By Allan Hogan, Editor, Bulletin 1/2023 March 2023

As reported in the November 2022 issue of the Bulletin, the City Council called for submissions on its plan to allow cyclists to travel on some roads in an opposite direction to a one-way traffic sign.   In response to our members’ concerns the Glebe Society made a detailed submission that opposed the plan for 10 of the 15 proposed streets in Glebe and Forest Lodge.  On 16 February the Council approved the plan for all of the proposed streets.

In response to its request for submissions on ‘Contra-flow Bicycle Access in One-Way Streets’ (in all areas of the LGA), the City Council received comments made by 337 people and four groups.  On 16 February the Council approved the change for all of the 158 one-way Streets under consideration.

The intersection of Avon St and Forsyth St – Image: Google Maps

In its submission the Glebe Society argued that 10 of the proposed 15 Streets in the 2037 postcode were unsuitable.  For example, the Society submitted that the proposed change for Avon St (Forsyth St to Ferry Rd) was unsuitable because ‘the street is only about 7 metres wide and has car parking on both sides – about 4 metres after allowing for the width of parked vehicles’. The Council’s response was ‘Avon St is 7m (wide) which is wide enough for passing’.

With regard to the plan for Charles St (Cross St to Ross St) the Society submitted: ‘Charles St is very narrow, and the only way you could fit in a bike lane, would be to abolish Street parking completely. There are 41 dwellings in the Street, of which only nine have off-street parking accessible from Charles St itself.’  The Council’s response? ‘Charles St is wide enough for passing, ranging between 5.89m, 5.21m, and 6.24m wide, with just one lane of parking’.

Charles St looking towards Cross St – Image Google Maps

The Society submitted that the Leichhardt St (Leichhardt St to Mary St) proposal ‘(was) entirely unsuitable for cars and trucks going one way and bikes the other. Two reasons; the roads are narrow; the bikes presumably would have to pull to the side probably between parked cars; and secondly there are several 90 degree turns. It’s OK to navigate these if everyone is going in the same direction, but they would turn into blind corners if bikes were going in the opposite direction.’  The Council’s reply? ‘There is no two-way cycleway proposed’.  Well that really wasn’t the point.

The four groups who made submissions were Bicycle NSW, the Glebe Society, BikEast, and the Paddington-Darlinghurst Community Group.  Bicycle NSW submitted ‘There is sometimes community concern that streets are too narrow to allow a bicycle to safely pass a moving car.

Leichhardt St looking east – Image: Google Maps

However, there is robust evidence of positive outcome from legalising contraflow cycling on narrower roads. For example, in Brussels 43% of streets with contraflow authorised have less than 3.5m width and no negative impact on safety has been identified.’  Maybe the principle is that if you make something more dangerous, people take more care.

Perhaps what needs to be added here is that in August last year Brussels introduced a plan that bans through traffic from the city centre whenever it’s not a driver’s final destination.  Studies showed that one third of the car traffic in the city centre was through-traffic. The intention was to direct traffic that does not necessarily have to be in the neighbourhood via the roads outside it to its destination or to one of the public car parks.  Now there’s a brave move, Clover!!  Although it must be said that banning traffic moving through postcode 2037 because it’s not a driver’s final destination would not only be extremely unpopular, but impossible to enforce.

Source: TfNSW Technical Direction Traffic Management and Road Safety Practice 2014

Getting back to Sydney and the City Council’s plans, the Paddington-Darlinghurst Community Group submitted: ‘Our members are apprehensive about these proposed changes. Currently bike riders already use all of our footpaths (whether shared or not), all roadways and laneways (whether one-way or not) as well as dedicated bike paths. They do this whether it is legal or not. Now it appears the Council is proposing to formalise an activity they have encouraged. We do not need bikes (including electric bikes, electric scooters and electric skateboards) on one way traffic streets going the wrong way. Conventionally powered and electric bikes/scooters/skateboards have top speeds approaching 50km/h. Is the Council seriously suggesting that vehicles of this type can traverse our streets up to this speed going the wrong way? We simply ask that the Council apply common sense and the standing rules of the road to all vehicles, including bikes. We want bike riding to be safe – for pedestrians, motorists and importantly for the bike riders themselves’.

It will be interesting to see what the cost of the new signposting will be.

The full Council report can be found here.