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.