BY JESSICA DE VERA
One in five cyclists have abandoned battling other motorists in Sydney because of the safety risks associated with riding, according to the Austroads’ Australian Cycling Participation Survey 2017.
But the upcoming Sydney Rides Festival, a month-long event by the City of Sydney Council, is hoping to change that statistic and promote safer riding practices.
The map on Sydney Cycleways’ webpage reinforces just how disjointed and scattered the dedicated, separated and bicycle-friendly roads are for cyclists. This presents greater safety risks for cyclists, as they are required to navigate through varied traffic conditions in a single journey.
Kim Lavender, Communications Manager at Bicycle NSW, said, “It just requires providing that infrastructure to get into riding. A lot of people struggle when they first start riding to find safe places to ride and then once they get the confidence to go longer distances, they still don’t feel comfortable riding on the road so it is about providing that safer route for them.
“The more cycle ways or paths where cyclists can ride is what we’re going for,” she said.
Rohan Venatraman, Coogee resident and regular rider, said, “The relationship between cyclists and motorists isn’t the most amicable. I definitely see motorists as, not an equal, but someone who’d pose far graver danger should you run into them. I’ve never bought the whole ideology of the roads there for all to share.I don’t think that’s a fair assessment given one person might be in a metal vehicle weighing a couple of tonnes.
“Just the past week, I went on a ride to North Sydney from Coogee. I think it was twice I thought I wasn’t going to survive because a fellow cyclist cut me off in the middle of a cycle lane and the second time was when I almost got t-boned by a motorist who didn’t notice me at all,” he said.
It’s up to local councils to push the agenda and make cycling an attractive and safe alternative to a private car, he suggested.
A spokesperson for the Inner West Council said, “Council believes that as part of its efforts to encourage more people to cycle more often, the development of new cycle routes across the local government areas that provide safe and convenient connections to places where people want to get to is essential.”
But a lack of infrastructure is not the only aspect working against cyclists on the roads. It’s also other cyclists, claimed Rohan Venatraman.
“Even though the number of cyclists on Sydney’s roads are increasing, and Sydney Council are putting out a lot more – slowly but steadily – cycle lanes around the city and inner city, I do think there should be a lot more awareness on simple things like right of way.
“Even a decent cycling map of Sydney’s routes would be pretty good,” he added.
A new dedicated cycling lane is in the works to connect the city and the Harbour Bridge, the City of Sydney Council announced recently.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said in the statement, “Conditions for riders will greatly improve with this smoother, more accessible connection, enabling more people to feel safe riding in Sydney.”
“The City of Sydney is very good at the moment,” said Bicycle NSW’s Kim Lavender, “they’ve actually got the highest rate of cyclists in New South Wales and I think this comes down to the Council’s view towards cycling and a lot of the infrastructure within the area that is very positive towards cycling.”
The Inner West Council are riding a similar wave and a spokesperson for the Council said, “Reducing dependency on private car use and encouraging more sustainable forms of travel such as cycling is a key Council objective – this will aid efforts to reduce carbon output, reduce pressure on parking and encourage healthier and more socially inclusive communities.”
In the Randwick region, Rohan Venatraman claims Randwick Council have their sights set on other priorities.
“I did go to one of the council meetings a couple of months ago, before the council elections, and it was brought up to introduce a lot more cycling paths.
“But that didn’t seem to get a lot of traction from the council members, or at least the local representative for Randwick City Council didn’t seem to think a big deal about it.”
This has made a month-long event like the Sydney Rides Festival ever more important for re-engagement and encouragement, claims Kim Lavender.
“I think it’s about getting people back into cycling. People, in that month, might get more experience riding so for the rest of the year they’re more likely to actually ride. It’s that month that celebrates cycling and makes it more available to people.”
The City of Sydney’s Sydney Rides Festival would be a good place to dust off the old two-wheeler. There’s over 30 events on the calendar.
There’s a bike event for everyone whether it’s the suit ride, foodie ride, cycle speed dating, ride for chocolate or the spring cycle. You could even pop in for a free tune up or participate in the mechanics challenge.
For information, visit: https://whatson.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/major-events/sydney-rides-festival
Randwick Council declined City Hub’s request to comment.