Cycling in Sydney Australia
NOTE: Comments on this plan close on 7/8/18.
My comments below:
The City has chosen the bidirectional cycleway as the chief method of implementing its support for city cycling. This has various forms when implemented in wider CBD streets or where motor traffic is one way or where parking has been removed but generally takes the form of a 2.4m wide bidirectional cycleway flanked by the existing footpath on one side and parking, separated by a 0.2m to 0.4m wide raised concrete median, on the other. All this has to fit all this into a standard 12.8m wide street which, in most cases, still has two travel lanes and more parking on the opposite side of the road. An example of this is the planned Wilson Street (Newtown) cycleway.
To fit all this in, travel and parking lanes have to be reduced in width (“lane squeezing"). In Wilson Street, the travel lanes are reduced to 2.9m wide alongside a 2.3m wide parking lane (non cycleway side) or 2.1m (cycleway side). A 2.9m travel lane is less than the width of a standard government bus (3.1m including mirrors) and the minimum lane width for a bus route (3.2m) so prevents a street’s future use as a bus route as buses can not pass each other without colliding with parked cars.
A narrow (2.1m) parking lane will make exiting from a parked car difficult for both passengers and driver. Car widths range from 1.7m (Mazda 2) to 2.1m (Range Rover) and a typical car door extends 0.8m when open, so the outside edge of a car door extends well into the travel lane or cycleway. Door side-swipes and injuries will become more common.
A mother unloading a baby from a child’s seat into a stroller will need to do this from the cycleway side and will need the cycleway to park the stroller. Where are older children liable to wander once unloaded? Clearly this is dangerous for mother, child and the cyclists who would be travelling at speed. There is an illustration in this draft Cycling Action Plan which shows someone alighting from a vehicle onto the median adjacent to a cycleway, however this median is much wider than 400mm, perhaps 1.2m.
The Austroads Cycling Aspects Guide in fact warns against placing cycleways between parking and the curb. Any such cycleway requires a “1.0 m separator (preferably a raised island) to allow for vehicle overhang or opening car doors.”
Bidirectional cycleways result in half the cyclists travelling in the opposite direction to normal traffic flow. Traffic lights on the route need extra phases and the resultant traffic light timings result in ultra-brief green times for cyclists, to allow motor vehicles to make left and right hand turns across the cycleway. This can be seen happening at the Union and King Street cycleways.
Cyclists are unable to easily or safely cross to or from side streets on the opposite side of the road. The 150mm high raised median is an extra barrier. Motor vehicles must turn across the cycleway to exit or enter side streets and may not be looking for cyclists travelling opposite to normal traffic. For the vehicle driver, contraflow cyclists result in yet another thing to check. The solution used by some Councils is to slow cyclist traffic down to pedestrian speed using chicanes and “build-outs”. (e.g. Addison Road (Marrickville) and Lilyfield Road cycleways)
On gradients there is a danger of head-on collisions between cyclists travelling up hill and those travelling down hill at speed.
There is potential conflict between cyclists and pedestrians crossing from pedestrian refuges - pedestrians will not be expecting a rider approaching from their right.
Shared sections of the cycleway at bus stops mix alighting bus passengers with speeding cyclists.
The Bourke Street cycleway features long sections of shared footpath where the RMS has prevented cycleway construction.
Pedestrians lose a sense of security with footpath cycling and can no longer “zone out”. Cyclists travelling the Blackwattle Bay Foreshore shared pedestrian path stand more chance of a collision than when taking the road.
The City has revealed that cyclists, motorised or pedal-powered, will not be the only vehicles using cycleways. “Separated cycleways provide a smoother alternative than footpaths for people with wheelchairs or mobility scooters” (Draft Cycling and Action Plan, page 35).
The narrowed road lane width means that adjacent residents, without a back lane, will likely place their recycling and garbage bins in the cycleway on garbage night.
The stated aim of these cycleways is to increase the number of cycle trips in the inner city from 3.4% currently to 10% in 2030.
Narrow inflexible cycleways will be a problem. In Melbourne, cyclists comprise 17% of peak hour trips (2016) in wider, single direction cycleways and peak hour cyclists now fight each other for space. ( Herald Sun).
There is also a future threat from any cycleway network. When the Government allows self driving cars, the cycleway network may become the only road option allowed for cyclists, in the manner that Bike Lane use is currently compulsory.
Bidirectional cycleways are enormously costly, requiring changes to traffic lights, re-location of pedestrian refuges, signage, lane markings and bus stops and continuous concrete median with street drainage modifications. The 2.5km Lilyfield Road cycleway will cost $2 million (SMH 21/6/17) which works out at $800,000/km.
For cyclists, the bidirectional cycleway represents a restriction on how fast one can get to one’s destination and, because of cost, a inevitable limitation on route availability.
Where there is the option of wider streets, as in new developments such as in Alexandria and Green Square, bidirectional cycleways should never be used. The best option here is a cycleway pair, with cyclists travelling in the conventional direction.
Parking removal is an obvious but politically difficult solution.
One-way streets, shared zones and road closures, particularly those implemented to close down peak hour rat runs, make natural cycle routes.
Other measures to improve the cyclist experience are lowering the general speed limit from 50kph to 40kph, as is the case in the whole of the Balmain peninsula, and “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” signage, now used in the Leichhardt area.
An on-road separated cycleway does not have to be a bidi. There are other cycleway options - the unidirectional cycleway pair and the hybrid system.
This system, pioneered in Leichhardt, is the natural solution for 12.8m wide roads in hilly areas. Because Leichhardt is made up of a succession of creeks with their intervening ridges, most streets are steeply sloped .
Hybrid Lane designs have wide uphill bicycle lanes and mixed traffic downhill where bikes will be travelling almost as fast as the cars. The median line is shifted sideways to suit. At the bottom of a slope, both directions of bike traffic have speed to wash off before the start of the up-hill lane. At crests, a few parking spots are lost to allow space for cyclists to build up speed but usually at crests there is a cross street and hence a 10m No Stopping zone at each corner.
In the rare sections of level ground, along ridge tops or creek valleys, cyclists “ride the line” at the right hand edge of the old marked bike lanes about 1.2m out from the parked cars.
This system allows bike traffic to travel in the direction of the normal traffic flow so no surprises. It minimizes the loss of parking, maximizes the green time for cyclists at traffic lights and avoids special traffic light designs. Pedestrian crossings and bus stops also require no modification. It is cheap, unlikely to provoke local opposition and easily implemented.
Gradually people are realizing the utility of combining folding bicycle (e.g. Brompton, Dahon) and trains, or folding bikes and cars, for dual mode trips.
As a cyclist travels at least three times faster than walking pace, the catchment area of railway stations is increased ten times at both ends of the journey if a folding bike is used.
Use “bicycles excepted” signs to make one-way streets two-way for cyclists.
The Sydney cycling map has become 15% smaller since 2012 which is hard to read for aged presbyopes.
Comments provided by
113 Charles Street,
Bill let me compliment you on this thorough response.
I've always been inclined towards optimism but.
The #1 problem is that the roadspace is taken up with vehicle parking and we are getting nowhere dealing with it. It is just getting worse.
Anecdote #1. In the 1970s I lived in Randle St Newtown (off Wilson St below Hollis Park). I rode up and down Wilson St daily. In those days there was no angled parking in Wilson St and there were not even a lot of cars parked in the regular way. The precinct has not seen a lot of unit building but somehow the public roadway has become a parking place for hundreds of private cars.
Anecdote #2. Last month I toured in Switzerland including in the cities of Zurich, Lucerne and Bern. It is generally the case there that (a) there are safe paths for bikes to ride on the sides of almost every street, and (b) there is generally ZERO parking on either side of any street in Switzerland.
By all means have hard-working, determined and professional people such as those tasked with coming up with these plans. But until we as a city, a state and a country face up to the need to move parking off the public roads (building codes, zoning etc) we'll fail.
In a conversation with a car-owner that lives on Unwins Bridge Rd about this I used their street as an example of how the Swiss would handle it. (a) Zero parking on the roads (b) a bus going up and down Unwins Bridge Rd between Tempe and St Peters with, depending on loop time, at one end a run to Green Sq and back to St Peters and/or at the other end a run to Marrickville St and main Street. (No parking on Marrickville Rd or any of the others), (c) escalators at all the train stations, (d) frequency of 30-40 minutes between buses.
The bike lobby has tried to sound like it is not "anti-car". Fine. But let's be realistic about the parking issue. If the public really wants public parking then let them pay for parking on private land. Just not on the streets please.
A case of a road is a road, not a parking station!
Comments seem to be all about parking.
I agree. A possible way forward would be through Resident Parking Schemes combined with car share cars. Apparently one car share car replaces 10 (or 12?) residents' cars, (City of Sydney figures).
Should I assume that everyone agrees with me about bidirectional cycleways?
Great effort Bill.
I agree with your points regarding bidi paths, but I wonder if they should be grouped (even if some of the points need duplication under different headings).
For example, in my opinion one critical issue with bidis is both pedestrians and motorists not looking both ways when crossing them. You mention this under the heading "pedestrians", but perhaps these dangers should also be highlighted under the heading "bidirectional cycleways".
Perhaps under each heading add some pros and cons?
And if I was to add anything more, one thing I'd suggest some demarcation is necessary so that motorists coming down a side street are actually aware they are about to cross a bidi (or otherwise) cycle path. Right now on Bourke Street anyone new to the area would have no clue. I wrote to CoS about this when the paths were first established, suggesting the paths be green across cross streets - they responded that was against RMS guidelines...
There is plenty of green on Bourke St across Devonshire St!
(Amazing- Check it on Google Streetview)
also on George St at Wellington, so it can be done.
George St bi Di seems to be wider than others, and feels ok to ride on. But probably could have had bike lanes on both sides of the road instead if George St is actually wider than 12.8 m.
Ah yes, I guess 2 out of 100 is not bad :)
I am not a fan of bi-dis. Useful for stretches where you need to move cyclists on one side, but only for that exceptional application.
As for parking, I hate resident parking schemes because they promote entitlement to what is a shared resource. Better to share by way of car share, as suggested, and metering. In turn, meter revenue can be used for infrastructure.
Well written comments I applaud you for taking the time to provide coherent feedback to COS.
I definitely agree that bidirectional cycleways in the manner which are implemented in Sydney are horrible. You've spelled out many of the key reasons but from what I've observed many cyclists don't realise how bad they are compared to good infrastructure. (Sure they are probably better than nothing, but given their cost it seems a crazy approach.)
One nitpik though:
In Melbourne, cyclists comprise 17% of peak hour trips (2016) in wider, single direction cycleways and peak hour cyclists now fight each other for space. ( Herald Sun).
I wouldn't use that tabloid piece as evidence. Cyclists 'fighting' each other is just inflammatory. Also there are probably only a few spots in Melbourne where cyclists can't cross an intersection on the first light change. So you would hardly call that cycle congestion.
I agree with you about bi-directional cycleways (bi-di's).
BUT, I'm quite sure the people who plan and design the bi-di's at the CoS also agree. They're not doing bi-di's because they think they're the best solution, they're doing them because if they proposed a single-direction cycleway on each side of the road it would require removing all parking from the street, and the resultant outraged feedback would mean that no cycleways got built at all.
Bi-di's are a compromise.
You are right.
Though I would hope that the COS starts to move away from the ASAP. As the cycling network grows such compromises on key arterial links should be avoided.
But if you consider the view its either bi-dis or no protected cycling infrastructure then I accept that it is better than none.
As an experienced and confident cyclist I'd prefer decent painted bike lanes over these bi-directionals, but I do recognise that we need to be building for the more timid cyclists and potential cyclists.
That said in general I think the money is better spent on good quality painted bike paths.
Look at Melbourne:
Most of the infrastructure as just on road bike lanes, cheaper far less politically divisive and easier to make plentiful.
Now Melbourne is certainly not the same as Sydney. It isn't apples with apples. It does often have wider streets and it is flatter. But I don't think it is completely different.
The number of simple painted on street bicycle infrastructure is much much greater in Melbourne. The focus has generally been on this first and then the adding in protected routes. (The two green ones in the centre of the CBD, one north, one east west.
(In case anybody's is wondering about the accuracy of these maps. I'm not completely sure. It seems to mark legal bike lanes and not include bike markings that are 'bike lanes' in the legal sense.) Cycleways, and shared paths and protected lanes are marked as offroad infrastructure in green
For those thinking about making comment, the 2018-2030 draft documents (summary and much better detail) are here Cycling Strategy and Action Plan.2018-2030
For historical comparison the previous 2007-2017 plan is Cycle-Strategy and Action Plan 2007-2017
I can't fault the Mayor and council as they have been without doubt the most courageous and visionary on this and many other areas of progressive policy for a long time.
The numbers do though tell a tale of what happens when local government has vision but the State uses every opportunity to frustrate, sabotage and oppose.
2007-2017 target was "Increase the number of bicycle trips made in the City of Sydney, as a percentage of total trips, from less than 2% [actually 1.9%] in 2006 to 5% by 2011, and to 10% by 2016" (note 2016 actual 3.4%)
2018-2030 target is to take the number from 3.4% (2016, other indications is that it has decreased since then) to 10% in 2030.
I will be commenting that they should increase the resources for cycling confidence & skills courses as I wonder what happens with all these potential timid cyclists once they have to leave the protected / separated cycleways which even if the full network is built will only be a small proportion of most people's ride.