A comprehensive and safe bicycle network
So how do we get a comprehensive and safe bike network?
Who does what?
The New South Wales government supports councils with some funding to prepare, and implement, a bike plan. RMS has published How to Prepare a Bike Plan to guide councils in developing or updating their bike plan. You can also find guidance about bicycle network planning in the NSW Bicycle Guidelines.
The NSW government bike plan for metropolitan Sydney is Sydney's Cycling Future. The document starts with the Ministers' Message, "A safe and connected network of bicycle paths is an important part of Sydney’s integrated transport system. We want to make bike riding a convenient and enjoyable option that benefits everyone - by improving access to towns and centres, reducing congestion and increasing capacity on the public transport system." It is a very good document, well worth reading, and with plenty of good material for quoting back to the government.
Now that their Future Transport Strategy 2056 is complete, they will probably soon update the bike plan. Interestingly, one of the two main issues from the consultation on the Future Transport Strategy draft was, "We heard that more cycling and walking infrastructure needs to be delivered sooner" (on page 11). It's good to know that the NSW public cares so strongly about accelerating cycling and walking infrastructure! Future Transport talks about encouraging active travel throughout and Customer Outcome #3 is "Walking or cycling is the most convenient option for short trips around centres and local areas, supported by a safe road environment and suitable pathways" (page 37).
Infrastructure NSW, the body that provides "independent advice on the current state of NSW's infrastructure and the needs and priorities over the next 20 years" is impatient for more budget to be allocated for cycling infrastructure. In the 2018 State Infrastructure Strategy - Building Momentum recommendation 50 is "Infrastructure NSW recommends that by the end of 2018, Transport for NSW develop business cases on a city-by-city basis for an annual program of investment in a network of protected cycleways linking major strategic centres across the three cities. This should be delivered in partnership with local government and be integrated with the Greater Sydney Commission Green Grid." and recommendation 51 is "Infrastructure NSW recommends that Transport for NSW, in partnership with local government, develop a 10-year rolling program that prioritises active transport at high volume and high profile locations in the Sydney CBD and other strategic centres."
The opportunities and good news
- Almost all Sydney councils have a bike plan - look for it on your council website
- Maybe your council's bike plan is due for an update (if it's more than 5 years old) and you can get involved - ask them
- NSW government documents are chock full of great words about the benefits and importance of safe and connected cycling networks - they clearly know what needs to be done
- The majority of the population knows it is a good idea to build a safe cycling network. 70% of the population would ride, or ride more, if there was safe and connected infrastructure
The barriers that need work
- Lack of funding - NSW spending on cycling is just 0.6% of the roads budget - they need to spend at least $250m yearly to be able to build the safe connected network they speak of within ten years
- Lack of a target - though Future Transport says it's important to have measurable targets, there is no cycling target since they dropped the NSW2021 target of "More than double the mode share of bicycle trips made in the Greater Sydney region, at a local and district level, by 2016" (page 72) - what do you think the target should be? To match Melbourne, perhaps (they currently have double Sydney's bike journey to work mode share)?
- Lack of political support - despite all the great words in the policy documents, it hasn't yet translated into serious action - have you written to your local state MP and asked what they can do to improve things? What would your specific ask be?
Unless our politicians hear from us, regularly and clearly, how will they feel they have the mandate to do better. Be a squeaky wheel. Help make change.