Sydney lobbyists call for post-COVID cycling infrastructure boom

Cycling in the news 18 April to 24 April, 2020.

Lobbying group Committee for Sydney has urged planning authorities to embrace the COVID-19 recovery period as a unique opportunity to accelerate the rollout of 5000km of cycling infrastructure in the Greater Sydney area. The group argues that Sydney invests comparatively little on cycling infrastructure compared to major cities worldwide, and that spending on infrastructure now could act as a much-needed stimulus for the struggling economy.

“Many of the challenges of construction are minimised right now—the disruption that building cycle lanes will cause to traffic will be less and there are fewer vehicles on the road,” a public statement by the Committee said.

The group argue that many small projects distributed throughout Sydney could mean the benefits of public spending would flow to local businesses and smaller firms engaged in the construction.

“Cycling infrastructure projects deliver more jobs per dollar than other transport infrastructure—at an average of 11 jobs per $1 million AUD”.

Their proposal also suggests that Transport for NSW should re-allocate existing road space to cycling.

If accepted, the Committee for Sydney’s proposal would bring Sydney in line with other cities around the world that have moved to expand access for cyclists and pedestrians in the wake of COVID-19, some with the intent that the infrastructure become permanent after the crisis abates.

This week the city of Paris committed to expanding its bike network to include 650km of cycleways, with Mayor Anne Hidalgo saying that the city would be “cycle-friendly” by 2024.

The potential post-COVID boom could be aided by a sudden increase in community support from Sydneysiders taking to two-wheels to exercise during the lockdown. As The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Sunday, bicycle retailers across the city were seeing a spike in demand for bikes and accessories, with some reporting difficulty keeping bikes in stock.

Repairers have also been inundated with work as clients bring in bikes long stored away in back sheds and driveways. As one store owner told The Herald, “there is a new community of riders that is developing […] the hours that we’re spending in the workshop, and the amount of bikes that we’re pushing through reflects that as well.”

Small projects distributed over a wide area could play a key role in preparing the community for a less car-dependent Sydney, however such projects still face political and community-based opposition. On Thursday, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that $20 million had been earmarked for infrastructure projects in the inner west including a 20-km stretch of pedestrian and bike links.

The new cycle infrastructure includes shared paths along Dot Lane, between Norton Street, Balmain Road and Hay Street in Leichhardt, as well as a dedicated bike path on Pyrmont Bridge Road between Mallet Street and Paramatta Road in Annandale. While being welcomed by some, many social media users reacted to the announcement with pessimism, arguing that bikeways were a waste of money, would be unused and that cyclists would continue to use footpaths illegally.

In other cycling news, The Advertiser reported last week that the Onkaparinga Council was beginning the planning process for a $6.1 million cycleway in the wine growing region south of McLaren Vale. The cycleway is intended to extend the Coast to Vines Rail Trail from the town of Willunga to the Aldinga coast.

According to Mirage News, a bikeway connecting the Bendigo campus of Latrobe University and Bendigo South East College is nearing completion. In a press release, City Engineering Manager Brett Martini said that cycling was a growing form of transport within the city and that there was a clear improvement in safety with the construction of the fully separated bikeway. The project includes sections bikeway that are constructed between the kerb and the parking lane.

One cyclist has been killed and a number of others injured on roads this week.

On Wednesday, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that a cyclist had been hit and killed by a truck in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. The collision occurred in the early hours of the morning and emergency services were called to the scene. The cyclist died at the scene. Police have yet to reveal further information about the incident.

In East Brisbane a cyclist was taken to hospital after being hit by a car pulling out of a driveway near the corner of Norman and Stanley Streets. The Courier Mail reported a local witness who said he was confused as to why the cyclist was taken to hospital as the collision appeared to be a minor one.

A Melbourne man is in hospital in critical condition after being hit by a car while cycling on Langhorne Street in Dandenong. The Age reported that police were searching for the driver of a silver Holden Astra that was seen fleeing the scene shortly after the incident. It is believed to have been a hit-and-run.

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