Whether we like it or not, cycleways are political. This is despite the fact that they encourage healthy, cheap and emissions-free transport. However, they remain a novelty in Australia and arouse deep emotions.
The pop-up cycleway on Moore Park Road recently won a three-year reprieve, demonstrating government and community resolve to prioritise people over vehicles. Read more about Bicycle NSW and BIKEast’s advocacy here.
Safe from peak hour traffic for now. 450-500 office workers, delivery riders, cargo bikes, kick bikes, and rickshaw elders use the Moore Park Road cycleway daily. Riders of all ages and abilities love the cycleway including women, 64% of whom prefer protected bike lanes. (Image: Dean Sewell / Sydney Morning Herald)
Current plans will remove the pop-up once the Oxford Street cycleway is in place. We want the Moore Park Road facility to be made permanent. After all, both cycleways contribute to Sydney’s growing active transport network and provide connectivity to different parts of the city.
The fight for Moore Park Road has only just begun
It is clear that some stakeholders want the Moore Park Road pop-up gone NOW.
In a packed City of Sydney meeting, Sydney Stadium and Rugby Australia argued that the Moore Park Road cycleway is ‘extremely unsafe’ and needs to be eliminated. Because what could be more terrifying to football executives than a 5-year-old on a bike? Bike advocates responded with police data showing zero bicycle or pedestrian accidents since the pop up cycleway was installed.
Turns out that it’s all about car parking
Sydney Football Stadium wants to build a multi-storey ziggurat to the car gods as part of its major redevelopment plan. A structure big enough to house 1,500 cars. A new driveway is planned on Moore Park Road for vehicles to exit the site after events. In addition, a long stretch of Moore Park Road is identified by the same carpark-obsessed sports executives as the perfect 650m kiss-and-ride zone for car, bus and taxi passenger drop-off and pick-up.
If only that terrifying cycleway wasn’t there of course.
The location of the proposed driveway on Moore Park Road. The pleasant entrance plaza for the UTS building will be removed to make way for cars (Image: BIKEast)
For years, SFS management has resisted all attempts for car storage to be removed from Moore Park’s grassy commons. The weekly spectacle of 2000+ parked cars replacing kids playing soccer or tag has been a long-time embarrassment. Sydney’s Lord Mayor and the current and previous Transport Ministers see it for what it is - an infrastructure and environmental failure. It’s also incredibly inconvenient for patrons entering and leaving the stadium.
Cars on the commons are an ongoing embarrassment (Image credit: Sydney Morning Herald)
The stadium’s car storage problem won’t be solved by ripping up a cycleway to make way for more cars
‘Let's be realistic,’ said Bicycle NSW CEO Peter McLean. ‘Transporting tens of thousands of people to a city stadium by private car makes no sense. It’s completely inefficient because cars take up too much space and require parking. But public transport and active transport can move huge crowds.’
Indeed, there’s a 90-year-old precedent for moving masses of people to SFS. During a 1934 football match between Australia and England, trams moved a record 709 carriages. This totalled approximately 56 000 people. And the return trip of 357 carriages ‘in under 25 minutes highlighted the expeditious loading and despatch.’ Try getting out of the stadium, into your car and off the grass in that amount of time.
Sydneysiders a have moved on from travelling to SFS by car
2023 Opal confirms this. In January for instance, 70 869 visitors travelled through Moore Park Light Rail Station, marking a 34% increase in usage from 2020. This, in turn indicates that the majority of patrons are leaving their cars in the suburbs and taking public transport.
The stadium holds >42,000 people but the proposed parking is for 1500 cars. So much traffic, public space impact and cost for just 3.5% of patrons. And even more outrageous if the state government is paying some portion. NSW has already paid $828 million for SFS and not everyone was pleased.
Trashing the cycleway contravenes stadium’s development obligations
One of the conditions of state consent for redeveloping the SFS is The Green Travel Plan (GTP). The core obligations of the GTP are that the SFS must actively provide measures to 'disincentivise car use’ and encourage sustainable travel including 'travel by foot, bicycle and other non-motorised vehicles) and public transport.’ Condition D13: Must ensure MPR separated cycleway is considered appropriately into all operational plans.
How to play fair
Extending the car park whilst preserving the cycleway was outlined in the Urbanac report to UTS and Rugby Australia. Urbanac suggested a simple redesign allowing access to the rear of the building for services like deliveries and rubbish removal. A great solution, because if you can fit garbage trucks, you can fit cars. Urbanac also advised that ‘this would provide a long-term solution to the current servicing constraints for Rugby Australia House.’ This removes the need for vehicles to access the building directly from Moore Park Road and complies with the Green Travel Plan.
SFS can build its car park and leave Moore Park Road cycleway for the thousands using it every week
So folks, SFS can develop car storage facilities without needing to rip a perfectly good cycleway. Meanwhile we can all get on with promoting a resilient, healthy, efficient zero-carbon city that supports active transport.
And maybe SFS can consider providing more bike parking! (Image: BicycleNSW)
A dense and rapidly growing inner Sydney area
Kim Woodbury, Chief Operations Officer for the City of Sydney, emphasized the City's commitment to urban liveability. His witness statement to the NSW Upper House Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry, highlights the significance of open spaces. In particular, Moore Park’s green space is vital for the health and well-being of inner Sydney’s exploding population. To illustrate, 70,000 residents are expected to inhabit Moore Park’s 2km radius with 22,000 additional workers by the next decade. Moore Park is arguably Australia’s most densely populated quarter with levels projected to rival Hong Kong and Singapore.
So why even contemplate removing a cycleway?
Politics. In a car-culture, the fight to build or protect just one cycleway is exhausting. So we understand the temptation for good politicians to horse-trade - Moore Park Road for Oxford Street. But it goes against their own better judgement around inclusion and sustainability. After all, who does that to cars? You never hear: ‘Well, you’ve got Oxford St which also goes east. Let’s make Moore Park Road a duck run.’ Just like roads, cycleways exist in a growing network. But unlike cars, over short distances, bikes win on every efficiency measure. And others you may not have considered.