Bulletin 9/2022, November 2022

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said in a Sydney City Council meeting in July 2020 that anyone who objected to the installation of temporary cycleways in the inner city ‘doesn’t care about saving lives’. According to the SMH, the statement drew an audible ‘whoah’ from the Council, while Councillor Kerryn Phelps labelled it ‘outrageous’. Unabashed, the Lord Mayor said the pop-up cycleways (introduced during the COVID outbreak) were an important health measure that would also serve to reduce congestion.

Manouevering around a garbage truck on Bridge Rd (Photo: 2GB)

Of particular concern to Glebe residents is the cycleway in Bridge Rd which was the subject of a front-page story in the Bulletin in May (no 3 of 2022). The article drew attention to the safety and access issues which made the cycleway dangerous for cyclists, pedestrians, motorists and residents.

An independent safety audit of the cycleway found it contained multiple risks of serious injury or death. The audit by the Road accident experts Traffic Engineering Centre identified 26 safety issues, including several dangers that were so serious that the risk to Road users was ‘intolerable’.

Councillor Yvonne Weldon recently posted on Facebook that the cycleway is a ‘disaster’. She wrote ‘The ad hoc layout, with sporadic and unmarked transitions between separate and shared lanes is dangerous. Many of the cheap dividers have been flattened and are sprawled across the street. Residents no longer have vehicle access to their homes which has particularly impacted those with limited mobility. There aren’t any stopping bays meaning rubbish collections, deliveries and bus pick-ups now cause traffic chaos.’

The Glebe Society wrote to the Transport Minister in April this year asking him to defer the decision to make the cycleway permanent. We asked that he look at all options for delivering a safe cycleway including better alternatives to a narrow arterial Rd where the cycleway merges with traffic. No reply was received.

It now seems debatable whether the cycleway is temporary. A ‘prescribed period’ for the temporary cycleway was determined by ministerial order, and that period came to an end in March.  A Sydney barrister, Mark Fozzard, has written an opinion at the request of a Bridge Rd resident which concludes the cycleway has been in place unlawfully since the start of June.

According to the SMH, Transport Minister Rob Stokes said the expired public health order had been replaced by a Review of Environmental Factors finalised on March 28, which ‘enables the cycleway to remain in place [legally] before permanent improvements are adopted’. A spokesperson for Transport for NSW added that work on the permanent Bridge Rd cycleway would begin in coming weeks.

A cyclist on the Bridge Rd ‘temporary’ cycleway (Photo: Rhett Wyman)

It would seem the Minister has no interest in community opinion on the issue.

Now the City Council has another plan for cycleways which will definitely not be temporary. Put simply, it means that cyclists will be allowed to disregard the one-way regulation in some streets in Glebe and Forest Lodge. Some of us will remember the old joke about the motorist who was pulled up by a cop for going the wrong way in a one-way street. ‘But officer,’ he said, ‘I was only going one way.’

The Council has already made these changes to around 40 one-way streets across the city and says they’ve proven to be safe and effective. ‘Our planned changes will make it easier for people riding (bikes) to avoid busy roads and make trips on quiet, low-traffic streets,’ says the Council on its website, which details the proposed new streets. In what seems to be a statement of the obvious the Council says, ‘When two-way bike traffic is introduced, people riding and driving must keep to the left-hand side of the Rd. If the Rd is narrow, one party will need to pull over to allow the other to pass safely.’ Of course, but why create this problem? It adds to the perception that cyclists don’t have to obey the Road rules.

In response to a request for comments on the issue, members wrote to the President with their concerns about the plan.  This was one comment about problems specific to a particular street:

In my opinion the Leichhardt St/Oxley Street/Stewart Street loop is entirely unsuitable for cars and trucks going one way and bikes the other. Two reasons; the Rds 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. I just wonder if the proposer of this idea has actually travelled down these streets and had a bit of a think about how it would work (or not work) before they suggested this idea.

The period for public consultation on the issue closed on 29 September and the Society made a submission pointing out that the Bridge Rd experience highlighted the importance that thorough and proper consideration be given to new cycleways.  The President wrote ‘We have examined the 15 streets considered in Glebe and Forest Lodge for the two-way cycle paths. We find that 10 of the streets are unsuitable, one we believe to be unnecessary and four have potential and warrant further investigation.’  

The Glebe Society is strongly in favour of safe cycleways, for many obvious reasons, but their design and construction should be driven by practicality not ideology.

Bridge Rd resident Di Anstey writes:

I was recently invited to meet with Transport for NSW representatives for an update on the Bridge Rd cycleway. At the meeting I was told ‘the decision has been made; it will become permanent’. I asked why St John’s Rd had been rejected and was told ‘it’s not a direct route’. The Transport for NSW representatives claimed the cycleway was well used but were unable to provide any data.

Glebe resident Di Anstey and her neighbours on Bridge Rd. (Image: Renee Nowytarger SMH)

I pointed out the unsafe nature of the cycleway but as there was no safety expert in attendance, the safety issues couldn’t be addressed. I spoke about further Community Consultation when the design is finalised and was told that the online survey conducted in March 2021 is the only community consultation which will be undertaken. I made it clear that this not acceptable and that full and proper community consultation must be undertaken and a design exhibited.

Previous information provided by Transport for NSW stated they would be looking at ‘parking bays’ to enable deliveries to residents on Bridge Rd, most of whom have no rear access. In February 2021 the City Council recommended Transport for NSW provide that some parking spaces in Cross, Foss, Clare and Woolley Sts be converted to 15 minute parking 8am to 10pm, 7 days a week to enable deliveries.

At the meeting I stated strongly that this scheme is not acceptable for a variety of reasons. It does not and cannot provide access to allow for tradies, removalists, deliveries of building materials, furniture, fridges, washing machines etc. The scheme would also seriously impact the parking availability for residents of those side streets who have already been affected by the removal of all parking on Bridge Rd.

There has been no community consultation regarding this proposed change to parking. Subsequent to this meeting, I have requested a meeting with a properly qualified safety expert. I am still waiting for confirmation that this will take place.