Construction on one of Sydney CBD’s new bike lanes is expected to begin next month, following the release of plans for a complete network by the O’Farrell government on Wednesday.
The government also endorsed a lower speed limit in inner Sydney, as well as a steep reduction in on-street parking numbers in the city, as part of a package of measures designed to help accommodate a light rail corridor through the centre of the city.
Releasing the City Centre Access Strategy, Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian and Roads Minister Duncan Gay committed the government to policies that reflect, in large part, the agenda of lord mayor Clover Moore.
These policies include a chain of bike paths to allow cyclists to cross the city from north to south and east to west without mixing with traffic, more focus on pedestrians, a 40 km/h speed limit in parts of the city, and more taxi ranks.
But it says one existing bike path on College Street should be ripped up, to be replaced by new north-south paths on Pitt and Castlereagh streets.
City of Sydney Council intends to start work next month on the first section of bike path, an extension of a Kent Street path two blocks from Druitt Street to Liverpool Street.
The access strategy is open for consultation for another six weeks, but on Wednesday the Transport for NSW director-general Les Wielinga said work could start on Kent Street.
The committee was set up by Premier Barry O’Farrell to avoid the city being held hostage to Cr Moore’s aims; it has now largely confirmed those aims in a 20-year plan.
The strategy says cyclists will be able to cross east-west through the city on bike paths on King Street, where there is already the start of a path, and on Liverpool Street.
On-street parking numbers will be cut in a number of streets to fit bike paths and bus priority lanes. Parts of Castlereagh, Liverpool, Park, College and Elizabeth streets will lose on-street parking.
But the government says motorists will be encouraged to ”use spare capacity in off-street parking”, with about 7000 to 21,000 off-street parking spots unused in the city every day.
When the light rail is opened, in about 2019, car traffic on George Street will be limited to one lane on either side of the tram tracks. A one-kilometre section between Hunter Street and Bathurst Street will be exclusive to pedestrians and local business traffic.
When the line is being built, the effect on the rest of the transport network could be severe. For instance, George Street buses will be re-directed to Elizabeth Street.
Cr Moore praised the government’s strategy, but said the council would seek compensation for the $4.9 million cost of building the College Street cycle path.
She said the city wanted to build a bike lane on Castlereagh Street, but was told by the former state government to use College Street.