Five years ago, one of the most heavily used protected bicycle paths in Australia that had been built at a cost of five million dollars, ripped out by an anti-cycling Roads Minister.
The state was New South Wales, the path was along College Street in the CBD of Sydney and the then Minister for Roads was Duncan Gay, who was part of the Liberal coalition government led by Premier Mike Baird.
The demolition came despite some of the largest cycling protests ever seen and despite the government’s own data revealing that the cycle path was actually more heavily used than one of the five adjacent motor vehicle lanes on what is one of the widest streets in the Sydney CBD.
Fast forward five years and on 18th November 2020 it was announced that not only would this stretch be reinstated but that it would be part of a larger project including Liverpool and Oxford Streets that would total 1.7 kilometres.
The project will cost up to $7 million and be jointly funded by the City of Sydney and the NSW government.
Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore said Oxford, College and Liverpool streets had some of the heaviest bike traffic, and separated cycle lanes would have significant safety benefits and improve urban amenity.
“Cycling numbers have grown significantly over recent years, especially during COVID when many took to cycling for the first time,” she said.
“We want to continue to deliver an alternate safe transport option that ensures equitable access to our roads, increases safety and reduces footpath cycling.”
The council said more than 2000 bike trips were made along Oxford Street every day, making it one of Sydney’s busiest routes.
It also had the most reported bike crashes of any street within the council’s boundaries, and about 10 per cent of riders were resorting to riding on the footpath.
The new cycleway will mean one city-bound motor vehicle lane will be removed from Oxford Street to make space.
Transport for NSW will require a six-month trial of kerbside arrangements on the southern side of Oxford Street to ensure buses can operate effectively.
The City of Sydney will consult the public over the next month on the three cycleways.
Work on the cycleways is scheduled to start in March 2021 and be completed by June 2021.
Amongst some of the unfortunately to be expected negative backlash from some portions of the media has been a questioning of the practicality of bike lanes running down the centre of a road. But there are multiple precedents of this working perfectly well, including possibly the most famous of all Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC stretching from the White House to the Capitol building.
Part of this article was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald