Cycling

(Private Member's Statement, 8 February 2018, Legislative Assembly NSW Parliament)

Cycling is a clean and healthy transport option that can reduce traffic and public transport congestion.

Population growth is stretching road and public transport infrastructure. Building new roads increases congestion in the long term and leads to pollution and loss of public space and private property. Most commutes in Sydney are a rideable distance and if those who can ride have access to safe cycling options, they will.

While cities around the world like London, Paris and New York have embraced cycling as an alternative transport option, the NSW Government has shown cyclists contempt.

Penalties for bicycle offences now match motorist penalties despite motor vehicle offences creating significantly greater safety risks.

Most offences now attract a fine of between $319 and $425. Interestingly a car driving in a bus lane is fined almost double than for driving in a bicycle lane.

Last financial year the government raised $2.2 million from 9,750 cycling offences: most for not wearing a helmet or not having a bell. During that period only 17 drivers were fined for overtaking a cyclist too close.

While cycling fatalities and injuries have gone down, this is because regular cycling rates have dropped by more than four per cent over the last two years.

Cyclist fatalities and injuries are overwhelmingly the result of driver offences. Cyclist safety is best improved by providing safer cycling options.

But Sydney’s most used cycling infrastructure was removed in 2015 to appease anti cyclist tabloid media. The lane was never used by traffic, and the more than 2,000 riders using it each day outnumbered the people in motor vehicles in adjacent lanes.

Parents driving children to school is a major factor in peak traffic congestion yet most families live within cycling distances to their school. In a private members statement last year the education minister called for improved walking and cycling infrastructure connecting schools to their communities.

Connecting students travelling from the east and west to the planned Inner City High School on Cleveland Street is a priority. Chalmers, Elizabeth, Lee and Regent streets are the key access roads and they are major traffic routes and risky for inexperienced and young riders.

In response to my requests, the government has deflected responsibility to council, ignoring that it has an obligation to provide a dedicated cycleway that would provide safe options over the light rail track to Prince Alfred Park which would link to the school as part of the consent conditions for the CBD and South East Light Rail project.

Our ridiculous footpath laws must change. All other states except Victoria allow bikes on the footpath. In New South Wales, everyone 12 years and over must ride on the road, unless they are an adult supervising a cyclist under 12. Even an older sibling who is not an adult can’t ride on the footpath to supervise their younger brother or sister, creating a strange anomaly. Parents riding with toddlers in a child carrier must also ride on the road.

We should not force inexperienced and less confident riders to cycle with fast traffic and heavy trucks. Most will opt to drive instead. If people could ride on the footpath when there is no safe cycleway, many would.

The introduction of bike share companies and the growth in app-related food delivery services like Deliveroo and Foodora are seeing new trips made by bicycle and show that business wants to invest in cycling. We must make cycling safe for new riders.

Interestingly bike riders in the City of Sydney are bucking the state’s trend of declining cycling rates, due to the council’s program of building connected bike paths. Twice as many women ride in the local government area than in greater Sydney.

I welcome the government’s commitment to fix the Sydney Harbour Bridge cycleway, which puts cyclists and pedestrians in conflict, especially around Fort Street Public School, and has inaccessible steps north of the bridge. But much more is needed.

Plans set out in the draft Future Transport Strategy must be brought forward. We urgently need the city centre cycleway network planned in the Sydney City Access Strategy completed and reconstruction of the College Street cycleway or an alternative full time north-south connection to Circular Quay. We must design and complete the Sydney Airport Links.

Missing bicycle route links and reconfiguration of key intersections are needed in the east, which is a close distance to the CBD. New South Head Road and Oxford Street and the intersection of Anzac Parade, South Dowling Street, Flinders Street and Moore Park Road must be made bicycle friendly.

Targets to increase the proportion of journeys taken by bicycle within a five kilometre radius of a town or centre are needed with a whole-of-government approach including from roads, transport, health and education.

Cycling is an important transport option that has massive health, environmental and economic benefits. I call on the government to work with councils and bicycle groups to ensure cycling rates reach their potential.