02 December 2008

Copenhagenizing Sydney... Um... sort of

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Sydney is planning shared bike lanes/sidewalks along the busy College St. in the Central Business District as a part of their strategy to increase cycling by 500% over the next 10 years.

As you can see in the artist's rendering above, bikes will share the widened footpath with pedestrians. Councillor John McInerney, chair of the council's traffic committee, wants to "mirror the European experience".

I think he should look up 'mirroring' in the dictionary. Sydney, apparently, is flush with cash compared to other Australian councils and yet THIS is what they come up with? I don't understand why they don't create separated bike lanes on the street, leaving the pedestrians alone, if they truly wish to 'mirror' us.

Shared spaces like this will work in countries that are used to the bicycle in the urban landscape like Denmark, Holland, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, etc. And only in certain areas. In a city where people are still surprised to see a bicycle, it's a recipe for irritation and aggravation.

By merely chucking the bicycle up onto the footpath, you are hardly elevating it to its rightful position as a respected and feasible form of transport. You're just marginalising cycling in a different way.
Sydney Cycle Chic
While Sydney Cycle Chic exists, normal citizens on bikes aren't being given the chance to enjoy bicycle culture.
If you want regular people to take to the bicycle, you have to invest in proper bike lanes. You have to respect the bicycle as an equal to the motorised traffic and afford it the appropriate infrastructure in the form of safe, separate bike lanes. It really is the only way to encourage new cyclists to use the bike.

The shared space in Sydney won't even have painted lines between the bikes and the pedestrians. Here in Copenhagen we have just opened up the long promenande along The Lakes to bikes, where it was pedestrians only previously. The bright white line is a must, even in this bicycle-saturated city.

With all that said, Sydney has plans for separated bike lanes elsewhere in the city, having opted for 'bi-directional' lanes, as you can read in the article.

They are spending $70 million AUD over four years on a cycling strategy that includes 55 km of dedicated separated bike paths.

Construction has begun on the city's first bi-directional, separated bike path in King Street but plans are being revised for Bourke Street after residents complained about the removal of trees.

Now, excuse me, but aren't trees usually planted on footpaths? It's time for politicians in Sydney to take their plans seriously by removing car lanes and replacing them with bike lanes. There is no need to chop down trees. There will be whiners when the odd car lane is removed, but as we've seen all round the world, business will increase for shopkeepers and property values will rise for residents if proper bike infrastructure is put into place.

Australia recently overtook the Fattest Nation on Earth title from the US. Helmet laws have paralysed cycling. Politicians need to be bolder if they are serious about increasing urban cycling.


Peter said...

count on melbourne to continue kicking sydney's ass in the 'awesome' department.

town mouse said...

Sadly, this is how they tend to do it in the UK too. It just pits the pedestrians and the cyclists against each other, and leaves the cars to continue to choke the roads. But hey, it's cheap. No need even for a lick of paint down the middle of the pavement.

workbike said...

"...as we've seen all round the world, business will increase for shopkeepers and property values will rise for residents if proper bike infrastructure is put into place..."

I'm looking for some date on this to try and convince the local cluncil. Have you any links?

Zakkaliciousness said...

here's something on property values

and read this article about businesses. See what Jan Gehl says farther down.

and this post of mine about how Cyclists are better shoppers than motorists

in the car-clogged centre of Copenhagen in the 1960's plans to pedestrianize some streets were fought by shopkeepers who thought they would suffer. the opposite was true, as the above article mentions, too.

Jarod Pulo said...

It makes me sad to be living in the Inner West of Sydney. :-(

One could argue that any progress for bike lanes is a good thing, no matter how silly it is having them as shared footpaths. And that's true to an extent.

But seriously, why not just spend a bit more cash and have a great system right from the start. It's not as if there aren't enough good bike infrastructure models out there to copy.

Zakkaliciousness said...

i know what you mean about a little bit being better than nothing, but Sydney is flush with cash and there are millions and millions of people riding on proper bike lanes in europe - they work - so it is sad that it hasn't been done properly.

Timbo said...

I too and many others in Australia disagree with the mandatory helmet law. But there is absolutely no justification in saying "the helmet laws have paralysed cycling". The numbers of people cycling is increasing and bike sales are booming.

Zakkaliciousness said...

It HAS paralysed cycling. Things are improving now, but you've had over a decade of bad news.
For example.

If the infamous laws were not passed, think where you may be today. That's what i mean.

Cyclo said...

Thanks Mikael - you couldn't have posted this at a better time. I read this just minutes after mailing my local council engineers, expressing much the same thoughts. Footway cycling simply doesn't work where there are high levels of bikes and/or pedestrians, and can be very doubtful elsewhere. Local government must put the money into wholesale changes: they are far cheaper than new dual carriageways, etc. To see how cycle lanes can produce a fast effective trip, see the December video (by David Hembrow) on the front page of http://www.colchester-cycling.org.uk


DeepBlueSea said...

Doing it on the cheap, that's the Aussie way, mate!

And here in Melbourne they just elected a mayor for the CBD area who wants to re-open Swanston Street (a main road traversing the CBD) to cars. Sigh!

Andy B from Jersey said...


Talk about doing EVERYTHING wrong.

Putting cyclists on the sidewalk is a recipe for crashes not just between cyclists and pedestrians but with cyclists and cars. With this type of design every driveway becomes a conflict point where drivers, not seeing cyclists behind parked cars, will undoubtedly crash into unsuspecting cyclists. At intersections cyclists will again just "appear out of nowhere" as they ride into the intersection from behind parked cars.

If that weren't bad enough, they also proposed two-way lanes in other places. Now not only will will drivers have to look for cyclists coming from the proper direction (from behind parked cars) but they will also need to look for them in the WRONG DIRECTION too!

These proposals as I've read them in the paper are antiquated designs that are 30 years behind the times and have been proven time and time again in many places throughout the world to marginalize and endanger cyclists.

While we don't spend enough money on bicycling facilities here in the US, at least we don't do stuff like this when we do. Well actually we do sometimes (www.indyculturaltrail.org/). I've also seen plenty bad projects in my home state too.

I'm glad you picked up on how bad this project is and called it for what it is.

Word verification: smetizes

Adrienne Johnson said...

I sometimes think that those who are truly rabid about global overpopulation are the ones who put these plans into play, 'cause there are going to be some interesting Darwinian interactions on those 'bikewalks'. Pedestrians always use bike lanes to stroll around leisurely and never think they are wrong (can you tell I have some experience with this?)

w.v.- 'upeledsh'
I have been a bit off, lately. You know, just a bit upeledsh.

George said...

Good post, as always!

Just a minor quible: Australia is not the fattest nation on earth. In the OECD, so fattest among rich nations.

Zakkaliciousness said...

you're right, george. thanks.

Stigfinnaren said...

Sadly in Australia bike are seen as toys rather than vehicles, hence they should be used on 'footpaths'. This will probably be highly used, and then accidents and litigation will follow.

In many ways it's worse than having no infrastructure as it sidelines bikes yet again.

Glenn said...

To be fair to the Australians, at least to judge by the artists deception, er, depiction; while bikes and pedestrians will share the walk, they did take a chunk out of the road to widen said walk.