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Construction starts on Castlereagh St bike lane but Sydney cyclists dubious

Alia Parker's picture
Construction of the southern section of the Castlereagh bike lane begins. Source: Sydney Cycleways. Cycle Traveller

It's finally happening – construction has started on the southern section of Sydney's Castlereagh Street cycleway, with the separated lane on Liverpool Street also getting the green light to begin work this month. But while cyclists in the city are breathing a collective sigh of relief, concerns still remain about whether the new bike plan will result in a safe and connected cycleway network.

“The Castlereagh Street cycleway will be split into two sections, with the southern section from Liverpool Street to Hay Street being constructed first to provide a much needed link to the Liverpool Street cycleway,” Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) said in a statement.

Human trials

However, it is the northern section of Castlereagh Street between King and Liverpool streets, that has cyclists worried, with the Mike Baird government having already back flipped on an agreement by the Barry O'Farrell government to allow a fully separated bike lane on the street

Under the Baird government's plans, it is believed a trial bike lane will only operate during peak hours, turning into a loading zone outside those hours. Cyclists are concerned about safety issues surrounding the trial, especially given the cycleway will be built on a one-way street.

"Surely there's an alternative way than testing this with humans,” Sophie Bartho, communications director at Bicycle NSW, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"These half-baked, unsafe, disconnected cycleway stubs won't achieve anything but conflict and incidents.”

Sydney's latest bike network plan 2015. Cycle Traveller

Cyclists protest

Highlighting the problems, about 300 cyclists staged a ride-through protest on Sunday in opposition to the Baird government's plans to rip up the College Street cycleway. Despite being just a few years old, heavily used by cyclists and found to have caused no detrimental impact to road traffic, the state government has decided to remove the separated bike lane under its latest transport plan for Sydney.

Under the new plan, cyclists will instead be funnelled down to the new trial part-time bike lane on the northern section of Castlereagh Street.

“It's astounding that we can't even achieve a 'minimum grid' CBD cycleway network," Ms Bartho told the newspaper.

Cyclists vs Pedestrians

Furthermore, the bike lane plans for Liverpool Street revealed by the RMS on Sunday show that cyclists will need to mount the footpath in a shared space with pedestrians at the corners of Kent Street as well as Sussex Street in order to cross the intersection. Those familiar with cycling in Sydney will surely have their doubts as to whether cyclists, and pedestrians for that matter, where consulted before finalising such a bizarre design.

So after years of debate, changed plans and broken promises, Sydney cyclists can at least be consoled that work truly has begun on the southern section of Castlereagh Street, with Liverpool Street not far behind, and that these two sections will be separated bike lanes.

As to whether Sydney will realise the dream of a connected bicycle network – that at one stage seemed so close – riders continue to hold their breath.

Images from top: View of the construction on the southern section of the Castlereagh Street cycleway. Source: Sydney Cycleways. 2. Sydney's latest bike network plan, minus the existing College Street cycleway. Source: RMS.

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