By Mark Stapleton, Glebe Society President, 3 September 2020

The Glebe Society understand that the City of Sydney and Transport for NSW are installing new walking and riding connections which have been fast-tracked and more road space will be reserved for cycling as part of its plan to help people move around while physically distancing. This has included rapid installation of trial cycleways on certain routes including Bridge Rd in Glebe and a planned route using part of St Johns Rd through to Broadway.

The City and Transport for NSW each installed three new separated cycleways using barriers, line markings and lane dividers. The first locations include Pyrmont Bridge Rd, Glebe and Pyrmont.

Garbage collection on Bridge Rd (source: YouTube video by John Poczynek)

The Glebe Society has long advocated improved provision of safe cycle paths and integrated transport options for people living, working and visiting in Sydney. However, in this community we find there are serious questions about the implementation of the new ‘pop up’ initiatives.

The recent pop up installations were not preceded by the level of public information and consultation expected by the community. We are interested in how these responsibilities were or are distributed between the City, the Department and the contractor. We have asked the City and State Government when and how notice of the changes was provided to households likely to be affected.

The issues include loss of out of hours parking for some residents but perhaps more importantly the loss of accessibility to services from meals delivery, NDIS services and simple social accessibility.

We understand that the current infrastructure is ‘temporary’ but we are asking what longer term infrastructure would provide for emergency and essential service provider access (eg fire, ambulance and police plus disability and home care and other service provision). Currently the loss of parking spaces outside of peak hour exclusions has a serious impact on local residents. We understand that affected parking spots are currently part-time only (non-clearway times) and time restricted with no exemptions for local permit holders. However, if low level cycleway dividers were used it would enable access by essential service vehicles, such as accessible taxis.

The Bridge Rd cycleway between ‘The Abbey and Ross St on 31 August (photo: Phil Young)

The current approach pits the interests of some of the community’s most vulnerable members against those of cyclists who are doing their bit for the environment and the community. This seems an unnecessary and even absurd polarisation.

Aesthetically, the temporary installation is not at a standard suited to the local environment, especially given that it runs through a number of heritage conservation areas. Therefore, our question is what is the time frame for the transition from temporary to long term cycle ways along Bridge Rd? Many of our members have expressed the view that with the proposed move of the Sydney Fish Market the shift to a permanent cycleway is almost certain. Is that the City and Department’s assumption too?

While we appreciate that responses to the COVID situation are, by definition, an emergency and ‘rushed’ reaction we question the response that establishes cycle paths on both side of Bridge Rd. Approximately 39 parking spaces are removed along the northern side of the cycleway route, and approximately 44 on the southern side. We would argue that either 39 or 44 spaces need not be lost.

In many other parts of the local government area cycleways have been established on one side of a road so that street parking is still available on one side of a street. In Glebe this has not been the case. We see no reason for this.

The Glebe Society always looks for ways to work with agencies to find the best outcomes. In this case it is great that the ‘pop up’ approach provides for flexibility and responsiveness. This is what we are asking for. We agree that a cycleway like this can form an important link between the city centre and the inner west and a safe alternative to bus travel for commuters who would usually use Parramatta Rd bus services. We do not disagree with a reduction in the speed limit to 40km/h along the cycleway corridor. We do not argue with the proposition that bike riding in Sydney has exploded over recent months, as workers and residents look for alternatives to public transport and for safe exercise options. While the City promised fast-tracked temporary footpath widening in areas of high pedestrian activity in the city, and for local businesses in inner-city village centres and along main streets, we see no evidence of this in Glebe. And perhaps this is not the main issue in our community. What we want most of all is an open dialogue about how this initiative can best and safely be delivered.