Parramatta Road is no longer a road. It’s a stroad!
What’s a stroad? A stroad is best described by what it isn’t. Neither a street nor a road.
Roads convey people and goods from one place to another, and the primary goal is efficiency of movement. Streets are places to be - to live, to generate wealth and to play. As an adult socialising or a child exploring their world, play is a life-affirming need. And fun generates wealth, especially sprinkled with beauty and culture. But the only culture you get on Parramatta Road is cars.
Once a place, now a traffic sewer that fails to move people efficiently or attract them to linger. Stroads are lifeless places that fail at both movement and place functions. Parramatta Rd at Crystal St, Petersham
(Image: Bicycle NSW)
Stroads are cultural wastelands
The unloved wedding shop for lease on Parramatta Rd epitomises why stroads send wealth and people away.
Sad and unloved. This bridal shop is one of hundreds of shops up for lease on Parramatta Road.
(Image: Bicycle NSW)
Victoria Road is another classic Sydney stroad. The incinerated Balmain Leagues Club and boarded up terraces would make great locations for a dark zombie comedy. But…
…they are no places for the living. Balmain Tigers Club with 6 lanes of traffic streaming past, Victoria Road (Image: Google Maps)
Parramatta Road has degenerated into a sad, noisy, congested corridor
If you google Parramatta Road, you’ll get essays on chronic urban ugliness. Or search traffic sewer and you arrive at Parramatta Road. They’re too smelly and loud to ride or walk along for any length of time. And why would you, when one in three shops are skeletons? Parramatta Road is a study in urban failure. But look harder, at the history and magic begging to escape.
It hasn’t always been this way
Always was and always will be (somebody’s place). A mural on Parramatta Road near Crystal Street, Petersham (Image: Bicycle NSW)
Parramatta Road’s crumbling facades hint at the long-lost fashionable high street where people lived, worked and partied. And, judging by the preponderance of ancient pubs, they partied pretty hard! There are some grimy buildings dating back to the earliest days of the colony. Then there’s the road itself.
The 3 O’Clock swill. Established in 1830, the much-loved Bald Faced Stag remains afloat on a turbulent sea of pollution and noise. Parramatta Road, Leichhardt (Image: Bicycle NSW)
For many thousands of years, this was the path from the coastal lands of the Eora to the fertile interior Darug lands. By the 1790s, it was adopted by the British colonists as the route between the Sydney Cove and Parramatta settlements. Eventually, over time, it became a major artery.
And there lies the problem. Because with seven lanes of congested traffic, Parramatta Road is a peak hour no-go zone.
The story is similar on Oxford Street and Victoria Road
Oxford St began its dreaming as muru, an important Gadigal walking track. After colonisation, Oxford St grew into a fashionable promenade with thriving clubs, restaurants and shopfronts. But by 1998, the boulevards were replaced by 6 howling lanes traffic with clearways. As a result, street life suffered and businesses were placed on life-support.
Make Sydney’s stroads places for people again!
Sounds nice, but what does that even mean? According to sustainable transport vlogger, Chris Topher, ‘one proven way is by reducing space for cars and introducing a light rail.’ He explains that, one 40-metre-long light rail on George St carries 400 passengers, replacing a 1.6km car conga line. What’s more, passengers are able to get on and off where they please without having to waste time, money and space parking a car. ‘And, as a result, business is booming.
Light rail could replace two lanes of traffic along Parramatta Rd. It would also provide space for a landscaped central median providing tree canopy and valuable shade, says Chris.
Mega road projects must leave Better Streets in Sydney
The former NSW Government claimed that Westconnex and its spaghetti of tunnels and motorways would reduce surface traffic.
But we know that for this to happen we MUST take road space from vehicles. Because when you build for cars you get cars. But when you build for people...
…you get people! City of Sydney plans to return people and fun to Broadway
(Image: City South Public Domain Plan 2020, City of Sydney)
Inner West residents have suffered a decade of disruption caused by the Westconnex remake of Fury Road. The promise that putting traffic underground would restore local high streets has kept them going through long years of drilling noise, traffic and diversions.
It is time to deliver on the promise
Bicycle NSW, Inner West Council and Bicycle User Groups (BUGs) are calling for a reduction of six lanes to four along Victoria Road and a complete overhaul of the transport mix on Parramatta Road. Key to this is the reallocation of road space for wider footpaths, cycleways, landscaping and urban beautification.
In other words, put these stroads on a ‘road diet’ and bring back the people, the culture and green.
Urban renewal brings back dollars as well as fun
Evidence that walking, cycling and public transport projects are great for business abounds. Whilst motorways are a deadweight loss, active travel returns between 5:1 and 39.5:1 on every dollar invested! So why the hell is NSW only investing 0.2% of its budget on a guaranteed fiscal winner?!
We’re in a cost-of-living crisis driving people into housing and transport poverty, and businesses into the wall. In fact, the only businesses directly profiting out of congestion are private toll operators.
There is no time to waste
When the WestConnex Rozelle Interchange opens, there will be a brief window when surface traffic should be lighter. Then the toxic flood of traffic will grow to fill whatever space is available, both in the new tunnels and on our local streets. It will spill back onto Victoria and Parramatta Roads. Because that’s just how it goes.
Congestion is not just about road capacity. It is also about demand. ‘And when you make Parramatta Road a place to be, not just a place to go through, you nip some of that demand in the bud,’ explains Chris Topher. The outcome? An end to car dominance and better streets for walking and cycling.
There are great plans brewing for Oxford Street but we need your help!
The proposal by Transport for NSW and City of Sydney to add a protected cycleway to Oxford Street is not just about bikes.
Riding and walking The Golden Mile: Calls for Oxford Street’s urban renewal grow
(Image: Australian Pride Network)
It is an opportunity to reconfigure the street, diversify its transport mix, improve the urban environment and transform Paddington. Businesses, residents and visitors will benefit from widened footpaths, lower speed limits, reduced through traffic and an upgraded public realm that prioritises space for people, entertainment and outdoor dining rather than cars.
But the project is threatened by a small group who fear change and want to maintain the status quo.
Hey! It’s EOFY time. Want to put your tax-refundable dollar to great work?
‘If you care about the environment, health, cost of living, social equity and childhood independence, consider supporting our bike advocacy,’ Says Bicycle NSW CEO, Peter McLean. ‘Bicycle NSW has been campaigning for safe, accessible bicycle infrastructure for almost 50 years’