Banning bikes not the fix for George Street

Bicycles are set to be banned on Sydney's George Street, just weeks before the CBD light rail is set to open.

The NSW Government announced that bikes will be banned between Town Hall and Wynyard from December 2019 as part of a 'pedestrian zone' along the tram route. 

Riders who use Hay Street and connections to Surry Hills and Haymarket are also set to be banned despite being a well worn route for bike riders crossing the southern end of the CBD. 

Bike riders who enter the tramways which is off limits under the road rules face a $268 fine.

Cyclists will be permitted to cross the new light rail corridor through the CBD if they are pulling into a driveway on George Street.

Following the tragic death of Danny Egan in Newcastle, who died when he was thrown from his bicycle after his bicycle got stuck in the Newcastle Light Rail, a review was ordered by the State Government.

It came to the knee jerk reaction of banning riders from the route, rather than planning an alternative.

Frustratingly it looks as though the same outcome is set to happen in Sydney.

Bicycle Network flagged back in 2017 and raised major concerns that bicycles were set to be banned on George Street, under the cover of the light rail project. 

It appears that poor planning and being concerned about the perceived safety risk are to result in a blanket ban of people who ride bikes. 

In September 2019, Transport for NSW told the Sydney Morning Herald, "..Cyclists will not be permitted to ride bikes within the CBD and South East light rail corridor due to safety issues arising from sharing the corridor with moving trams."

Sydney needs separated bike lanes that connect the north and the south of the CBD, with City of Sydney identifying Castlereagh, King and Pitt streets as potential options.

However as of yet only these have only been considered by the City of Sydney, despite being identified by the State Government as a location for a cycleway more than five years ago.

Much of the success of a transport network depends on the ability between different modes.

Simply banning bicycles is a short-sighted fix that will negatively affect commuters, transport companies, financial businesses and restaurants, as bike couriers will be banned from the business district.  

The bike ban also undermines actions of the freight division of Transport for NSW, who have provided a courier hub to transfer items from vans to bike couriers to deliver to city businesses more quickly and efficiently.

Labor Shadow Minister for Active Transport Jo Haylen called out the government for failing to properly design the CBD light rail. 

“Light Rail on George Street is supposed to be about getting people out of their cars and onto public and active transport, but instead, the Government’s poor planning means cyclists are being kicked to the kerb.

“It’s clear that we need a fully separated, safe cycleway to connect the north and south of the CBD – something that the Government’s own plans identified for King and Castlereagh streets more than five years ago.

The Minister should commit to this link now and show that he’s genuine about increasing cycling rates, not just banning them from our streets because of his government’s incompetence,” Ms Haylen said. 

It is unacceptable to see the state government take the easy way out of simply banning riders, before providing any alternatives, leaving bike riders in the lurch. 

Bicycles exist harmoniously with trams in Melbourne, they can do the same in Sydney.

The Minister must commit to the King and Castlereagh cycleway with a rapid timeline for delivery, if they want to open the city to riders, and for all transport modes to function together.

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Write to the Transport Minister

If you work, shop, live, visit or travel through the CBD by bike for any purpose, get in touch with Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance asking for the rapid delivery of separated, connected and accessible cycleways that connect the north and south of the CBD.

Share your stories with the Minister why banning bikes on George Street and other Light Rail Streets without a proper alternative is the wrong move. 

To write to the Minister for Transport Andrew Constance click here.

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