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State Government Moves to Rip Up College Street Cycleway

Is this goodbye to one of the safest routes through CBD chaos?
By Tom Clift
February 06, 2015
By Tom Clift
February 06, 2015

Sydney's cyclists will be out in force this Sunday, in order to protest the State Government's plans to rip up the College Street cycleway. The protest comes after months of uncertainty regarding the fate of the separated bike lane, which currently runs along the eastern edge of Hyde Park, connecting Macquarie Street and Oxford Street, and is used by more than 2000 riders each weekday.

Plans to scrap the dedicated lane were first announced by Roads Minister Duncan Gay back in September 2013, as part of the Sydney City Centre Access Strategy. The strategy proposes additional bike lanes in the CBD, with the College Street cycleway originally meant to be replaced with a similar cycleway along Castlereagh Street — so cyclists wouldn't be without their own blocked-off CBD highway.

However, Sydney cyclists appear to be a little short-changed. It's now apparent the Castlereagh route will only function as a dedicated bike lane during certain hours of the day. In October 2014, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Castlereagh route will service cyclists between 6am-10am and 3pm-8pm, but will be accessible as a loading zone outside of these times. This means avoiding parked trucks and merging into heavy traffic for cyclists.

While precise details on the Government's plans are scarce, presumably this means that the Castlereagh lane will only be separated by painted lines, as opposed to a permanent traffic barrier as seen on the cycleway in College Street. The plan to scrap the College Street cycleway has already been questioned by cycling body Bicycle NSW, with a spokesperson from the group citing safety concerns.

The 'Save College Street Cycleway' group is also concerned that the Castle Street cycleway will be decommissioned before the Castlereagh cycleway is ready. Organiser Rob Berry thinks with all the data the State Government has on the cycleway, the numbers aren't really adding up.

"The State Government has a lot of data on the efficacy of the cycleway," he says. "They know that the cycleway takes up twenty percent of the space of the roadway, and they also know that it takes twenty percent of the commuter load during peak hour. So it's pulling its weight in terms of moving people around, and those numbers are only getting better and better each week ... They also know that at every road where they’ve put a cycleway, the injury rate has halved."

In order to protest the Government's decision, Berry and hundreds of other concerned cyclists plan to ride the College Street cycleway at 4pm on Sunday, February 8. "We want to show that we can fill up this cycleway," says Berry. "We’re going to have hundreds of people, and we’re going to fill every single metre of this cycleway, and show that it’s a piece of infrastructure that people care about, and people use, and that we’re not just going to sit back and let it go."

Transport for NSW is adamant cyclists won't be without a CBD cycleway. A Transport for NSW spokesperson told us, "The removal of the College Street cycleway will be completed when the Hay Street to Park Street section of the Castlereagh Street cycleway is completed."

Minister Gay has previously described himself as "the biggest bike lane sceptic in the government" but has also conceded that "even the sceptics have to accept we need a proper network to be laid down."

"It’s not just an issue about cycling," says Berry. "It’s about what kind of city we want. What do we want to prioritise? I believe that we want to prioritise people. If we’re talking about increased demand on limited space, a city that prioritises moving people around in these more sustainable and active ways is going to be a lot better than a city that prioritises moving private motor vehicles."

Published on February 06, 2015 by Tom Clift
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