City Hub

On the cycle war path

By Joshua Cole
A report by an international cycling expert has questioned the need for a cycle path on Bourke Street, Surry Hills.

The City of Sydney’s proposed Bourke Street cycleway, already a sore point between the council, cyclists and locals, has suffered another setback with California cycling and transportation engineer John Forrester criticising the plan.

The report was published on June 9, three days after the expiry of the council’s period for public comment.
Mr Forrester argues that the council provides no evidence for its claim the design would reduce cycling accidents and says it merely provides justification for moving cyclists out of motorist’s way.

But his main criticism is levelled at the choice of a bi-directional path. ‘Bourke Street contains many locations where car-bike collision prevention measures should be taken: 38 intersections and an unknown number of driveways… the Bourke Street plan provides for none of the collision prevention measures that the major users of one-way cycle tracks have found necessary to keep their cycle tracks reasonably safe.’

Mr Forrester cites accident data from the US indicating that only about 5 per cent of car-bike collisions were caused by same-direction traffic. The rest, he argues, are due to ‘turning and crossing movements’ that are still necessary on the cycleway. The council has repeatedly asserted the route will be safe, and that safety will be improved through better infrastructure and education.

The bi-directional cycleway, approved on November 21 last year, will run along the west side of Bourke Street from Cowper Wharf Road to Phillips Street. It is part of almost 200km of cycling infrastructure planned for the city, and its aim to increase cycling by 500 per cent.

Alex Unwin, CEO of not-for-profit cycling advocate Bicycle NSW, supports the project. ‘It’ll be a fantastic route, the key to getting people on bikes,’ he said.
In response to safety and traffic concerns raised about the project he said that making these kinds of changes required ‘give and take’.
‘Sydney’s complex road network doesn’t allow for anything ideal,’ Mr Unwin said.

But the report has been welcomed by the Friends of Bourke Street, a community group formed after the hailstorms in 1999. The group has opposed the cycleway as unnecessary, due to existing safe bike paths in nearby Moore Park.
Richard Shuttleworth, convenor of the group and a member of Bicycle NSW, criticised the council for a lack of information on safety.
‘I first thought the plan was an April Fools joke. It only took two minutes to realise something was wrong,’ he said.
The detailed design of the cycleway is still being prepared but the council has indicated construction will start later this year.
For information on the cycleway project call project manager Fiona Lewis on 9265 9333 or visit