Riding for Better Streets

Sydney, NSW

The Better Streets Coalition held community action rides in Sydney and Wollongong last weekend, ahead of the NSW State election on Saturday 25th March, to ask candidates to support the recently formed lobby group’s five key asks.

On Saturday 4th March, Better Streets founder Megan Sharkey addressed more than 100 participants gathered at Circular Quay before they rode four kilometres through the length of Sydney’s CBD and finished at a park just south of Central Station.

After beginning with an Acknowledgement of Country, the US ex-patriot Megan told the crowd:

“When I first came to Australia and was learning about the Aboriginal population, something that really struck me that is relevant to here is the idea of a walkabout. The idea that it’s a way to transition from adolescence to adulthood.

“It’s part of this idea of the right, the fundamental right, to walk. It’s one of the first things as children, that nearly everyone does. It’s a major milestone. This idea, that you should have the right to walk, anywhere, everywhere, anytime.

“And yet over the past hundred years, we’ve effectively eroded that right. We’ve chipped away and divided it and made it much more difficult for our children to actually have the ability to go anywhere. To walk. To go to new places, to learn, to grow and to motivate.

“And that’s what Better Streets is about. It’s about giving us back the right to walk. It’s about allowing our children the right to grow, the right to be independent, the right to move around safely.

“Better Streets is a coalition that is demanding the things that we should be able to do. That is the right to walk. That’s the right to be able to go anywhere, everywhere, safely.

“At the current rate of change, it will be hundreds of years before our children are actually able to cycle anywhere safely, to walk anywhere safely. And that’s just not good enough.

“That’s what’s Better Streets is founded on. Together, as a coalition, a diverse group of organisations can take back that right that we can go anywhere, everywhere safely. That our children can ride their bikes to school. That they can walk across the street and we don’t have to worry about them getting hit by a vehicle. We won’t have to worry that they won’t get to where they need to go.

Cyclists riding on protected bicycle path
The group rode along the newly rebuilt College Street protected bike path, that was first built by the City of Sydney in 2010 but, despite carrying more than 2,000 riders per day, was ripped out by the then NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay in 2015. It was rebuilt in 2022 and will be officially reopened on 16th March 2023.

“Better Streets is fundamentally about bringing people together so that we can go further faster together now.”

Megan went on to outline the five key asks of Better Streets:

  • 75% of children walk, cycle, scoot or take public transport to school daily
  • enable kids to be safe and independent by adopting 30kmh speeds for all local residential streets, and urban centres
  • build 1,000 kilometres of connected, safe and direct routes per year for people riding bicycles and other micromobility
  • improve and expand beautiful streetscapes for local business
  • build 2,560 pedestrian crossings per year

She then asked the assembled audience: “How are we going to do that? You are! We now have a wonderful army together. Whether you’re part of a cycling group or a walking group or part of a P&C (parents and citizens) committee or part of a business or a health group. Whoever you are, if you want better streets, we want to welcome you in, because we can’t do it alone. We have to do it together.

“And that’s why Better Streets is a coalition. We are not a particular organisation, we are a coalition of diverse groups. If we can pull together, we can get a thousand organisations, which is hundreds of thousands of people, then we can actually demand the social and political change that we need to create the infrastructure and policy changes. It’s very difficult to argue with. Our key asks are something very tangible.

“We are really looking forward to growing this movement, not just in Sydney but across NSW and across Australia at the local, State and Federal levels.”

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