Bicycle NSW recently joined advocates from Bike Marrickville and the Inner West Bicycle Coalition (IWBC) for a special Sunday ride. We explored the untapped potential for the Inner West’s cycling network.
The Inner West has waterways that could become bike flows, highways that could become bike byways, construction sites that could become parks, and coves already primed for pedalling along - but not pedalling to. However, the area has many constraints.
The dense urban fabric criss-crossed by arterial roads, rail corridors and waterways have hindered the delivery of a coherent, safe network for walking and cycling. The streets and other public spaces have many competing demands and bike riders have definitely been left aside.
This situation might just be beginning to change. NSW has a Minister for Active Transport for the first time. The Government is working hard to create a better balance between movement and place in neighbourhood centres. A suite of policies have been published that, in theory, will prioritise pedestrians and bike riders. This should ensure that sustainable transport is accessible for people of all ages and abilities.
Our group of 20 gathered at Newtown Station before we headed down some attractive back streets towards the Johnstons Creek green corridor. Johnstons Creek has good quality shared paths that pass the new Tramsheds precinct en route to the foreshore at Blackwattle Bay. We then navigated the construction site around the Rozelle Interchange. Here we tried to imagine the future parklands and we discussed how the shared paths must be wide enough to separate the high volume of people walking and riding.
Victoria Road was avoided by following the ‘official’ bike route up and over the hill on narrow back streets. We then used a new roadside shared path, sadly broken by several dangerous intersections, to reach the Bay Run. It was alive with community activity on a sunny Sunday. Unfortunately, too many visitors are compelled to drive to the foreshore as there is a lack of safe walking and cycling infrastructure from neighbouring suburbs. Plans are underway to develop Callan Park and it is essential that bike paths are incorporated to allow better access to and along the Bay Run.
Turning off at Timbrell Park, we followed the route of Iron Cove Creek, the subject of much advocacy over the years. A green corridor along Iron Cove Creek could provide safe access to Ashfield Aquatic Centre and the Cooks River shared paths. We re-crossed the Parramatta Road, bikes perched precariously on skinny refuges between slip roads waiting for lights to change. This infamous road’s failure as both a movement corridor and a place was very evident.
From Ashfield Aquatic Centre we turned back towards Newtown. First we followed Elizabeth Street which is crying out for protected cycling facilities. Then we joined the mix of separated bicycle paths and shared paths that make up the recently finished regional route along the railway line east from Lewisham. This route works quite well to create safer conditions but local advocates feel that some of the details are not best practice.
The group covered around 26km of the Inner West. Thanks so much to Natalie, John, Neil and Bob for showing us their ‘hood!
Bicycle NSW has made a submission to help inform Inner West’s new cycling strategy. We will work with local advocates to argue for the best possible routes for the Eastern Harbour City Strategic Cycleway Corridors that Minister Stokes has committed to deliver.
We saw how the existing cycling network bypasses Victoria Road and Parramatta Road. For how much longer should bike riders have to shy away from the direct, level and obvious routes that connect local and regional destinations? Excitingly, discussions about reallocating space on these key arterials are ramping up at State and council level.
“It is essential to grab the opportunity created by the new tunnels to remove vehicle lanes, and use the space to create safe protected cycleways and widened footpaths” says Bicycle NSW CEO Peter McLean. “Such reconfiguration of these key roads, in conjunction with lower speed limits and traffic volumes, would unleash their potential for new development and community life and ensure that they connect rather than divide the neighbourhoods of the Inner West.