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George Street Sydney_Nov2017
Row brewing over George Street bike ban

Bikes are to be banned from George Street, one of Sydney’s key bike commuter routes.

It appears that the ban has been plotted by the State Government under the cover of its light rail project.

The ban will apply from next year when the government introduces what it describes as a "pedestrian zone” along the tram street.

Cars, trucks and motorcycles, will all still be permitted in the street. Only bikes will be banned.

The government says residents, workers and businesses need to be able to get to their premises along the street, so they will be allowed in and out – if they have a motor vehicle.

However, if you are a resident, worker or delivery person on a bike, you will be banned and could face fines.

It is evident from the previously full bike racks that line George Street, bike counts and the busy end of trip facilities in the precinct, that bikes are important to the street’s commercial health.

The bike ban also undermines actions of the freight division of Transport for NSW, who have provided a courier hub to transfer items from vans to bike couriers to deliver to city businesses more quickly and efficiently.

With a bike ban in place, these deliveries will still need to be made by van on George Street, creating spaces where delivery drivers continue to mix in pedestrian spaces.

Transport for NSW’s own CBD and South East Light Rail Project Pedestrian and Cyclist Network and Facilities strategy states that the project should consider “encouraging an increased pedestrian and cycle mode share”.

And yet opposite is enacted within the same document: “George Street will no longer be available [for bicycle riders] after completion and during operation of the CSELR.”

Consideration is made of ‘desire lines’ of optimal pedestrian movements, which is appropriate for an urban traffic plan, but the desire lines of bike riders is entirely overlooked.

Without George Street, bike access to a large sector of the CBD is discouraged and limited due to poor connections.

More Sydney streets face bike bans 

George Street however, is not the only street facing bike bans.

Other established riding routes along the light rail corridor see bikes excluded, or de-priotised without the provision of viable alternatives.

Devonshire Street, for instance, “would no longer be designated as a cycle route following the completion of the CSELR project.”

Devonshire Street is the best connection for people who ride bikes between Bourke Street, Moore Park and Central Station and the suggested alternative route is in no way equivalent in connectivity, quality or directness.

Reasons for bike exclusion

The reason given for excluding bike riders from George Street and Devonshire Street is that, “there is a perceived safety risk with cyclists riding along the track alignment”.

This is clearly nonsense as bicycles will still be allowed along other sections of George Street where there will be tracks, as well as on Chalmers Street.

The NSW government even proposes a bike route along tram tracks on narrow Hay Street.

Likewise, statements that claim there is currently no significant cyclist traffic along George Street, and that there are safe alternatives to George Street, are unfounded.

If the light rail corridor cannot accommodate bike riders and displaces established and significant bike riding routes, at the very least, alternative quality bike routes must be established as part of the Light Rail Project.

Inconsistent with NSW Government policy

Certainly, NSW government high-level policy is that all transport projects will include bicycle facilities parallel to major transport corridors.

Specifically, the CBD and South East Light Rail Project was permitted reliant on the Planning Minister’s Approval Condition B33, “with the objective of providing seamless, coherent, visible, and safe pedestrian and cycle access throughout and adjacent to the corridor”.

Those are empty words.

The ban will not stand – help us build the case

Bicycle Network will not allow this ban to stand.

And we need you help to fight it and overturn it.

We need to hear from as many people as possible who will benefit from continued access to George Street.

If you work there, shop there, live there, or visit or travel through for any purpose let us know your story.

Contact us now at campaigns@bicyclenetwork.com.au and let us know how you will be impacted.

We want to make the strongest case possible about why George Street, and the other streets where bans will be in place, should be part of an easily bike-accessible Sydney.

CONTACT US
 14 reasons why the bike ban doesn't stack up
  • Counter to NSW Government policy to provide for bikes with all transport projects;
  • Counter to City of Sydney policy that all plazas, malls and parks should be bike friendly;
  • Counter to existing local practice in Hay Street Sydney, and Swanston Street and other streets in Melbourne where trams and bikes regularly mix;
  • Counter to global practice, including throughout the Netherlands and France;
  • Counter to international safety research, which finds riding beside tram tracks is safer than alternatives (particularly where the alternatives are busy city streets);
  • Counter to Australian and NSW road rules (rule 158 (2)(c)(i)) which allows bikes in tram lanes;
  • Counter to the stated objective, “of providing seamless, coherent, visible, and safe access throughout and adjacent to the corridor”, particularly while the rest of the CBD cycleway network has been stopped;
  • Counter to the consideration of increasing cycle mode share, required by the Minister’s condition;
  • Counter to the cycling mode share target in NSW 2021 named as policy context for the CSELR;
  • Counter to the stated design principle of directness, which dictates that long detours and steep hills should be avoided and yet the strategy proposes that Kent Street is an alternative way of reaching the north of the city (the author has clearly never ridden up Margaret Street);
  • Counter to the stated design principle of safety, as it forces people into increased exposure on busy, heavily trafficked roads;
  • Undermining business investment in encouraging healthy, productive, active staff and the huge investments that businesses have made in building and upgrading bicycle end-of-trip facilities along and nearby to George Street;
  • Undermining businesses where people want to visit and shop, where existing demand is evident from the bike racks along George Street;
  • Undermining efforts by the freight division of Transport for NSW to improve the efficiency of deliveries in the city centre