Monday, February 8, 2010

Cycling and Newtown - Part I

Newtown has a well earned reputation as the heart of Sydney cycling. Cyclists abound on and around King St, and the 'cyclists highway' of Wilson Street was the site of Sydney's first (I think) contra-flow cycle lane. According the NSW government's statistics web page; Newtown ranks second in NSW (really first, as O'Connor is in the A.C.T - strange that the website claims it as part of NSW) for the number of commuting cyclists.

The City of Sydney Council and Marrickville Council (joint custodians of Newtown) both have excellent cycling strategies online (Sydney and Marrickville). One key difference though is that Marrickville council have recently cut their cycling budget - despite the best intentions of the Greens - whereas Sydney Council are spending millions on implementing theirs.

The above dichotomy reveals are more general problem with cycle paths in Sydney. Given the state government's complete lack of interest in cycling, it's left in the hands of local councils. As a result, cycle paths (where they exists) typically stop at council boundaries (or anywhere else where the money happns to run out). The classic example of this in Newtown is the way the Stanmore - Newtown cycleway peters out at the corner of King Street and Mary Street, with an unfriendly one way street between it and the aforementioned Wilson Street cycle highway.

Amazingly there is a detailed plan to fix this intersection and unify these paths (on page 101 of Marrickville's cycle strategy) although no details on timing or funding (nor even whether the RTA would agree to losing one lane of one of the few East - West routes in inner-Sydney).

Sydney Council has recently announced plans for a Cycle Hub at Taylor Square. The planned hub will include showers and a bike repair centre. There are doubts about whether this is the right location for the hub; on the positive side it's on the intersection of three major cycle routes; on the other hand it's not clear it's close enough to offices to be really useful for commuters.

Newtown's Hub would seem like an obvious site for a similar facility (we can't let Surry Hills get one up on us) - perhaps associated with the community centre in my old office (a.k.a the Town Hall) - situated as it is at the intersection of several bike routes. It could act as a de facto bike parking facility for Newtown Station, given that Railcorp will not commit to decent bike facilities. What do you think ?

In Part 2 I'll discuss in more detail some of the local routes in and around Newtown and planned upgrades; in the meantime here are some (hopefully) useful links - let me know if I've missed any !
  • Bike Sydney
    BIKESydney was formed in 2000 to help look after the Sydney City Council Area (Australia) and is affiliated with Bicycle NSW.
  • Massbug
    Local bicycle group covering Marrickville and former South Sydney Council areas. The group meets on the first Wednesday of the month at the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre at 7:30pm.
  • Bicycle NSW
    Peak cycling body providing advice, insurance, ride events bike shop discounts and Australian Cyclist magazine to members
  • RTA Cycleways
    The RTA has produced Cycleway maps for Newcastle, Central Coast, Illawarra and Sydney regions.
  • Sydney Community College
    Offers short affordable cycling courses to improve your skills and confidence in riding a bike.


  1. First contra flow lane I'm aware of in Sydney was Mary Ann Street in Ultimo. Much earlier than Wilson Street.

    I recently received a letter from David Campbell via Carmel Tebbutt after 18 months of requesting action on the traffic lights at the end of the Wilson Street contra flow. He claims the RTA have never received a request from Sydney City to have traffic lights handle cyclists. A blatant lie. I shall be hounding Carmel over this lie.

  2. I have a bike and I occasionally commute to work in Surry Hills from south Newtown via south sydney housoes, but I am petrified of passing Newtown station because of the extremely unfriendly and even dangerous nature of that busy intersection to cyclists. If there was a cycling bridge across the railway tracks at the end of Brennans Lane, feeding into Whitehorse St, and popping out at Holt St, it would make the area much more appealing for residents south of Newtown station to commute to work.

    I hope the planned Newtown station upgrade takes cyclists crossing their facilities into account.

  3. @Simon - I figured someone would correct the contra-lane !
    I applaud Sydney council's cycle plans in general but the Erko Road / Wilson St mess is so much more worthy of fixing that adding a separated cycle lane to Bowden Street; one of the quietest in Alexandria. Keep the pressure up !

    @deconstruct - you could always take Angel St in the meantime. The new Newtown Station access will use half the route you suggest (from Railway Lane to the platforms) but no plans to complete the bridge to Brennans Lane at this stage.

  4. Yes! Bring on the cycling hub for Newtown. And while we're at it, lets get rid of two lanes of traffic (or parking) on King St and get some nice wide bike lanes the length of King St.

    Say I'm dreaming, but other places prove it's possible:

  5. First contra flow, to my knowledge, was in Kelly St between Bay St and Mountain St, Ultimo.

  6. Let's face it, Sydney is never going to be cycle friendly. Simply put, the city layout can't handle convenient cycle paths so most people are too scared to ride on the streets. I only ride from from Station Street to Uni of Syd and take back roads behind the courty and through to missenden road, and I swear I almost get hit at least once or twice a week. And these aren't busy roads.

    Also let's be honest, Australians in the majority just aren't into cyclying and overall are far too lazy.

    I think the Hub idea is good though.

  7. That Wilson St - Erskinville Rd intersection needs to be redesigned with cyclists included in the mix. If i want to continue down Wilson to turn left right into Enmore Rd - then join with the pedestrians to get across to Bedford - i have to jump over a pedestrian triangle island and avoid left turning cars to do it.