The new world of Covid-19 is a massive one two punch to many things the giant City of Sydney held dear. Huge numbers of people are unemployed (25% including Job Keepers). We have no tourists, no cruise ships, no flying machines, no sitting at cafes and no sport to watch. I wont go on. Here is the good stuff
- Cycling and active exercise has exploded everywhere. You can’t walk around a corner without an eight year riding a bike around the block. In the parks, parents are spending hours doing things with their children.
- Car use is down a lot.
- Walking tracks and cycle tracks in the popular places are very busy
The biggest change is the skies are clear
Every night that there are no clouds, you can see lots and lots of stars. This is very unusual. During the day, everything is clear. This means is we are living in a great place, breathing in healthy air and with our new found love of activity, getting fitter.
Lets Make Sydney one of the great cycling cities of the world
If you make the reasonable assumption that cars are one of the reasons that we live in a dirtier world, limiting the return of cars would guarantee clearer skies and air. We naturally can do this with public transport and electric vehicles but crowded trains and busses are not Covid19 friendly and electric vehicles actually require a lot of power and are really expensive. On the other hand, bicycles are not expensive in comparison and eBikes run for about 20 cents per 100 km to fill with power.
So lets do it, make Sydney a great cycling, walking and running city, renowned the world over. Here are three ways.
Build More Iconic Parks and Paths
Centennial Park, the Parramatta River Cycleway, Penrith River Walk, Iron Cove and Narabeen Lake are amongst the places that have become ridiculously busy. Lets build more of those around the city, a distance of 5-10 km apart so everyone can get to one quickly. The formula is easy. A great loop path (it doesn’t have to be round), few if any cars crossing the track and separation of cyclists and runners and walkers. To this you add mini lakes, lots of trees and a coffee shop or three.
Places that come to mind are Heffron Park, Casula, Western Sydney Parklands, Warwick Farm racecourse. Just look for green places on an arial map, they are easy enough to find and relatively simple to alter.
Fix up the Gaping Holes in Current Cycling Network
I have ridden, photographed and mapped every cycleway in Sydney. They are a lot of fun to ride but they generally don’t go anywhere obvious fast and they mostly become complex when they near the important centres. There are myriads of plans in council drawers across the city, lets work on them and join all the good stuff up.
Connect everything with high speed cycling paths on roads
My kids call me a Dad tracker. I plod around and see great things and watch real cyclists fly past in straight lines down the roads. Every car driver knows who I am talking about. These cyclists are good but their speed and coexistence with vehicles carries with it extra risk. These are the cyclists that can power our city to become a cycling city. Give them really good protected places to ride plus the one thing they like to ride on – Smooth Roads.
So RTA, local councils and other bodies. The argument is simple, the time for active transport is now and cyclists in the lockdown era are all riding the streets and footpaths. All decision makers need is courage to turn about 100km of each way roads into arterial dedicated bike paths and one way roads.
Lets look at a trail going west from the Newtown following the main railway line. It took me about 4 runs up and down before I could establish the correct way to ride the council paths and cross the busy roads. Its convoluted but the alternative is a busy narrow street. To fix this, a brave decision maker would make the busy street one way and devote the other side of the roadway to a two way high speed cycleway.
The Rest of the High Speed Paths
There are 100’s of planners drawers full of cycleway options but they are all compromised by requirements for cars. Here are examples of options that could provide high speed separated roads for cyclists.
- Formalize Oxford St in conjunction with the busses to Centennial Park. Coming out the other side of the park, Doncaster and Banks to Eastgardens and beyond.
- Sydney International Airport, down along the cooks Cooks River and then all the way up Muddy Creek and the old parks to the Captain Cook Bridge. Make sure the existing airport path solutions works well (do we need an airport freeway ?)
- Connect Tempe to the M5 in Bexley with a straight line path up the parks or on the nearby roads.
- Princess Highway through to West St and fix the bridge.
Allow Cyclists to Travel Decent Distances in Decent Times
Now thats the concept, gutsy decisions on 7-10 roads and we will have a great cycling city with our large existing road cycling culture. Now for the future.
Ebikes are here with a top allowed engine speed of 25km per hour. There is another class of eBike called high speed Pedelec bicycles. These still require peddling and can travel at speeds upto 40km an hour. Systems are being looked at to manage them in Europe now, these I believe will be geo-controlled so the engine cuts out at the normal ebike maximum speeds if they are not on high speed cycleways.