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The people of Sydney have been had by Baird's bike path farce

Alia Parker's picture
Sydney's cyclists enjoying a ride across the Harbour Bridge during the Spring Cycle. Cycle Traveller

OPINION – Mike Baird's NSW State Government's lack of vision is baffling. When the rest of the world's largest cities are turning to protected bicycle lanes to ease congestion, NSW has backflipped once again on developing a separated bicycle path that would allow cyclists to safely traverse Australia's biggest city – Sydney.

Ignoring the research, ignoring safety, ignoring the findings of past tax-payer funded reports, Road's Minister Duncan Gay has come up with the ridiculous idea of having a part-time bike lane on a one-way street, scrapping existing plans to build a two-way separated path on Castlereagh Street, and ordering yet another report into the issue.

As we sit and wait for the report's findings – which will inevitably point out the dangers of such a ludicrous idea – the clock is ticking. Construction of Sydney's new bicycle lane network should have already begun – the majority of works needs to be completed before George Street closes in April for the construction of the new light rail network.

Even if construction of the original plan were to start today, this would allow just over four months for completion. It's quite clear, that's not going to happen.

The farce

The people of Sydney have been had, and we're paying the price in more way than one.

Sydney is about to miss the boat on an opportunity to become a truly wonderful, cosmopolitan people city, and it's painful to watch. People mobility, life on the streets – not vehicle congestion – is at the heart of all the world's greatest cities, and it's something Sydney notoriously lacks.

What's more, the State Government's time wasting is turning out to be very costly, much to the anguish of the City of Sydney Council which has lost money as contractors employed to carry out past plans have wasted time on the sidelines.

One of the biggest planning catastrophes has been the existing College Street bike path, built in 2010, and set to be ripped up following the NSW State Government's previous review as it was deemed to be in the wrong place.

The evidence

The backflip by the Mike Baird government comes despite exponential increases in the number of cyclists commuting to work through Sydney's CBD. Since the opening of the first bike paths (as disconnected as they are), the number of cyclists in Sydney's CBD doubled between 2010 and 2012. The City of Sydney counted 60,000 cyclists in Sydney's CBD in March this year.

Think about it – that's 60,000 trips that were not clogging up the city streets in vehicles or overcrowding public transport.

It's significant, and it's a number that would only increase if Sydney's bicycle paths were to finally connect and allow cyclists to stay off the roads.

It appears the Baird government is ignoring the research and listening to the 'whingers' who hold the bizarre belief that driving cyclists off Sydney's streets will be the best solution for the city's congestion. How an already clogged city with a rapidly growing population can handle any more vehicle traffic is beyond me.

And all this flies in the face of the evidence. As Michael O'Reilly points out in The Sydney Morning Herald,  figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that the existing separated bicycle lane on College Street has had no significant detrimental impact on vehicle traffic during peak hours.

Stand up and lead

As someone who lives and works in Sydney, I have this to say to Premier Mike Baird and Roads Minister Duncan Gay about their ill thought out time-wasting tactics:

The people of Australia are disillusioned with our leaders. You cower to those with a lack of vision and foresight and ignore the facts.

The people are crying out for leaders who will lead, who will inspire and who will commit to their visions, not another political game player who backflips on promises.

You are in a position of responsibility, and you have the power to make our cities best in class.

Get your act together, and don't fail us.

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