City News

Gehl’s grand vision for a people-centric Sydney unveiled

An artist impression of what Botany road might look like if transformed to be more "people centric." Photo: City of Sydney


The City of Sydney has released a new study detailing an ambitious plan to make Sydney’s CBD more people-centric.

Based on international best-practice and data tracking, the council says the study by urban design firm Gehl will help the city work towards a number of goals laid out in their Sustainable Sydney 2050 vision. 

The ambitious vision includes the creation of three public squares at Town Hall, Circular Quay and Central Station, a continuous harbour walk and the transformation of some of the city’s busiest streets- including York, Clarence, Pitt and Castlereagh- into pedestrian-friendly destinations. 

Lord Mayor Clover said the new report, ‘Public Space and Public Life,’ will help the city further its goal of creating a more “livable and attractive” CBD. 

“We’re looking beyond traffic and basic infrastructure to create a city people want to live, visit, work and spend time in,” she said.

The council first commissioned Gehl to lay out the groundwork for this path in 2007. In the 14 years since, the city has implemented a number of recommendations including pedestrianising George Street, adding an additional 80,000 square metres of open space to the city’s footprint and enlivening laneways with al fresco dining and public art. 

“Cities need to be enjoyable to walk through and relax in. More quality public space, or outdoor living rooms where people can meet and socialise, supports a healthier, more equitable and economically viable city centre,” said Ms. Moore.

“The pandemic has thrown a spotlight on how critical quality outdoor public space and active transport links are.”

Botany Road has been identified as one of the corridors in need of transformation. Photo: City of Sydney

From parking to people

Although a lot of progress has been made since 2007, the City of Sydney still has a way to go to create Gehl’s picture of a people-centric city. Issues highlighted in the new study include cars dominating the streets, buses using too many roads, overcrowded footpaths and an incomplete network of bicycle lanes. 

But world-renowned Danish urban designer Jan Gehl hopes the new strategy will help fill those gaps. He said cities built “for the people” can act as an “antidote” to many social, health and equity challenges which arise in urban centers. 

“City centres are important and what were once considered radical ideas have been implemented with urgency over the past year,” he said 

“It’s been a privilege to watch Sydney tackle its challenges and a greener and more people friendly city is emerging. Mindsets have changed and I really look forward to witnessing the city’s ongoing transformation in the coming years.”

The next step towards the implementation of Gehl’s vision will be a series of “Green Avenues” through the CBD. Unveiled at the The Sydney Morning Herald’s Infrastructure Summit was the City of Sydney’s plan to transform the footprints of Broadway, Park Street, Oxford Street and Botany Road.

The width of the roads will be reduced to reduce traffic and increase space for public transport and active transport corridors, business use, tree planting and pedestrians. 

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