I was pleased to receive in my inbox yesterday an email from Sydney Cycleways, citing a cycling uptake in recent years of astronomic proportions – an increase of “82% between March 2010 and March 2012 – in many locations numbers have doubled and some have tripled over this time”. That is impressive indeed! Sydney has done this by committing to a real change in the way they accommodate their cyclists – establishing a cycleway network that is radical for an Australian city, with much separate infrastructure for cyclists.
And they are planning to expand their network, with a document up for public discussion on another separated cycleway to be built on Bourke Street. Now this document makes for fairly dry reading with its references to LEPS, SEPPS and Acts as well as to local and State environmental planning policy. But the thing is that they are making progress and getting the desired results.
Newcastle City Council also wants more cyclists on the roads. This is evident in, among other documents, their City Centre Plan. The problem with this document is that it lumps cyclists and pedestrians together, as if they will have the same needs and share the same paths. They don’t. Walking takes too long for many of the things for which cycling can be utilised, eg commuting or other transport.
The other key document that is part of the NCC cycling plan is the Draft Bike Plan 2009. This document also has some major flaws, namely, that it does not have an actual vision, it is simply a patchwork solution to tidy up the existing patchy infrastructure, largely with more bike picture car door death lanes The planned execution of the Strategy is contained in the last 13 pages and is a lengthy listing of tasks to be completed which will supposedly provide a cycleway network.
Newcastle, unlike Sydney, has a very well defined city centre, and even though it is no longer the primary business and retail centre, it contains the legal precinct, many businesses, parts of the university, local and state government offices, the art gallery and museum, cafes and restaurants and has had some wonderful artistic, retail and cultural life injected into it with Renew Newcastle. Yet, once you reach the central part of town, there are no defined bike track or lanes. It would be so easy to install a Bourke Street style bike lane along one side of Hunter Street to service the whole of the inner city, yet this is not even mooted in the bicycle infrastructure planning for Newcastle.