Sydney Fieldwork

Sydney Road Infrastructure Resources and Research

Our Sydney team, working in collaboration with a group of community research members, is investigating how active transport can provide solutions to traffic congestion across Sydney. In thinking about solutions, we also consider the needs of everyday commuters whose working lives rely on Sydney’s road infrastructure.

Below are points of inquiry our community participants have asked us to explore in order to help them better understand the current state of Sydney transport road infrastructure. The information attempts to answer: who uses Sydney’s roads, for what purpose, and what are the impacts of different transition methods towards higher rates of active transport?

This webpage is intended as a resource both to our community research members but also those interested in Sydney road infrastructure more generally. It provides a working account that can inform a transition to higher rates of active transport across Sydney. We will update this page as we go with information from interviews with industry professionals and research gleaned from our community participants over the life of the project.

The first section of this page details the introductory information we gave to community researchers at our first dialogue panel group session in December 2019, and speaks to our working knowledge of traffic congestion in Sydney and the different barriers to active transport we would need to consider.

The Brief:

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  • The Sydney metropolitan area has the worst recorded traffic in Australasia, with commuters needing to budget an extra 51% travel time to get to their destination during peak hours. (Ausroads, ‘Congestion and Reliability Review’, 2018, p. 50)
  • Central Sydney has some of the highest percentages of public transport use in Australia, with 35% of City of Sydney residents using public transport during peak hours, compared to 23% across Greater Sydney (‘City of Sydney: method of travel to work’, 2016).
  • Despite Sydney’s high use of public transport during peak hours, Roads Maritime Services recorded on average 559,000 individual motor-vehicle trips entering in and out of the City of Sydney along major traffic corridors everyday day throughout 2019. Depending on these major roads 3-12% of these recorded trips are heavy vehicles, (4.5 tonnes). These numbers do not record the trips occurring within the boundaries of the City of Sydney area, nor vehicles that travel along smaller back roads (RMS ‘Traffic Volume Viewer’, 2019).
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Australian Cities are Different

Our cities are built differently to those, for example, in Europe or Japan.

These cities have far higher population density with public transport systems that reach a higher percentage of their population more frequently. Trips to supermarkets, schools and work are often far shorter than the distances most Sydney-siders travel. Sydney’s outer suburbs are made up of low population density housing, built with car use in mind (Creating Liveable Cities in Australia, 2018: 3). This form of urban design is not suited to walking. Houses are often built with driveways and public transport access is poor. Only 35% of Sydney households meet the NSW stated targets in relation to their proximity to public transport and the frequency of available services (Creating Liveable Cities in Australia, 2018: 6). The outer suburbs of city were built after the existence of cars and were primarily designed with their use in mind. This differs to cities such as Amsterdam or Tokyo. Their housing and high population density is especially suited to active transport.

This presents unique challenges to Sydney, where cycling or walking are not necessarily ideal for commuters who have to travel upwards of forty kilometres every day. The introduction of E-bikes extends the distance people can travel but this doesn’t suit everyone. A combination of public and active transport may prove one of the most realistic solutions for the efficient use of our motorways; however, this also requires finding creative storage and cartage solutions given multi-modal trips are a likely necessity.

Listening to all our Road Users

A part of this project considers the ongoing need of those whose livelihoods depend on the use of Sydney’s roads. We do not want to provide plans for an extensive cycling network across the City of Sydney, which impedes tradies, delivery drivers or parents in cars with children facing multiple drop-offs before and after school across the city. In order to be both effective and politically tenable, we need to consider the needs of those who do not live in the centre of Sydney, and who travel long distances as a part of their daily commute.

-Getting the voices of truck drivers, uber cyclists and more precarious workers in the room.

We are currently looking to interview truck drivers and are interested in their experiences negotiating pedestrians and cyclists on Sydney’s roads. COVID-19 is presents new challenges for contacting people and conducting interviews. However, when we have this data, we will provide an update here.

December Dialogue Panels- directions for the next two years of research

In December we asked our participants to begin to put together a government submission that provides policy proposals with active transport as a solution to traffic congestion across the City of Sydney. This was the first six monthly panel of a three-year project that provided participants with the chance to direct the research team on points of enquiry and information needed to make informed decisions.

We have provided answers to your questions below:

Q- How many cyclists currently ride through the City of Sydney each day?

Twice a year, cyclists are counted across intersections in the City of Sydney for the entire day. In October 2019 the average count was 640 cyclists for each site in the City of Sydney region. These numbers, including all major thoroughfares, are provided by the City of Sydney here.

The sites that recorded the largest numbers are those at the North, East and North West cycling thoroughfares into the City of Sydney region and also in the CBD centre. The data also demonstrates a substantial upward trend of cyclists riding across the city since 2010, from an average daily count in October of 310 in 2010 to 644 in 2019.  Expressed as a proportion of the population, which was also growing in size in the same period, it is not a substantive increase.

Q- How many people walk through the City of Sydney each day?

Similarly, the City of Sydney provides an interactive map that counts the number of walkers across the city twice a year. This shows different walking patterns to that of cyclists, where numbers are more highly concentrated within the CBD centre. 115 counting sites, 18,000 average walkers per site.

Q- Do the NSW government currently model the impact of new activee transport infrastructure on the flow of trucks and cars into the city?

Current government policy (with the exception of specific stretches of road along WestConnex) does not consider placing major cycling infrastructure along high traffic corridors into and from the city. The NSW government does, however, provide modelling for all transport options, including active transport. The Urban Transport and Congestion 2019 report (page 14) provides details on how traffic flow data and road capacity is used to inform their modelling systems.

The Sydney research team conducted a recent interview with an industry professional and academic, Cole Hendrigan, who has designed active transport infrastructure in Toronto, Canada. Cole suggested that working around (as in, avoiding) major automobile traffic corridors was the best option for designing integrated cycling infrastructure. Investing in parallel cycling routes along less trafficked roads to heavy road traffic corridors is a more efficient, safer and less costly option available to Local and State governments. He also stressed that paint on the road is not cycling infrastructure.

Supplementary documents:

An interactive map of approved roads for VERY large trucks > 19m in length:

Q- What are the percentages of truck drivers compared to privately owned cars that travel to, from and through the city each day? How many of these vehicles transport goods and are considered absolutely necessary for continued use of roads?

An initial appraisal of the Transport NSW traffic volume viewer provides a percentage of heavy vs light vehicles using Sydney’s roads. Percentages of heavy vehicles range from 2-11% of total traffic (Military road, Mosman is the highest—this is a traffic corridor to and from the North Shore and Northern Beaches). Information readily available online does not provide in-depth data with regards to exact numbers of different road vehicles that use Sydney’s roads and who could then transition to active transport. This is information we hope to glean from interviews with transport modellers in the coming months.

Supporting information:

  • Heavy vehicles are defined by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator as over 4.5 tonnes:

Q- Where do truck drivers make their deliveries in the city?

A City of Sydney interactive map lists the number of transactions that occur at delivery truck loading zones in the CBD. Numbers across the CBD range from 200,000 to 250,000 individual transactions each month, 6,666- 8,333 transactions on average each day. The busiest streets are Castlereagh, Clarence, Kent and Elizabeth Street, all within a close radius of one another in the CBD centre.!/vizhome/SydneyCBDLoadingZones/Readme

Q- How many trucks move travel around or through the city without stopping?

We don’t know. If we find out, we will post it here.

Q- How many trucks come into contact (hit bikes) compared to cars?

Statistics concerning percentages of which types of vehicles hit cyclists are difficult to find. Dated data is available from a 2006 Road Safety Report ‘Death of Cyclists Due to Road Crashes’ which details the types of vehicles that caused cycling deaths in the late 90’s on Australian roads. Many of these deaths were where a driver ran into the cyclist from behind on the same lane, both in urban but also on rural roads (9).

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Available NSW statistics on heavy vehicle crashes resulting in death are here. Five cyclists were killed in the State in 2019.

Q- What percentage of private automobile trips in and through the city can be replaced by active transport?

There are a range of government reports that give us a better understanding of the percentages of private automobile use in people’s everyday commutes to work.

The 2016 census notes that 19.9% of residents in the City of Sydney use a private vehicle to commute to work compared to 52.7% of residents across Greater Sydney. These numbers do not include passengers which is a further 2.2% -3.9% of commuters respectively. 09% of commuters were listed as truck drivers and a further 0.7% as motorbike riders. Sydney has the highest percentages of public transport use in the country. The percentage breakdown between public transport and private car commuters, however, differs in this ABS media release on Australian commuter statistics.  These statistics exclude those who either do not work, or work from home and reports that of all people travelling those that use cars make-up 65%.

Q- Which percentage of commuters cannot possibly transition to active transport?

We don’t yet know. But hope to find out soon.

Q- Research into projections for future demographic use of specific forms of public and private transport including future predictions for where people will work

The Australian Infrastructure ‘Urban Transport Crowding and Congestion Report’ lists Sydney’s road and public transport infrastructure at almost full capacity now and predicts that due to population growth it will be stretched far beyond capacity in the next ten years (2019: 34). The report expresses concern about the liveability of the city. Proposed solution is to establish three cities within the one (the 30-minute city plan) where workforces are re-distributed away from city CBD (29). 

Q- What is the cost on congestion to the City?

AustRoads ‘Congestion and Reliability Research Report’ shows that across Australia, the cost of congestion was estimated to be $16.3 billion in 2015 and is projected to grow to approximately $20.4 billion by 2020 (measured in delay cost by lane kilometre) (30). Sydney currently loses a projected 6.6 billion a year from traffic congestion (31).