The Heath Street Cycleway is about as good as a cycleway gets
Heath Street is a crucial link in a six-part East-West regional cycleway connecting Canada Bay in Sydney’s inner west with the western suburbs. The Heath Street section was enabled by $7 million from the NSW Government, and it is part of the Parramatta Road Urban Amenity Improvement Program collaboration between state agencies and local governments. Although it’s a beautiful and strategic bit of cycleway, Canada Bay Council (CBC) plans to remove it.
As good as it gets! Read our submission in Heath Street Cycleway
The route was chosen after a comprehensive feedback process to expand the local bike network and provide a cycling environment for people of all ages and abilities. It aims to provide a safe, convenient, and comfortable route for pedestrians and cyclists.
The cycleway allows locals, particularly children, to safely ride to Timbrell Park in an area jammed with cars.
An overview of the Concord to Bay Cycleway connecting bicycle riders from Strathfield to the Inner West (Source: Canada Bay Council)
Good bicycle infrastructure attracts opposition
Unfortunately, some residents have claimed that changed road conditions between Henley Marine Drive and First Avenue have made conditions less safe due to reduced visibility of parked cars and driveways. But Bicycle NSW and Canada Bay BUG note that good bicycle infrastructure attracts opposition, and the decision to remove the separated cycleway and paint bike symbols on the road will discourage the mode shift that CBC seeks in all its policies. A consultant's review was commissioned by CBC to respond to increasingly hostile sentiment against the Heath Street Cycleway. The review advised CBC to remove the cycleway but offered zero evidence to substantiate its claims.
The cycleway improves safety for all road users
The main disputed claim relates to width, with the consultant claiming that the street has become dangerously narrow. But Canada Bay BUG’s measurements indicate a significant discrepancy in the consultant’s calculations and note the report’s removal from the CBC’s website. Yet, even with the exaggerated claim of 8.6m, Heath Street is much wider than nearly of its neighbours especially to the east. Indeed, all of the concerns surrounding width go away when traffic is calmed to 30 km/h. This would also create an environment that encourages CBC's active travel, climate, and sustainability strategies to be realized.
The issue isn’t about safety. Overall safety is improved by separated infrastructure and speed reduction
Reduced speed limits and the creation of a quiet or yield street will create a welcome environment for 70% of citizens to consider journeys by bike, according to the best practice 'cycling segmentation' model which was developed in Portland USA to identify the type and needs of different bike ride riders.
The real issue is one of communication. More work need to be done to bring the wider community on board through a process of co-design. Not only do we encourage CBC to back its sound active transport and sustainability policies, we also advise hitting the pause button on any plans to rip up the cycleway.
The pause button
It takes significant time and money to build a good cycleway, so it is reasonable to consider all options. Especially given that it’s a $7 million state-funded partnership grant. TfNSW may not like the idea of hurling good money into the wind during a cost of living crisis! Moreover, acting in haste invites increased pressure from opposition groups and weakens CBC’s ability to realise streetscape upgrades in the future.
It is essential therefore to maintain the Heath Street Cycleway, a well-designed regional route providing safety, convenience and comfort to pedestrians and bike riders. With the advantages of time and help from Bicycle NSW, CBC has every opportunity to bring its constituents along for the journey. A fun, safe journey that ends in better streets for kids to ride down to the park on sports day.
You can read our submission here.
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