(This post appeared online as an opinion piece on the Guardian Australia's website on 19/09/13)
Hysterical claims that bike riding will cripple the city's economy, misleading stories that distort data to proclaim that less people are riding and wilful ignorance of good practice overseas is just some of what has been thrown my way.
This anti-bike sentiment is being stirred up again in response to the NSW government's newly announced City Centre Access Strategy, which includes fresh plans for bike paths in the centre of Sydney. The strategy is not just for bikes, it's a plan for all types of transport. Thanks to it, cars, pedestrians, buses, taxis and bikes can all get where they need in an easier and faster way.
Sydney is continually recognised for its liveability and increasingly for its sustainability, but we fall behind on transport. Our congestion issues are deeply frustrating to the people who live and work here, as well as to those who visit. Data shows that young people are buying fewer cars and driving less, and so building a transport system around cars no longer makes sense. We need other options, and bikes are just one of them.
The NSW government has changed its mind after doing the work and looking at research and facts. Roads minister Duncan Gay, who says he is the "government's biggest bike lane sceptic", now acknowledges the need for other transport options.Times are changing, and Sydney is riding.
Bike counts show that there are 31,600 City of Sydney residents using their bikes every week. Independent counts in the City of Sydney across 100 intersections show the number of people riding bikes over the past three years has more than doubled.
Yesterday I asked people on Twitter to let the Daily Telegraph know if they were riding bicycles to work, using the #onyerbike hashtag. We had hundreds of replies, and the huge response showed that people are riding not just in the city but to and from other suburbs as well, rain, hail or shine. Many mentioned cycling was faster than using a car, with no parking hassle either.
The anti-bike argument is strange when you consider the social and economic benefits. Before we started building the network, we asked AECOM, a Fortune 500 company, to do an economic analysis (PDF) to see if there was benefit in providing bike lanes. It showed huge benefits - delivering at least $506m in net economic benefits over 30 years, roughly equivalent to a $4 return on every dollar spent. Now, compare that to the $2 return delivered by Sydney motorways.
Thousands of people on bikes are thousands who aren't in their cars or in public transport adding to congestion. There will always be cars traveling to and from the city centre but if tackling our growing congestion problem is not taken seriously, Sydney will be left behind.
In London, the biggest ever census of bike use in the city found that bikes now account for 24% of all road traffic in central London during the morning peak, and on key routes bikes even outnumber all other vehicles.
In May, New York started a bike-hire scheme. Within three days more than 20,000 people had registered and by August, more than two million trips had been made using the scheme.
The NSW government has set an ambitious target of doubling local and district trips by bike by 2016 and the City's work to build a network of safe, separated cycleways will be essential if they want to meet that target. We expect the hysterical anti-bike ranting to continue for a while longer but as we've seen this week, they will increasingly become lone voices drowned out by tens of thousands of happy riders. You can't stop progress.