By JOAN HENSON
Redfern, in Sydney’s inner-south, is a cycling hub and home to Sydney’s sixth busiest station. The cycling infrastructure from Redfern’s George Street connects Green Square with the city centre, and NSW state government policy is to include cycling paths in new developments.
Urban Growth’s 2016 Central to Eveleigh Development Strategy is an example. Though never constructed, one of its key proposals was to bridge the rail corridor at Redfern, making it accessible to cyclists and pedestrians.
Knowing this, David Borella, President of BIKESydney, was perplexed that cycling access was excluded from a Transport for NSW (TfNSW) plan to upgrade Redfern station, to make it disability-compliant by 2022.
The plan, discussed at a recent REDWatch (Redfern, Eveleigh, Darlington, Waterloo Watch Group) meeting, includes a new concourse bridging the rail line from Little Eveleigh into Marian Street, yet without bicycle access.
“The bridge must be made rideable to improve rider safety, reduce pedestrian and rider conflicts, and reduce traffic congestion in the area,” Borella told City Hub.
The proposed alignment also obstructs cycleway access, he added. “The bridge should be aligned south of the buildings on Little Eveleigh Street to connect into the Wilson Street cycleway [now in construction].”
Instead the bridge funnels commuters onto the narrow footpath of a one-way street, with parking parallel to a cycling track. The $100 million project is expected to take a year to complete, beginning construction late this year.
Council urged TfNSW for better options testing
City of Sydney councillor Philip Thalis says that councillors urged government agencies to provide further options for cyclists and pedestrians at the REDWatch meeting.
While two other concourse options were shown to councillors by TfNSW, they were not exhibited at REDWatch, and were not favoured by the council.
Cr Thalis says that the ideal option would traverse between Cornwallis Street and Wilson, avoiding bottlenecks at Marian and Little Eveleigh.
He said that the construction should seek to gain “as many public benefits as possible”, but that the present charter’s scope is limited to that of an internal upgrade.
The only other potential crossing of the rail corridor for cyclists would be the approved, funded, and designed Lawson Street cycleway, which is yet to be built.
Cr Thalis says that the City of Sydney is still lobbying “to build the missing cycle link… but need Sydney Trains’ permission.”
It was endorsed by the council in December 2015.
Sydney lags internationally for cycling
University of Sydney Professor David Levinson has researched how the distance between commuters and stations can be shrunk by installing strategic station entry points, thus expanding commuter catchments.
As bicycle speeds can be three to four times that of walking, “many more people are in range of the station via bike.”
For safe accessibility, cyclists need entry points in low-speed residential streets and protected cycleways on high-speed roads.
In addition to better station accessibility, he says that Sydney “sorely lacks a protected bike lane network.”
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one in five Australians hospitalised for a transport-related injury from 2015-16 was a cyclist.
In early May, it was reported that the rate of injury for other road users declined from 1990-00 to 2015-16 by 1.3 per cent per year.
Over the same period there was an increase of 1.5 per cent per year transport-related injuries for cyclists, until the last six years, where the average increased to 4.4 per cent per year.
Levinson says that far fewer people cycle in Sydney than in places with better cycling infrastructure like Canberra, Portland and Minneapolis in the United States, or “most places in Europe or China,” and that changes in road rules and infrastructure could make walking and cycling more attractive alternatives.
Andrew Chuter, President of Friends of Erskineville, says that his group has started canvassing the community about building a southern entrance to Erskineville station, inspired by Redfern Station developments.
The new Ashmore Estate development, which will house about 6000 residents, presents challenges for accessing the station via walking and cycling.
“That estate accesses Erskineville Station by walking up a hill to the top of the station, and then comes back down to the platform,” he says.
“It really doesn’t make sense… to come back down to the platform.”
The City of Sydney’s Sustainable Sydney 2030 target aims for 10 per cent of all trips to the city to be made by bicycle.
In early May NSW Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes told the Sydney Morning Herald that he was “very aware that Sydney is not a cycle-friendly city”, and wanted to work with councils and the Transport Minister to make improvements.