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Build it and they will ride

Sydney commuters are leaving their cars at home and shifting to buses, trains and bike paths (if they exist).

A new study from the University of Sydney confirms that building more places to ride, separate from traffic, encourages people to choose bikes for their transport.

The study found increased levels of people riding bikes in areas of Sydney with new cycleways compared with a decrease over two years across the rest of the city.

“A connected network of protected cycleways and quiet streets across a city allows people to get to more places by bicycle, without feeling intimidated by traffic,” the study authors report.

The report is critical of Australian governments for failing to harness the potential of cycling for transport.

“While many of the world’s cities are investing in cycling, Australian cities are pedalling backwards.

Cycling targets may appear in planning documents, but federal and state governments have clearly failed to commit adequate resources to achieving these goals.”

Read more on The Conversation.

Craig Richards, Chief Executive Officer of Bicycle Network, couldn’t agree more.

“Everyone knows riding a bike is good for them — it’s also good fun.

Swapping the car, bus or train for a bike is convenient and often the quickest way to get around, which is why we see that most people who start commuting by bike keep it up.”

Instead of making it easier for more people to ride, however, the NSW government has had years of effectively discouraging it, the University of Sydney study points out:

“The State Government demolished the College Street Cycleway … [and] announced steeply increased fines for cycling infringements, as well as plans to force people to carry ID when cycling. Police stepped up enforcement of even the most trivial of cycling offences.”

Bicycle Network opposed mandatory ID for NSW cyclists, organising rallies in Sydney while sustaining a campaign until the proposal was dropped.

Our campaign for the reinstatement of the College Street Cycleway as well as a connection for King Street and the removal of the Sydney Harbour Bridge steps continues.

State Government keeps mum on bikes

Despite hopes at the start of the year that a new Premier and Roads Minister would bring more opportunities for people who ride, the government has been relatively silent on bikes, leaving the heavy lifting to the City of Sydney. 

“The growth of public transport use tells us that Sydney commuters want to leave their cars at home," says Richards, pointing to new government figures reported in the Sydney Morning Herald.

“If the State Government had made an effort to invest in more bike infrastructure, we could be reaping the rewards of a happier, healthier and less congested community already."