Transforming Sydney into a Cycling City

The final part of a 3-part series by Nina Vucetic – Director of Sydney-based Electric Bikes firm Reef Bikes.

The ambitious Sydney Cycle Strategy is attempting to make bike riding a sustainable and convenient form of transport in Australia’s biggest city.

By building a major 200km bicycle network that includes 50km of separated cycle ways, along with free cycling courses, cycling events and education campaigns, Sydney is looking for big changes – congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, and travel times are all hoped to go down, with air quality and health likely to improve.

This ambitious cycle network plan – if official predictions are to be believed – has the potential to take 300,000 car trips a day off inner Sydney roads and relieve overcrowded public transport routes into the city, as well as increasing the number of bike trips made in the city from 2% to 10% of all trips by 2016.

More specifically, the Sydney Cycle Strategy aims to cut car use by 4.3 million trips a year by 2016, alleviate health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease, bring environmental improvements such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions as well as improved air quality and lower noise pollution – some ambitious aims.

Fiscally speaking, the city expects to see $147.3 million in health benefits over the next 30 years, potentially saving Sydney commuters from a raft of chronic diseases from heart disease to Type 2 Diabetes. Additionally, savings of $24.2 million in greenhouse gas emissions, air and noise pollution are predicted, with every $1 spent on the network expected to generate $3.88.

However, Sydney faces many challenges, and success to the levels predicted by officials will not be easy. At present, although 42% of Sydney households own at least 1 bicycle, only 0.7% of people cycle to work. In fact, Sydney has Australia’s lowest percentage of trips to work by bike and the lowest percentage of the population who are regular cyclists.

Sydney has lower levels of cycling than San Francisco, arguably a city of comparable topography. With roughly double the amount of investment per capita, San Francisco – and many other cities – has demonstrated that cycling levels can be increased with an appropriate mix of investment, government commitment and policy options. If the Sydney Cycle Strategy goes ahead as planned, we’ll soon see if such a mix works in Australia’s biggest city.

Image courtesy of D J Murrell on flickr

  • Anonymous

    Why illustrate this story with a photo of recreational cyclist racing? Why not depict cycle commuters?

    • Joe Peach

      Well, the post is about transformation, and the style of this photo encapsulated the speedy movement and slightly magical tone of transformation. Also, the two other posts in this series both included images from Sydney’s cycle infrastructure so as a finale to a 3-part series it was nice to end on something different. Also, sadly, there are very few photos of busy cycling commuters in Sydney. Perhaps this new infrastructure might change that?

    • Eric in Seattle

      Not sure what is more annoying, the photo of a racer to illustrate a network of transportation-oriented bike routes, or the fact that the image has been reversed.