle path during “peak hours”, even though there are cars and delivery trucks obstructing the way?
The point of course of the separated cycleway network is to provide a safe experience for cyclists of all ages and abilities. By forcing cyclists to share the CBD roads in “off peak” times, it would mean children, elderly riders and any other cyclist that may not confident to ride in city traffic, have no choice but either ride in the city traffic, or waste time and energy by heading to the north of the CBD to Kent Street to travel east/west in the city. This is a huge disincentive to encouraging the use of the very network the State Government is trying to install.
Considering the confusion and angst that has already been created around this revised cycleway, Minister Duncan Gay must immediately withdraw his decision to rip up the popular College Street cycleway, the only cycleway running east/west on the southern side of the CBD, until a final decision on the Castlereagh Street cycleway is completed.