New Bourke St Cycleway – Cars entitled, while pedestrians and riders get the scraps.

The City of Sydney is preparing to deliver the final section of the Bourke Street cycleway through Waterloo. However, the link will be delivered as a shared path (thus mixing riders in with pedestrians) rather than as a green, separated cycleway such as you now find along other sections of Bourke St. We think it vital that the City of Sydney’s flagship cycling route should be delivered as a separated cycleway for its entire length. Achieving this requires of us all to address one of the great taboos of Sydney transport planning: winning back road space.

The concept design for the missing link through Waterloo is presently on display until 16 December and BIKESydney is encouraging submissions from the riding community. Read more on how to make a submission at the end of this article.


About the Proposal

It’s great news that the City of Sydney will soon complete the Bourke St / Bourke Rd cycleway in its entirety.

The Bourke St cycleway link through Waterloo (the “Waterloo Link”) will connect the existing green, separated cycleways that presently stop at south Redfern (in the north) and Green Square (to the south), and thereby complete the primary north-south arterial cycling route through the local government area.

Waterloo Link Project Overview

The features of the proposed design for the Waterloo Link include:

  • New “slimline” bus stops to provide a minimum 2m wide path behind bus shelters;
  • Consolidation of street furniture and plantings to ensure a path width of 2.5m for bikes and pedestrians to share;
  • New ‘tactile’ paving installed at bus stops to remind bike riders to slow down;
  • New paving on the path approach to driveways to prioritise pedestrian movements;
  • New bicycle lanterns on traffic signals;
  • Street lighting upgrade;
  • Shared cycleway signage in keeping with the rest of the network.

Waterloo Link Proposed Slim Line Bus Stops

Waterloo Link Path Design


Why not a Shared Path?

It’s of course terrific news that the last section of the Bourke St to Bourke Rd cycling route will soon be completed. Ensuring that cycleways are integral and inter-connected is an essential strategy in getting Sydney to ride. And could you have even conceived of there being a sanctioned cycling route through this corridor even just a few years ago? Props to the City of Sydney.

However, while the proposal presents many positives, delivering the Waterloo Link as a shared path will diminish the safety, ride comfort and route legibility for riders and unnecessarily increases the potential for negative interactions between riders, shoppers, pedestrians and the huddles of office workers waiting for their morning bus. The primary north-south arterial cycleway through the local government area needs to be a separated cycleway for its entire length. (By comparison, motorways are never constrained to pass through suburban streets.)

There’s also the risk that we are about to throttle the patronage of this cycling route much as the confounding Victoria Road shared path does. (Is it even clear to would-be riders that they are permitted to ride on the Victoria Road shared path? how about the safety of those side-street crossings?…)

It’s not as though there isn’t a place for shared paths. The Glebe foreshore path for example, is a very enjoyable experience for both riders and walkers who co-exist happily. However, most riders on the path are recreational and low-speed, short-trip riders. The Waterloo Link will be used by many commuter riders, a minority of whom will ride at speeds and in a manner not suitable for shared paths. (BIKESydney always encourages and champions “riding graciously” and “to the conditions”). Further, the number of commuter riders through the Waterloo Link will rise appreciably as Coward Street and Bourke Street in Mascot are linked to the Cooks River path.


OK, but perhaps it’s just a one-off, “get out of jail” application of Shared Paths

Mmmm, no. One needs to consider the quality and function sought from the Bourke St / Bourke Rd cycling corridor. Squeezing an arterial cycling route through high pedestrian zones will bring problems – one way or the other.

Further, there is every indication that preferring shared paths over separated cycleways along major cycling corridors will remain the prevailing design approach. The recent rollout of the Chalmers St and Eddy Avenue shared paths (including not one but two “cyclists dismount” stretches) is a case in point.

As indicated in the State Government’s recently released Sydney City Central Access Strategy, Chalmers St will very soon be the primary southern cycling arterial into the CBD once the George St (Redfern) – due for completion in mid-2014 – and Castlereagh St (south) cycleways are complete.

Waterloo Link Path Design


In not pushing for separated facilities along Chalmers St at the first opportunity, it appears that we may now have signaled that the delivery of major arterial cycling routes as shared paths is acceptable.

The Environmental Impact Statement of the proposed CBD and South East Light Rail indicates that a separated cycleway will NOT be provided along Chalmers St as part of that project (see image below) even though the project will significantly increase the number of tram passengers into this shared space.

Waterloo Link Path Design


So, just how significant does the potential for conflict between pedestrians and commuting cyclists have to be to justify path separation to uphold safety for all users?

Passing large commuter cycling flows through heavily congested pedestrian zones will not serve a sustainable long-term solution. Not for Chalmers St. Not for the Waterloo Link.

Just what scale or type of project will it take to win back road space for cycleways?


Re-prioritising Our Travel Spaces

Of course, the elephant in the room here is the disproportionate allocation of space to motor vehicles at the expense of other modes such as cycling and walking. In fact, over time, we have become so distracted as to now accept that provisioning for cyclists and pedestrians (and joggers, and dog-walkers and so on …indeed, merely people being active in different ways) should be a battle for the space that remains after the needs of motor vehicles have been met.

It appears that the expectation is that pedestrians and riders should be forced to share their space, but not cars.

When did we allow the needs and safety of people to be subservient to the needs of motor vehicles?

Isn’t it time we changed this?


The Community needs to be able to Engage Transparently with the RMS

When the City of Sydney considers new transport proposals, there are many decisions that are pre-determined by the State roads authority, the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS). While it is the City of Sydney that appears as the visible proponent, it is often the decisions of the RMS that dictate the cycling outcomes. However, these decisions, let alone the criteria on which they are based, are very rarely articulated to the public. Given their influence on project outcomes, it should be mandatory that every project articulate and justify them.

The concept design for the Waterloo Link should indicate why allocating road space to a separated cycleway wasn’t considered. Without this information it is difficult for the public to make informed decisions about our transport choices. This is particularly relevant in light of the benefits and opportunities that cycling brings (eg, improved transport throughput, decongestion savings, health, commerce and liveability benefits and increased land values).


In the broader view, Sydney is on the cusp of cycling infrastructure choices that will determine whether cycling becomes a real, viable, enjoyable and (critically) supported mode in the transport mix. (Widely-supported behaviour change initiatives will also be required.)

In light of the impending release of the State Government’s Sydney City Centre Access Strategy, the key determinants of successful cycling infrastructure provisioning will include:

  • elevation of the priority of active transport in the transport planning;
  • articulation of the criteria that determine how road space can be re-allocated to cycling infrastructure in order to permit the completion of a comprehensive and connected network of protected bike lanes;
  • properly integrating cycling into intersection layout design and cyclists being given adequate green time by the traffic signals, and
  • providing high-quality cycling infrastructure to address major route impermeabilities (eg, crossing of the Central-to-Redfern rail corridor, Anzac Parade or in the case of the Waterloo Link, the crossing of the Botany Road intersection).

Notably, the positive execution of each of these principles would result in materially improved cycling outcomes of the Waterloo Link. Notably, the determining authority for each of these considerations is the State Government, not local government. The success of cycling in Sydney depends heavily on the decisions of the State Government, and so, direct and transparent engagement with its agencies is needed to get cycling over the line..


Questions to be asked of the Waterloo Link Project

In its submission to the Waterloo Link concept plan, BIKESydney asks:

  • Where is the discussion of the project’s relevance to the regional Cooks River to CBD (via Green Square) cycling route?
  • Once that regional route is connected, how many riders are predicted to use the Waterloo Link in the morning peak hours?
  • What is the project’s justification for deploying the cycling facility as a shared path rather than a separated cycleway (consistent with the remainder of the project)?
  • What elements of the project were determined by the State government and what were the criteria applied in those determinations?
  • Why has the project not considered allocating road space to a separated cycleway? Has the project undertaken traffic modelling that includes the predicted future morning peak hour rider counts along the Waterloo Link?


Make a Submission to the Waterloo Link Project

We urge you to make a submission to the City of Sydney’s Bourke St, Waterloo Shared Path (“Waterloo Link”) project in your own words. You don’t have to be a planning expert or official advocate and even an email of three sentences can be powerful. You’re welcome to borrow from the points in this article.


How to make a Submission

Use either the online form or email the Project’s Community Engagement officer, Adam Lander directly at

  • Include your name and address or postcode.
  • Say whether you cycle in Sydney, how regularly or if you intend to.
  • Be constructive – list your concerns but also share your support for investment in cycling.
  • Be succinct – address the proposal in list form if you can.

Points you may like to consider when writing your submission

Investment in cycling

  • Do you support good infrastructure that creates an interconnected, safe and efficient cycleway network for Sydney?

Infrastructure choices

  • What is your current experience of shared paths?
  • Have you experienced other parts of the Bourke Street separated cycleway?
  • Is there a difference in using shared paths versus separated cycleways?
  • What are your views on commuting cyclists and pedestrians sharing paths?

About the process

  • Any thoughts on the decision-making process for cycling infrastructure?

Project Justifications

  • Should the RMS have to justify its project decisions?
  • Should the project articulate the traffic modelling used to justify the infrastructure choices taken by the project?
  • Should the City of Sydney include comparisons of the number of people moved by cars versus the number of people moved by active transport along the Bourke St (Waterloo) corridor during morning peak hours?

…Or, of course, just speak to the issues that matter to you.

Why delay? Send your submission now (while your thoughts are fresh in the mind)

Submissions must be in by close of business on Monday 16 December 2013.


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