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North shore and inner west cyclists face further delays for paths under state government plan

Sydney Morning Herald, 19 December 2013

Long-awaited new cycle paths through Sydney's inner west and to the northern side of the Harbour Bridge have been mothballed or pushed back for years under the O'Farrell government's 20-year bike plan.

But the government has announced construction will start next year on a new cycleway project along the Parramatta River to connect two existing paths in western Sydney.

The “Sydney's Cycling Future” document, released on Thursday by Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian and Roads Minister Duncan Gay, says the government wants to focus on the 70 per cent of NSW residents who would like to regularly ride for transport if it was only more convenient to do so.

But two of the most high-profile proposed bike projects in recent years, designed to improve access through the city for large catchments of inner west and north shore and northern suburbs cyclists, have been pushed off for years in the document.

For instance, cyclists have long complained about having to get off their bike and walk up the stairs of the Harbour Bridge when approaching from the north.

Plans to address this problem have included drawing up new routes for cyclists to get to the bridge through North Sydney from the end of the Naremburn cycleway.

But on the government's timetable, this project is listed as “medium term”, to be built within four to seven years.

In the inner west, residents have campaigned for a so-called greenway cycle path to link the Cooks River paths to Iron Cove, through Petersham and Leichhardt. But Ms Berejiklian cancelled funding for the greenway when the Coalition won government, on the grounds it had not been well-designed.

The document released Thursday includes no plans for the greenway to be built in the next 20 years. Instead, the document promises smaller upgrades to the connections between Anzac Bridge and nearby suburbs around Lilyfield, but these will not be built for about five years.

The most imminent project included in the document is the Parramatta cycleway, to connect paths at Charles Street Weird and Morton Street, Parramatta.

On this project, Ms Berejiklian said: “Work will start in early 2014 to connect the existing northern foreshore path through Rangihou Reserve and onto the Gasworks Bridge through a boardwalk structure giving cyclists and pedestrians a picturesque view as they travel around the city's iconic river."

The “Cycling Future” document says the government's resources will be focused on areas within five kilometres of major centres.

But advocacy officer for Bike North Phil Griffiths said this approach failed to recognise the distances bike riders regularly travelled in Sydney.

“They really need to think about it and have big regional routes laid out that connect the major centres,” Mr Griffiths said.

“As soon as you start looking a bit further than five kilometres, the big transport centres start meeting up anyway,” he said.

Mr Griffiths said seven years was too long to wait for a cycleway to connect to the Harbour Bridge from the north.

“For a Sydney-wide cycling plan the north shore cycleway is really critical. It is really frustrating the approach the state government has taken, in just looking at what are really short distances around the major centres,” he said.

The government's policy also says it will increase the number of bike racks and even lockers at train, bus and light rail stations. It nominates train stations at Redfern, Parramatta, Penrith, Blacktown, Campbelltown, Woy Woy, Gosford and Hornsby to receive new secure bike facilities. It also says that cyclists will eventually be able to use their Opal public transport smartcard to access these.

The government has committed to a major expansion of separated bike paths in Sydney's central business district. The City of Sydney Council hopes to start building new paths on Liverpool Street and Castlereagh Street in the first half of next year.

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