Friday, February 4, 2011

Cycling in Sydney

Sydney is a city with a temperate climate. It's motor-dominated, and has a low cycling modal share (less than 2% of total trips in 2006). Like London, 80% of survey respondants cited traffic danger as a reason for not cycling. In cycling terms, Sydney is a lot more like London than Amsterdam.

The Sydney authorities though have big plans:

  • Increase the number of bicycle trips made in the City of Sydney, as a percentage of total trips, from less than 2% in 2006 to 5% by 2011, and to 10% by 2016;
  • Increase the number of bicycle trips between 2 and 20 km made in the City of Sydney, as a percentage of total trips to 20% by 2016;
  • Achieve a minimum 80% good level of confidence and comfort for cyclists that ride in the City of Sydney by 2016; and
  • Measure and monitor the number of collisions and injuries involving bicycles and achieve a reduction in the number of incidents.  
 Unlike London, Sydney's targets are more ambitious (compare 20% of trips by 2016 with Boris's 5% modal share by 2025). Unlike London, they have a prayer of actually achieving the targets, because they are building 55km of segregated cycleways. Sydney is not spending a huge amount of money ($76M (£48M) over 4 years, for a population of 4.5M), but they are spending it wisely, on segregated cycleways like this one:

The path below looks good, but it's a shared path and in rush hour there's a significant amount of foot traffic. But the key is that would be cyclists are afraid of cars, not pedestrians.

There's problems of course. Hard-core Lycra cyclists aren't over-keen on the shared paths or the segregated cycleways. The junctions have separate cycle lights, slowing progress, and left-turning traffic has to turn across the cycle lane which can cause crashes (see below). And the 'war on the motorist' lobby is kicking against the strategy.

So why doesn't London do this? We've spent £23M - that's half Sydney's budget - on the first two Cycle Superhighways. It's pretty clear that the infrastructure you see above is much more likely to get parents cycling with their kids than blue lanes with parked cars on one side and fast-moving traffic on the other. Sydney isn't directly comparable to London of course, but it is proof that a car-dominated city can turn over roadspace to cycling.

My bet is a city that has a can-do attitude to promoting cycling is a lot more likely to succeed than a city that pussyfoots around the anti-cycling lobby.We'll see in a few years how successful Sydney's approach is compared to London's.


  1. Well, hopefully Sydney can achieve 10% modal share, but I think the helmet laws may be an issue there.

  2. Indeed - Melbourne's cycle hire scheme has a small fraction of the utilisation of London's, despite having some good off-road routes, largely because of compulsory helmets - what's the point of a pick-up/drop-off scheme if you have to carry a lid everywhere you go?

  3. As a former (and hopefully future) Sydneysider I can't begin to impress on you enough just how car-centric a place it really is. The city of Sydney is literally dripping in cars and is possibly the least pleasent place I have ever cycled on the road. That their Mayor is pressing ahead with building future proof cycle infrastructure is truly astonishing and just goes to show the desperate lack of ambition we have here in London. We can do better!

    All Sydney has to do is get rid of the compulsory helmet law...

  4. Hmmm, quite different cities London and Sydney. There's certainly no room for segregated cycle lanes in most areas of London, and barely enough room for the Superhighway lanes in many cases. Sydney's targets are worthily ambitious, but 10% by 2016, really?!

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