City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has backed her COVID-induced pop-up cycleways to maintain their popularity following the pandemic, saying that many will “continue to ride” once user confidence is regained in rivalling transport options.
Improving cycling pathways has been one of Cr Moore’s key policies and aims to “make Sydney a city for walking and cycling as part of the commitment to reducing emissions and improving liveability”.
Cr Moore called the increased use of cycle paths “unprecedented”, with a 40 per cent increase in riders since the pop-ups were installed and a 500 per cent increase in riders using the Pitt Street cycleway in the first three months.
A survey of City of Sydney residents found that 71 per cent supported the decision to allocate more space for people to ride.
“Now that they’ve experienced the benefits for themselves – including travel time reliability, easy parking, saving money, refuelling at cafés instead of petrol stations, and the physical and mental health benefits – we think many people will continue using this healthy, fun, and sustainable transport mode more,” Cr Moore said.
“It’s possible that living with the virus will go on for some time and that people will want to remain cautious. Regardless, we still think that once people have experienced the joy and benefits of riding on safe cycle routes, they are likely to want to continue.”
Cr Moore told City Hub that transport remains a “major source” of emissions contributing to climate change and that cycling as an alternative to driving presented a “great opportunity” to reduce these emissions.
Six pop-up cycleways (Pyrmont Bridge, Pitt Street, Moore Park Road and Fitzroy Street, Ashmore to South Eveleigh, Sydney Park Road and Dunning Avenue) were constructed as part of the city’s emergency transport response, which was constructed to free up space on public transport and roads to “allow the community to return to businesses safely, supporting NSW’s economic recovery”.
So far, the pop-up cycleways have been a successful alternative to public transport, with plans in place to make the cycleways permanent.
Cr Moore said that the cycleways have made “roads safer, calm[ed] traffic, and have created attractive environments that leave room for people” while providing space for outdoor dining and surrounding businesses.
Not all councillors have supported this move, with Liberal councillor Shauna Jarrett saying that Cr Moore is “prioritising cycling over other modes of transport” amid calls for a more coordinated transport approach.
The lord mayor also noted that the pandemic has presented a strategic opportunity for this change, saying “normally it is difficult to get people to change their transport behaviour, particularly for commuting”.