Last week’s NSW Budget has been met with reserved optimism from some cycling advocacy groups, which have highlighted numerous positive projects but called for a much greater financial commitment from government.
“While there is good pockets of spending here and there, overall it is still not an exemplary year for bike budgeting.”
Bicycle NSW said several outstanding projects promoting walking and cycling that are cause for celebration, but “if the State government is serious about combating climate change and committing to Net Zero, promoting active transport should be just as much a priority as budgeting for regional reconstruction and adaptation.”
Similarly, Bicycle Network says: “While there is good pockets of spending here and there, overall it is still not an exemplary year for bike budgeting.
“It is certainly great to see million-dollar investments being made to improve bike riding but we have to remember the total transport investments for the state are upwards of $76 billion over the next four years.
“Taking the main active transport budget allocations for this fiscal year ($38.5 million total), this is a pitiful 0.2% of the total per annum transport spend. If we are serious about decarbonising transport and kickstarting an actively travelling state, this is not the best way to go about it.”
Sydney Opera House to Parramatta Pathway
The active transport jewel in the 2022-23 NSW Budget is a 91km continuous pathway linking the Sydney Opera House to Parramatta Park.
“The Parramatta to Sydney Foreshore Link would be one of Sydney’s longest and most crucial active transport connections.”
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean said the project, part of a $60 million NSW Government investment, would improve the lives of tens of thousands of people along the Parramatta River.
“This pathway will take in some of our most spectacular sights and unlock the incredible lifestyle and accessibility opportunities the route offers for the benefit of locals and visitors,” he said.
The NSW Minister for Infrastructure, Cities and Active Transport, Rob Stokes, said the Parramatta to Sydney Foreshore Link would be one of Sydney’s longest and most crucial active transport connections, traversing 18 suburbs.
“Since 1811, our city’s prosperity has been propelled by road and rail connections between the settlements of Sydney and Parramatta. This new connection will allow walking and cycling trips to proliferate, making lives easier, healthier and more enjoyable for locals, commuters and visitors for centuries to come.”
A government statement said the 2022-23 Budget allocation would facilitate the next phases of the project, including design of the initial stages identified in the feasibility study, solutions for the remaining inaccessible foreshore sections, and prioritisation of works in consultation with councils.
Other Budget Highlights
The Budget also includes:
- $2 million for the Sutherland Cronulla Active Transport Link (SCATL) – providing separated paths between activity hubs, schools and employment
- $16.2 million for a Harbour Bridge Ramp for improved safety, accessibility and reduced congestion
- A $60 million expansion of connected pathways as part of the Strategic Cycleways Corridor 2022 Plan
- $14.5 million for the NSW Cycling Infrastructure Initiative
- Mulgoa Rd active transport facilities – $266 million over 4 years
- Funding towards the promotion of bicycle riding, education and safety among women and girls to accelerate stronger female participation.
Bicycle NSW also welcomed $236 million for Stage 1 of the Parramatta Light Rail project – along with $602.4 million for Stage 2 over four years.
The organisation was somewhat barbed in its evaluation of the Sydney Opera House to Parramatta Park, suggesting it fell short of the need for effective commuting links for active transport.
“It may not get you to work on time, but a great weekend ride and tourist attraction,” the group says.
Bicycle NSW said other major infrastructure projects “promise a lot but will require some significant follow-up and monitoring from Bicycle NSW and its grassroots Bicycle User Groups”.
“The Westconnex Rozelle Interchange – a $1.2 billion spend – has been described as a nightmare by many locals, with Victoria Road a virtual no-go zone. Bicycle NSW wants to see all bicycle riders able to use this area, as well as effective long-term connections and routes through the interchange,” the organisation says.
“The Great Western Sydney Duplication, a $4.5 billion State and Federally-funded mega project, threatens the Blue Mountains community of Medlow Bath. Bicycle NSW wants to see the incredible tourism and active transport opportunity developed through a tunnel extension under Medlow Bath.”
In response to the announced $111.5 million for Smart Motorways, Bicycle NSW urged caution on Smart Motorways “after seeing challenges in other countries like the UK”.
“Bicycle NSW looks forward to being involved in the detailed consultation and planning,” it said.
“There was not a lot of mention in Budget Paper 3 on active transport infrastructure in the regions. That’s not to say it isn’t occurring in association with other infrastructure projects, but without a separation in the budget papers for active transport it’s difficult to determine to what extent bicycle riding and walking is being prioritised over fossil fuel modes of transport.”
Bicycle Network applauded some additional allocations to active transport, including:
- The Pacific Highway Wyong Town Centre upgrade, which will receive $420 million in 2022-23 and incorporates improved bike and walking facilities
- The $207.4 million Batemans Bay Bridge Replacement, improving connections for riders
- $300,000 to establish a mountain bike park at Glenworth Valley
- $4.5 million to develop the Eden Mountain Bike Hub
- A new Illawarra Mountain Biking Network, part of an $80.4 million bundled fund
Bicycle Network said most States have a track record for underspending on active travel and the organisation did not want to single out the NSW Government.
“But as the transport paradigm shifts towards sustainable forms of travel, as the bike, e-bike, and micromobility markets continue to grow, and as we continue to see a massive ‘near-market’ of people ready to ride but concerned about safety, we need to meet demand with supply,” it said.