Oxford Street Cycleway

Oxford Street Cycleway

(Private Members' Statement, 14 September 2023, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament) 

Despite the challenges and setbacks from lockouts, lockdowns, Westfield shopping malls and fast-moving through traffic, Oxford Street remains a popular retail, food and beverage, and night-time destination—certainly one of my favourites. I welcome plans to build a separated cycleway along Oxford Street as an opportunity to reinvigorate the precinct and make it even more attractive, and as a catalyst for further beautification works. Cycling has significant benefits. It is an economical, healthy, clean and green way to travel. Cycling helps maintain fitness and reduce lifestyle-associated conditions like heart disease, diabetes and stroke, and it can reduce the need to spend money on gym memberships and exercise classes. Cycling is good for the planet. It does not emit pollution or greenhouse gases or need to be powered by fossil fuels.

When people who can cycle do so, more road and public transport space will be freed up for those who cannot cycle. More people can be moved on bikes, and in less space, than in cars. While there are great personal and societal benefits, many people are too afraid to cycle in the city because they are forced to share the road with fast-moving vehicle traffic. However, if cycling infrastructure is provided and people feel safe to ride, they will travel by bike if they can. In the past 15 years cycling rates in the City of Sydney have increased sixfold following the construction of 25 kilometres of separated cycleways, 60 kilometres of shared paths and 40 kilometres of other cycling infrastructure. But city cycling will not reach its full potential unless there is a connected network of safe bike lanes so that people are confident to ride the full length of their journey.

Oxford Street is a missing link in the regional bicycle network. Oxford Street is a particularly hostile place for bicycles, accommodating mixed vehicles with multiple bus services and heavy through traffic, and is regularly congested during peak periods. The lack of alternative safe bicycle routes between the city and heavily populated eastern areas, including Woollahra, Bondi Junction, Bondi, Queens Park and Waverley, make Oxford Street the City of Sydney's busiest bike route, with over 2,000 bike trips per day. It is also where the most bike accidents occur in the local government area. Bike lanes are planned for Oxford Street, with approval granted for lanes west of Taylor Square and detailed design underway for lanes east of Taylor Square. Those cycleways are essential to Sydney's bicycle network, but they will also provide new opportunities for Oxford Street.

The bicycle lanes will help slow traffic on Oxford Street, making it less attractive as a thoroughfare to access other areas. Slower and less vehicle traffic will improve the urban environment, with less noise and air pollution making the street more favourable for strolling and footpath dining. The bike lanes provide an opportunity to beautify Oxford Street with footpath widening and landscaping. Bike riders are more likely to support businesses, because it is easier to park a bike than it is to park a car. There is growing global evidence from cities like New York and London that bicycle lanes are good for businesses as they make streets more attractive to visit. Benefits for local businesses and residents are well known, but change is difficult.

I understand some business operators and locals around the eastern part of the cycleway are concerned about how the lanes will impact the street. Those concerns were exacerbated by a slow consultation process that coincided with the caretaker period, leaving many in the area with inadequate information and feeling unheard. I acknowledge the great work of Woollahra councillor, Harriet Price, who has worked tirelessly to engage with residents and businesses during that period and since. She recently joined me and representatives from the transport Minister's office and Transport for NSW to talk about the need for future beautification work around Oxford Street.

Matters that still need to be addressed include access to local streets from Oxford Street, access to bus stops and ways to minimise disruption during construction. There are concerns about parking loss; however, I understand it is being kept to minimum and only affects the southern side which has fewer businesses. I welcome the transport Minister's commitment to improve consultation with the local community, and I understand Transport for NSW has doorknocked homes and businesses in the precinct. We need to take the community on this journey and ensure that they are informed and that their concerns are addressed.

WorldPride reminded us how vibrant Oxford Street can be when it is not plagued by fast through traffic. The Oxford Street cycleway is needed to reduce the number of cars in Oxford Street and the number of people catching buses. It will reduce congestion and make the street permanently safer, quieter, more vibrant and beautiful, and a better place to visit for longer. I look forward to continuing to work with the City of Sydney, Woollahra Municipal Council and the New South Wales Government to deliver this project, which will ensure that Oxford Street is safe for cyclists and an attractive, vibrant high street for future generations.

Let's work together to celebrate and protect our great city!