Cycling in Sydney

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Cycling in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia takes place for recreation, commuting and as a sport. Sydney has a hilly topography and so may require a slightly higher level of fitness from cyclists than flatter cities such as Melbourne and Canberra. Sydney depends heavily on motor vehicles where traffic and public transport operate at capacity. This means that cyclist are often competing with motorists for limited space on busier roads, and for limited government resources for expenditure on road infrastructure.[1] In its favour, Sydney has a generally mild climate and there are active cycling groups.

In 2015 the NSW Government enacted legislation[2] that increased fines for many offences that are considered by some[who?] as trivial or even legal in most other countries, such as riding without a helmet.

Cycling in Australia has, until recently, been a minority interest sport, and hostility on the road is also common. One Danish cyclist, Thomas Andersen, who had cycled around the world for four years, singled out Sydney in 2014 as being the worst city he had visited for cyclists.[3]

Sydney cycling network[edit]

A bike path in Birrong

For the most part, cyclists ride on the road with motor vehicles. Historically, bicycle infrastructure was largely constructed in areas for recreational riding or along shared paths such as in parks. Prior to the involvement of Jan Gehl, the City of Sydney created a Bicycle Action Plan in 2007,[4] part of which involved building physically separated cycleways. In May 2009, the first of these, a 200m stretch along King Street in the CBD opened.[5]

Subsequently, longer segregated paths have been built[6] along selected routes through the city. There had been plans to extend these separated routes,[7] however these have largely not gone ahead, and some important commuter paths, like the College Street bike path, have actually been removed at the insistence of Duncan Gay, the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight (who has openly described himself as "the biggest bike lane sceptic in government[8]) with the support of Mike Baird, the Premier of New South Wales.

Another criticism of Sydney's separated paths is that the traffic lights preference cars over both pedestrians and cyclists.[9] Not only are cyclists critical of the reported difficulty in triggering a light change, they are also unhappy that priority is afforded to cars by default, in much the same way that pedestrians must push a button before being included in the traffic light sequence.

Coinciding with the City of Sydney's new investment in cycleways, the state of NSW has repeatedly released statewide plans for bicycle infrastructure, including in 2010, BikePlan NSW.[10] The plan is acknowledged by Bicycle NSW, but thought to be underfunded by local bicycle groups.[11] While premier of NSW, Kristina Keneally bicycle commuted 10 km each way from the suburb of Pagewood to the CBD.[12]

Participation[edit]

The 2011 census recorded that in Sydney as a whole, 0.9% of trips to and from work were completed by cyclists, a 28% increase on the 2006 census figure of 0.7%.[13] A breakdown by local government area yields the following results[14]

  • Marrickville 4.2%
  • Leichhardt 3.6%
  • Sydney 3.5%
  • Waverley 3.1%
  • Manly 2.1%
  • Lane Cove 1.8%
  • North Sydney 1.6%
  • Willoughby 1.3%
  • Mosman 1.3%

Planning and government[edit]

Local government[edit]

One of the aims of BikePlan 2007–2017 is increasing total percentage trips in the city from 2% to 5% by 2011.[15]

Aside from building cycleways, City of Sydney has engaged in a publicity campaign,[16] subsidised cycling courses,[17] installed parking rings throughout the city[18] and subsidised bicycle parking at City of Sydney events which also fund BIKESydney (the local BUG).[19][20] New development controls have been suggested which, among other things, require increasing bicycle facilities in residential and commercial properties.[21][22] The City of Sydney's '2030 Sustainable Sydney' plan (2008) has a section dedicated to cycling.[23]

Cooperation with other associations is often required. For example, the two bridges leading into the CBD are controlled by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (Pyrmont Bridge), and the RMS (Sydney Harbour Bridge). The NSW government, through the RMS, control all traffic lights (including along cycleways), arterial roads and speed limits. Although there are plans to limit major CBD roads to private cars,[24] on-going efforts to make the city more friendly to non-motorised transport are made through agreements with the NSW state government.[25]

Other city councils also have bicycle plans of varying scope, based on funding, local demand, and current facilities. North Sydney Council will require state or federal funding to build a bicycle path from the northern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge[26] cycle path. In July 2010, Parramatta City Council installed secure bicycle storage area in their city areas,[27] while proposing to reduce overall funding for cycling facilities.

Often, facilities do not extend across council boundaries. For example, lack of co-operation with Botany Bay City Council (which lacks a corresponding BUG) explains the abrupt end at the south end of the Bourke Road cycleway,[28] despite the proximity to Sydney Airport and another cycleway along the Cooks River.

Many councils maintain detailed information about cycling in their region. Some examples are:

The NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet maintain a list of the councils in the Sydney region.[34]

State government[edit]

Roads & Maritime Services is the state responsible for road infrastructure and safety. Their latest bike plan was produced in December 2013 [35] They provide general cycling information.

Regulations[edit]

It is not uncommon for bicycles to be allowed thoroughfare where cars are not. These may be labelled "bicycles excepted", "shared zones" etc. Contraflow lanes have been installed on some one-way streets specifically for bicycles.[36] The NSW Roads Regulations states that a person must not ride a bicycle on any part of the Sydney Harbour Bridge other than a cycleway.[37]

Groups[edit]

Bicycle NSW is a member-based association representing bicycle users across New South Wales since 1976 and boasts a membership of 20,000+ members, supporters and subscribers.[38] Launched as the Bicycle Institute of NSW to advocate for the use of bicycles for transport, they continue to advocate for the essential infrastructure and education to improve rider safety, and host a series of events to increase participation and rider experiences. Membership of Bicycle NSW includes personal accident and third party liability insurance when riding and a range of other benefits.[39]

Bike Sydney[40] is a not-for-profit community Bicycle User Group (BUG) organisation established in 2000 to lobby state and local government and has since expanded beyond advocacy and is involved in cycling events and services around Sydney.

Bicycle Network, originally Bicycle Victoria, is one of the largest cycling membership organisations in the world, with 45,000 members in 2015,[41] and opened an office in Sydney in 2014.

BUGs[edit]

Many local Bicycle User Groups (BUGs) operate to assist and advocate for cyclists through an official Affiliation or friendly association with Bicycle NSW. Bicycle NSW and the associated PushOn" Magazine maintains a list of BUGs across NSW. A rides calendar is also available on the PushOn website.[42]

University bike clubs and cycling information[edit]

Other groups[edit]

  • The Sydney Bicycle Messenger Association.[47]
  • The Nunnery Community Bike Workshop.[48]
  • Dulwich Hill Bicycle Club, a club for inner west Sydney cyclists.[49]
  • Bike Bus, a Sydney commuters group.[50]

As interest in cycling grows, increasing numbers of informal interest groups are emerging, such as Sydney Cycle Chic,[51] and Sydney Bicycle Film Festival.[52] Others exist as Facebook groups including I Love Sydney Bike Lanes and Cycleways.

Maps and routes[edit]

Many councils provide cycling maps in paper and downloadable format. The NSW government provides a similar service

Several collaborative mapping services are available, some using Google Maps for their base layer

  • Cycleway Finder (NSW Government)[53]
  • Bikely[54]
  • Open Cycle Map[55]
  • Bike Yak Sydney Trails[56]

Some authors have collated maps into books.

  • Bike-it! Sydney & Cycling Around Sydney by Bruce Ashley[57]
  • Where to Ride Sydney by Simon Hayes[58]
  • New South Wales Bikepaths[59]

Rides[edit]

Regular[edit]

  • 'Ride to Work Day' regularly lists upcoming rides from various BUGs.[60]
  • Critical Mass bike ride is held monthly[61]
  • Bike Bus is a community-led service to introduce groups of people to ride a set route together, to introduce beginners to a route, or enjoy each other's company.[50] The Bike Bus service has been the inspiration for another Bike bus in the UK.[62]
  • A wide range of charity cycling events, group rides, tours etc. can be found on the 'Sydney Cycling' page of the treadly website.[63]

Annual[edit]

  • 'Ride to Work Day'[60] is held in October in all capital cites.
  • Sydney Body Art Ride is held annually in mid-February.
  • 'Ride to Riverstone', Rides varying from 10–100 km in Sydney.[64]
  • 'Tweed Ride' has been held for 2 years since 2009.[65]
  • 'Sydney to the Hunter' is a 3-day ride from Sydney to the Hunter Valley, held in early September.[66]
  • 'Sydney Spring Cycle' rides various routes aimed at families, held in October.[67]
  • 'The Gong Ride' is a 90 km ride from Sydney to Wollongong, held in early November, raising money for MS Australia.[68] In 2011 more than $4 million was raised.
  • Ride of Silence The last time Sydney participated in this was 2008.[69] There was no ride in Sydney in 2010.[70]
  • 'The Ride to Conquer Cancer' had a 2-day Sydney event in 2012, in support of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.[71]

Public transport[edit]

Due to Sydney's geography, trains and ferries complement cyclists well. For example, trains can take you to the start of some great cycling rides in Ku Ring Gai Chase National Park, or a ferry across Sydney harbour can shorten a cycling trip by not having to rely on limited bridge crossings. Ferry wharves are also frequently beyond walking distance from surrounding facilities.

Over 1,200 secure bike lockers are provided for hire at more than 140 locations across the New South Wales public transport network.[72]

Trains[edit]

Sydney Trains railway stations have an uneven amount of bicycle parking

Bicycles are permitted on Sydney Trains services free of charge except during the peak hours of 6 to 9 am and 3.30 to 7.30 pm on weekdays.[73] At peak hours, a child's ticket must be purchased for the bicycle in addition to the cyclist's ticket.[73] It is worth noting that this policy is not strictly enforced.[74] If you begin your journey at a station that is not staffed or has few commuters, you may avoid paying the extra fare. Passengers travelling with Opal are also exempt from paying a fare for a bicycle.

Those transporting a bicycle on a train will notice that not all stations have ramps or lifts to get to the train platform.[75]

Most city trains do not have specific provision for bicycles, aside from the vestibule area. Intercity trains operating Newcastle, the Blue Mountains and the South Coast frequently have a single hook at the end of the carriage.[76]

Ferries[edit]

Sydney Ferries provide lockers at some wharves.[77] Bicycles are allowed on Sydney Ferries vessels for free, subject to availability of space.[78]

Private operators may also allow bicycles, but it is worth checking before travelling. Private ferry services include:

Sydney buses[edit]

Bicycles are not allowed on bus services.[73] If there is a need to report the on road behaviour of bus drivers, it can be done so here here

Light rail[edit]

Bicycles are allowed on the Inner West Light Rail trains subject to availability of space.[80] They were also permitted aboard the former Sydney Monorail.

Facilities[edit]

Parking stations[edit]

The City of Sydney council offers free parking for bicycles at Goulburn Street and Kings Cross car parks[81]

Velodromes[edit]

  • Dunc Gray (Bankstown)
  • Hurstville Oval, Hurstville
  • Lidcombe Oval, Wyatt Park, Lidcombe
  • Merrylands Oval, Merrylands
  • Tempe, Bayview Avenue

Criterium Track[edit]

  • Heffron Park (Maroubra) 2.04 km,[82]
  • Randwick Botany Cycle Club[83]

Events[edit]

  • 'Super Tuesday'. Sydney participates in this annual count of cyclists on the road held in March, organised by Bicycle Network.
  • Events are also listed on the Sydney Cyclist events page.[84]

Annual awards[edit]

  • The Australian Bicycling Achievement Awards are held annually.[85]
  • The 'City of Sydney Business Awards' nominations are sought in June, with winners announced in September. A new category for "Bicycle Business" of the year was created for 2010.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]