Plan to Reclaim 800 km of Sydney Roads for People

The architects behind the redesign of Central Station want to take 100,000 cars off the road by transforming Sydney’s residential streets from asphalt into green space.

In an analysis of 11 inner Sydney local government areas, global architecture firm Woods Bagot says up to 800km of lesser-used roads could be replaced with pedestrian networks, community spaces and market gardens.

John Prentice, who is leading the firm’s team in refurbishing Central Station to better link it with surrounding precincts, said the position taken by his organisation in its Streets Ahead paper was part of a connected idea to change people’s perception and use of transport as commuting habits evolve during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For a long time now we’ve designed our streets to be dominated by the car. We looked at this as an opportunity to say, ‘what if we looked at our streets differently?’” he said.

“Ultimately, it’s this idea of giving back the streets to the people.”

The analysis, undertaken by planning consultancy ERA-Co, found de-paving quiet streets within 800 metres of major public transport stops could transform about a third of the city’s streetscapes, taking 100,000 cars off the road.

The report produced by the firm and consultancy says streets targeted would be those that were rarely used by traffic and were back alleys or became one-way routes.

More than 500,000 Sydneysiders would also be put within 300 metres of new green space.

Mr Prentice acknowledged it was a ‘bold approach’ that relied on transport options meeting the needs of the community but said recent work-from-home behaviours showed the need for cars had diminished, peak public transport times could be offset, and e-bikes and scooters had a role to play.

NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Rob Stokes, said any opportunity to promote greener neighbourhoods and active transport options, such as walking, was worth looking at, and the government’s $15 million ‘Streets as Shared Spaces’ program was already producing localised results.

“The benefits of green, open space and shaded streets to our health and well-being cannot be underestimated,” he said.

>> You can download the Woods Bagot ‘The Streets Ahead Report’ here.

A longer version of this article was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

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