Portland Cycling Presentation

(Portland, Oregon, USA)

Hello and thank you for such an interesting program here in Portland. We've found a lot of inspiration in your work.

In 2007, we embarked on a massive, city-wide consultation to create a new strategy that would equip Sydney for the challenges of the 21st century. We talked to every section of our community: to residents and businesses, both the multi-nationals and the small traders; to our cultural institutions and other government departments and agencies.

We also sought advice from specialists in relevant fields and from all this, forged a plan we call Sustainable Sydney 2030. It's not just a statement of goals but also a series of actions that will ensure Sydney is a green, global and connected city for this century.

As a city government, we face particular challenges:

We cover a relatively small area just over 26 square km within the greater Sydney metropolitan area. The State Government controls major roads and transport systems.

Our central business district was shaped in the early 19th century on a narrow and irregular street pattern, congestion is an increasing problem, now costing us over $4 billion a year, and investment in transport infrastructure such as light rail has been shamefully neglected.

Yet this small area has to cope with one million people a day - residents, workers, visitors and shoppers who need options for getting around the city safely and easily.

Clearly, business as usual is not an option if Sydney is to maintain its well-deserved reputation as one of the world's liveliest and most liveable cities.

Sustainable Sydney 2030 therefore commits us to action on all fronts; economic, social, cultural and governance. But key among them are reforms to make us an environmentally sustainable city through trigeneration, integrated waste disposal, and water capture and reuse, and to providing an integrated transport network that includes much better provision for pedestrians and cyclists.

Till very recently, Sydney was notoriously unfriendly to cyclists. Professor John Pucher of Rutgers University said when he was in Sydney that it was the worst place he'd cycled in.

We're now in the process of changing that, but as you no doubt found when you began your cycling work here, culture change is a slow process, not helped by shock-jocks or rabid columnists!

We're planning to increase the one per cent of trips in Sydney made by bicycle to 10 per cent and at the same time create a cycling network that is safe and usable by people of all ages and abilities.

85 per cent of Sydneysiders told us they would cycle if there were separated cycleways, so we are now building a 200 km network, of which 55 km will be separated from traffic.

Our plan is based on connection and destination, providing a viable transport option, whether it's for the daily commute to work or school, for a quick trip to the shops, or for recreation. We run extensive education courses, provide on-street parking, distribute maps and run promotional campaigns targeting cyclists, pedestrians and drivers.

We've faced plenty of challenges, many of them due to Sydney's topography of narrow, ridge-line roads which prevented us from fitting separated bike lanes on either side of the road.

The solution was to compress the parking and travel lanes to fit bi-directional separated cycleways as shown in the slides.

There are three approaches:

  • One is to use a double step;
  • Another is to have the cycleway flush with the footpath and use plantings to block pedestrians from the path; and
  • Thirdly, to use a raised median strip for separation.

However, this does mean that it is difficult to handle intersections and we therefore pay close attention to the treatment of intersections to ensure that they are safe:

  • One answer is signals for cyclists at intersections;
  • A second is to bend car lanes out which allow cars to turn before giving way to cyclists; and,
  • A third, which we are trialling with the government's Roads & Traffic Authority, is to define a shared environment through bollards and a raised platform at footpath level where cars give way to cycles.

We also define shared paths through a continuous blue line, rather than signage which people are apt to miss, especially if they get out of a car at a point between signs. And as you can see in the image, there is stippling as well to alert pedestrians.

We have defined ten regional routes across the city and inner suburbs. These have been selected to maximise connectivity to major destinations.

So far, we have completed 10 km of separated cycleways without losing a single traffic lane, and our research suggests that 70 per cent of cross-city routes are already bike friendly.

To maximise the benefits, however, we need a regional network beyond the city boundaries; one that would connect with major inner residential and retail areas and educational institutions.

This involves us in discussions with 14 neighbouring councils, many of whom have been quick to see the benefits. We are seeking Federal Government funding for this, arguing the undoubted economic benefits of a $3.88 return for every dollar invested.

Once again, it will involve persuading State Government agencies to work with us as well as the Commonwealth to support it.

We're hopeful that the success of what we've done to date will help persuade them, along with alarming information on the costs to our city of congestion. Last year, avoidable congestion was estimated to have cost Sydney $4.8 billion, up from $3.5 billion in 2005.

The projection for 2020 is $7.8 billion, an increase of over 60 per cent over the coming decade, so the more people on bicycles the better.

Already, in its incomplete state, our cycle network is attracting ever more commuters. Our latest survey showed an average 60 per cent increase in bike trips in the morning period, and an average 48 per cent increase in the evening period.

One of Sydney's most notorious radio shock-jocks has been particularly vicious and unrelenting in his attacks and in response to a really vicious session that I had with him, an "I Love Sydney Bike Lanes" group formed on Facebook. That group now has well over 4,000 supporters and is growing.

Just last month, I launched with the support of this group and their 1000s of supporters, a completed section of the Bourke Street cycleway, running over three kilometres from Woolloomooloo Bay in the city's north to the residential suburbs of Redfern and Waterloo in the south. In time, it will link into another cycleway at Alexandria, providing a vital 7.4 kilometre corridor to Botany Bay.

Where necessary, we incorporate street improvements with our cycleway construction, widening footpaths, introducing new street furniture and improved lighting, and introducing stormwater filtration and new gardens.

The result is a calmer, cleaner and healthier urban environment, and healthier citizens, and we find that even shop-owners who resent the inevitable disruption caused by construction, are pleased with the results. At at least half a dozen new shops opened along the route, including a bicycle café and two bicycle shops!

I'd like to just quickly show you some images or other completed routes, and sections of routes.

We have been learning as we rolled out our cycling infrastructure.

The impacts of construction can be mitigated. We involve local businesses at the earliest possible point, acknowledging the inevitable disruptions while stressing the longer-term benefits. We attempt to schedule construction at times that will minimise disruption.

We actively support them through initiatives such as a Buy Local retail campaign to encourage the local economy and our media team work hard to get positive stories out to the public.

We have a number of promotions to increase awareness of the benefits of cycling and to encourage appropriate behaviour for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

Safety messages promote good road manners and safer riding and we share these with other local councils.

We carry these messages on our website and advertise extensively on buses and bus shelters, with advertisements targeted at cyclists as well as car drivers and pedestrians.

In August we will launch cinema and digital media advertising marketing the health and lifestyle benefits of cycling.

We also have an extensive Street Share Strategy aimed at behaviour change by increasing riding; improving relations on shared paths and on the road, and improving compliance to road rules, with the ultimate aim of generating increased public acceptance of cycling.

Our Co-Existence campaign is again shared with other local councils and we work extensively with city businesses to foster a cycling culture.

A number of major businesses, concerned with urban congestion and employee health, are providing bicycle parking, showers and end-of-trip facilities for staff and combine with us on the annual National Ride to Work Day and the City's Spring Cycle.

This year, we're also running the Workplace Cycling Challenge, with various prizes for competitions such as the most mileage clocked up while at City events, we offer a "valet parking" service for cyclists.

We make good use of social media to engage people and we have an active group of over 2000 Facebook friends who help generate a very positive vibe about cycling in the City. The recent opening of our Bourke Street cycleway was a really festive affair attended by people who weren't so much the "road warriors" as ordinary Sydneysiders who've discovered the joys and convenience of cycleways.

Our cycling specific e-newsletter goes to about 5000 members while we distribute up to 5,000 network maps each week.

We run free cycling courses which have attracted almost 900 people (70 per cent of them women) and a free bike maintenance course, which has attracted over 650 people.

Our grants program supports community cycling initiatives to build their capacity and skills.

Like so many apparently simple things, building cycleways and fostering a cycling culture has been, at times, excruciatingly difficult but the results are encouraging, even with the network incomplete.

We are recording greater numbers at all major entry points to the city, with a 60 per cent growth in use across the whole local government area.

Despite the criticisms and attacks I am determined to complete our 200km network, provide a real transport option for our city and make this important contribution to reducing global warming and to do our bit for the planet.

Thank you.