Putting the facts back in the debate

Let's get some facts back into recent debates - lots of Sydneysiders ride bikes including serious business people. In fact, when I was first elected Lord Mayor it was the CEOs in suits who were the loudest voices calling for safe, separated bike lanes into the CBD. And they are using them now, along with thousands of other city workers to commute every day.

Just last week, this paper reported that Patricia Forsythe, the Executive Director of the Sydney Business Chamber said she would not lobby the Government to get rid of bike lanes because many business owners were not opposed to them.

Another fact is that the City consults far and wide. We understand that what we do in the city centre affects more than just the residents who are lucky enough to live here but also the 600,000 people who are in central Sydney every day.

That's why when developing our long term plan for the future Sustainable Sydney 2030 we talked to people living in inner and outer Sydney, including as far afield as the Blue Mountains and visiting tourists. And we are still consulting with residents, workers, visitors and businesses on a regular basis.

Another fact - the City and the NSW Government share targets for improving transport.

City and State targets include increasing the share of commuter trips by public transport to the Sydney CBD in peak hours to 80 per cent and increasing bicycle trips to 10 per cent.

CBD traffic congestion isn't caused by the three kilometres of bike lanes the City has established or the thousands using them to commute. It's worth remembering no traffic lanes were removed for any bike lanes.

There are many competing demands on our roads - buses, taxis, delivery vehicles, emergency vehicles, trucks and private car owners. These demands are only going to get worse as our population grows.

It makes sense to make it easier and safer for people, who want the option and who live close to the city, to ride to and from work, university, school, the shops and parks. This creates more space for people who do need to drive.

The fact is bold approaches must be taken or the City will be close to standstill in 20 years. We don't have the ability to change the space between buildings. There are 600,000 people in and around our city every day and an extra 300 000 more people and 1800 buses predicted by 2030.

Cities across the world are ahead of us in tackling congestion - in London over 1 million people use their bike hire scheme and New York City has pedestrianised Times Square, arguably the most famous street in the world, and has seen business thrive. Other Australian cities like Brisbane and Melbourne are investing in bike infrastructure.

There is hope for Sydney but only if this Premier stops treating the City Government like the Opposition - smart Premiers look to work with Local Government not against. By working together in a serious and constructive way we can solve many of the complex problems our city faces.

By playing politics instead of focussing on real issues, this Premier has raised many questions about his motives.

His media announcement about establishing a Central Sydney Traffic and Transport Committee left out the critical point that the Government already manages major transport issues in the city centre and has to approve all City transport projects - including bike lanes. In the case of Kent Street, the RTA chose the route.

Expressing concerns about the extension of Sydney's network of bike lanes was also a direct contradiction to the fact that his Transport Masterplan, recently released, says biking and walking have become popular in recent years and the Government should maintain the trend by expanding cycling and walking networks.

His crusade against MPs working in Local Government because of claims about their ability to manage their time effectively strangely falls short of addressing the more significant issue of MPs with private businesses and professional interests.

While attacking the right of people to choose their local representative he is turning a blind eye to the conflicts faced by the 60 MPs who have ongoing involvement or ownership of businesses, investment properties, legal and medical practices and share portfolios and several who are company directors.

This is more than double the number of MPs elected by their community to represent them on a local level.

The Premier's formula for daily political announcements is becoming very familiar but I call on the Premier to focus his energy back to addressing the real action and funding needed for the serious challenges facing NSW.

* Originally published in The Daily Telegraph, 15 March, 2012 - http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/sydney-on-a-bike-path-to-global-greatness/story-e6frezz0-1226299671797

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