Cycling in Sydney

It’s time to write about something I had heard much of and thus had hopes for greatness for in Sydney: The cycle lanes.

I had visions of utopian bike lanes, separated from the road and from hoi polloi on the footpath, a veritable lifeline, flowing through the city where cyclists could roam, the only contest for space coming from each other, undisturbed by either motorist or pedestrian.

Yes well, it’s nice to dream and they’re free. At present, my bike resides under the stairs in my house. It has airings in the park and will be useful on the morning when weather allows my flatmate and me to take up our planned outside swimming regime.

As for cycling the 10km to work –  well, I’m still buying a weekly bus ticket.

And just a note before I go any further - can we try to leave out the cyclist/motorist slagging and talk about this topic like adults?

In 2009, the Sydney Morning Herald had this to say about cycling in the city:

"Sydney's cycleways are not so much an organised network as a fragmented collection of winding paths and half-finished ideas. Most were built or designed when cycling was viewed as a pleasant pastime rather than a practical form of travel and are now poorly suited to commuting.

"Many are riven with potholes and located perilously close to parked cars or - like the Harbour Bridge cycleway - they end suddenly at a steep flight of stairs or a telegraph pole."

According to Wikipedia, that same year, about "4000 cyclists rode to or from Sydney CBD on an average weekday, via the Harbour Bridge, Anzac Bridge and Anzac Parade cycleways alone."

I have no idea if things have improved since 2009 but I rather suspect not. Around Surry Hills there's a separated network that looks pretty but from a safety point of view rather dubious, given the number of intersections that punctuate it.

Motorists can have trouble seeing cyclists anyway, so this design was not greeted with enthusiasm by Sydney’s cyclists, who have a  curious aversion to getting up close and personal with the road.

My boss cycles to work regularly and so do a couple of my colleagues. They arrive in one piece, which I should find heartening as I love the idea of commuting by bike.

But I lack nerves of steel. One look at the Oxford Street bus lane, where cyclists fight for space with rush hour buses – including the enormous bendy ones - and I shudder. It’s a fun cat and mouse game- bus overtakes cyclist. Cyclist takes life in hands to overtake bus at stop. Rinse and repeat.

As well as buses, I am unconvinced about the style of driving in Sydney. I’ve seen some interesting displays with no cyclists are involved, so I don’t think I want to test it from the vantage point of my bike seat.

So I’m wondering if I’m alone here. How many people would consider cycling to work at least some of the time if they felt safer on the roads, or there was a better cycle network where they live? 

And who's quite happy cycling to work?

(Please note - I’m not apportioning blame as to why cyclists may not feel safe on the roads, so again, not an invitation to have a go at anyone.)

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