Fewer cars in Sydney CBD opens way for cycleway, more pedestrian space
If it gets the green light, the bike path along Castlereagh Street between King and Liverpool streets will connect to an existing cycleway at the street’s southern end.
About 8000 to 9000 fewer vehicles are travelling into the CBD on average during weekday mornings than in 2015, figures from the state’s transport agency show.
Across the entire day, the number of vehicles entering the CBD has fallen by an average of almost 8 per cent, compared with 2015.
The change to motorists’ habits has led the council to propose keeping closed several traffic lanes, which were originally to be reopened when the light rail line was completed.
They include a southbound lane of George Street from Bathurst to Campbell streets; the intersection of George and Dalley streets; and an eastbound lane of Devonshire Street from Chalmers to Elizabeth streets in Surry Hills.
Their closure would expand the size of pedestrian-friendly sections of the inner city.
While the cycleway at the southern end of Castlereagh Street was opened in 2015, the government put on hold plans to extend it until after the light rail line was completed.
The City of Sydney said it was preparing a feasibility study to look into options for the cycleway.
“The NSW government has not yet released details of its post-light rail bus plan, but if buses are shifted to Elizabeth Street, it would allocate street space to other road users when the cycleway is delivered,” it said.
The council has also been developing options for cycleways along the northern end of Pitt Street, and a part of King Street, which would help close a missing link in the CBD’s bike network.
Transport for NSW said it was “supportive” of the council progressing its plan, but it would need to consider the staging of constructions and ways to reduce the disruption caused.
The agency’s coordinator general, Marg Prendergast, said the large drop in the number of motorists driving into the CBD allowed it to look at ways to make the city “more pedestrian friendly”.
“We are working with the City of Sydney right now … By reducing the number of buses coming in from the south east, it enables us to rethink how the city works,” she said.
With fewer people driving into the CBD, more commuters are switching to travelling by public transport. Weekday trips rose almost 15 per cent on average in the first six months of this year, from the same period in 2015.
The changes to bus routes will be staged to avoid a repeat of the concerns raised by residents in Sydney’s north west who faced significant changes to routes when a $7.3 billion metro line from Rouse Hill to Chatswood was opened in May.
Matt O’Sullivan is the Transport Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.