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Resident opposition to the proposed Bourke St Cycleway has taken to the footpaths where someone is spraying ‘X marks the spot’ stencils next to parking spaces that will be lost to the cycleway.

Bourke Street residents have found themselves at the sharp end of Council’s plans to link safe cycle routes into a network across the city, aimed at reducing traffic congestion and pollution while bringing cost savings and health benefits to people who switch from cars and public transport to cycling.

While most Bourke Streeters are themselves cyclists and agree with this in principle, they say they are being made to pay the cost while the rest of the city benefits.

Nearly 100 parking spots will be lost to the cycleway in an area where most houses do not have off-street parking. Guy Ollivier lives in one such terrace house on the street in Surry Hills.

“While it’s all very well to say we should all get rid of our cars and take to our bikes, the reality is that cycling is not a viable option for regular all-weather commuting for most of us. Quite apart from arriving at showerless work places hot, sweaty and stinky, or rain-drenched, many of us have families or work in places that are not served by public transport. Elderly or disabled people can’t just take up cycling – people like that simply need their cars,” he said.

“It’s going to affect the side streets too, because anyone driving to Bourke Street will find themselves going round in circles searching for spots in nearby streets.”

“I heard someone had marked where car parking is to be removed from the northern end of Bourke Street. I hope they mark the rest of Bourke Street where scores more  parks will be lost. People need to know what the City Council is up to. The latest is that the City Council intends to remove  nearly 100 car parks and put parking meters  on the remaining spaces, and on Albion Street and Riley Street and other  streets in Surry Hills too. I don’t think this council is representing the residents any more”

Residents also claim the design of the cycleway is unsafe.

“This  narrow bi-directional cycleway is half the width and does not  meet the specifications of the Copenhagen cycleways it is supposedly modelled on, ” said Mr Ollivier.

He says the doors of parked cars will open directly onto the southbound cycle lane creating danger for children and passengers getting out of cars as well as for cyclists.

The City points out that this conflict is far safer than the present cycle lanes which run alongside parked cars with cyclists approaching from behind the drivers side door where they are difficult to see. The cycleway will have southbound cyclists approaching the passenger side doors of cars, resulting in much better visibility.

The residents say the cycleway design does not meet the standards of the Copenhagen bike network because it is too narrow and crossed by too many intersections. They predict that few cyclists will use it. They support a shared  ‘Cyclist Boulevarde’ concept, pointing to lots of overseas examples which work well.

The City has called for tenders for the first stage of the cycleway up Bourkes street Woolloomooloo to William Street.

by Michael Gormly

  • Guy Ollivier

    The City Council’s argument that the cycleway is “far safer than the present cycle lanes which run alongside parked cars with cyclists approaching from behind the drivers side door where they are difficult to see” is a furphy:

    This is because cyclists will still need to use the road which will be even narrower without shoulder lanes so cyclists will be at more risk, and from both sides of the parked vehicles. While car passengers alongside the cycleway will have no safe exit as both sides will open into traffic lanes. This City Council is all about spin and distortion and is attempting to create an unrealistic perception of safety .

  • Dennis Laymi

    Very good article. I also would like to point out that there is certain areas that is not very recomendable to go by bicycle because of the risk to get stolen!
    The Danish government is developing a system to track stolen bikes, therefore it’s not active yet.

    – Dennis

  • Tony

    I applaud the pro-active and visionary stance of the City of Sydney in providing a safe option for a form of transport which is superior to the motor vehicle in almost any way that matters (health, resource use, pollution, cost, congestion, safety). Of course, bicycles do require some physical effort but that is a great benefit in an increasingly sedentary world.

    While the few people who object to the cycleway claim all sorts of things about the path being poorly designed or that Bourke St isn’t suitable, at the end of the day all they are concerned about is losing “their” parking space. This space is public space which can be utilised better by providing a safe corridoor for hundreds of people each day rather than for the parking of motor vehicles.

  • Jessi Rose

    i live on Bourke St where the new cycle ways are to be put in place. I ride a bike to work and park my car on Bourke St. I think it is really important we have more cycle ways put into place particularly in such busy streets as Bourke and Crown st. It is easy to forget but Bourke st has always been a busy thoroughfare to and from other areas of the city- it wasn’t too long ago that it was the main route to the airport.
    With these new cycle ways there will be many more people who will be able to help lower their emissions and improve their health by riding their bikes who currently do not ride because of their concerns with how unsafe it is to ride their bikes in the city.
    Riding over the ANZAC bridge regularly i am astounded by the numbers of riders that utilise this cycle route- young and old. This is, i believe because of the fantastic cycleway from the city over the bridge. A good cycleway and more of them will increase the numbers of cyclists in Sydney giving countless benefits.
    I think safety if is a concern with the new version of cycle ways, this is where we should be focusing our energy and objections towards the council. I also think we should be putting more pressure on our employees to make riding to work easier with facilities to store bikes as well as provide showering facilities.
    I live on Bourke st for many reasons; the ease of transport is one of them. This is now, with a new cycleway, only going to improve for Bourke St residence and improve the community feel and. I don’t think parking will now become a major issue in the area for locals with permits. I believe my neighbours who object are wanting an excuse to be lazy, to argue for the sake of arguing, to stop Sydney moving towards a greener city and if you live on Bourke St there are many options for transport- now one more. Get off your high horses and mount your bicycles i say.

  • Richard

    My neighbour Jessi Rose has written, above, that “we should be focusing our energy and objections” on the safety aspects of Sydney Council’s proposals.

    Like many other Bourke Street residents I strongly agree with Jessi.

    Sydney Council keeps referring to their scheme as a “safe cycleway”, which makes anyone who criticises it look like some sort of horrible car-hugging NIMBY.

    In fact, Council’s tempting scheme – which was designed by marketing experts to persuade non-cyclists to buy bikes – has proved very dangerous when tried in Europe and the USA, as a quick “Google” will prove.

    It seems that nobody has managed to build a safe separated cycleway in an inner-city area with lots of cross-streets, because the complex intersections make such cycleways inherently more dangerous than riding “with the traffic”. No overseas country with cycleway experience would recommend this sort of scheme for Bourke Street, Surry Hills.

    As one of the large number of Surry Hills and Redfern cyclists who have been urging Sydney Council to turn Bourke Street into a European-style ‘Bicycle Boulevard” – cheaper and much safer than the Council proposal – I urge local residents to follow Jessi’s advice and to focus their energy on questioning Council’s very dodgy “safe cycleway” claims.

  • jane vega

    I find this whinging and curmudgeonly “battle” about loss of parking space selfish and pathetic. Oppose a bike lane? Do you oppose puppies and ice cream too?

    There will NEVER be enough parking spaces to satisfy car dependent folk. Build more parking spaces and they will simply fill up. Erase a few to provide sensible alternatives on just a few streets and you will reduce the need for cars.

    Get with the new century people! Obesity, air pollution, congestion, climate change, road rage – it’s time to spare some space for healthy alternatives.

  • jane vega

    I find this whinging and curmudgeonly “battle” about loss of parking space selfish and pathetic. Oppose a bike lane? Do you oppose puppies and ice cream too?

    There will NEVER be enough parking spaces to satisfy car dependent folk. Build more parking spaces and they will simply fill up. Erase a few to provide sensible alternatives on just a few streets and you will reduce the need for cars.

    Get with the new century people! Obesity, air pollution, congestion, climate change, road rage – it’s time to spare some space for healthy alternatives.

    btw, i have used this type of bikeway in Europe and it works just fine. As does any other sensible way to separate cars and bikes and people.

  • Guy Ollivier

    In inner city streets like Bourke Street with numerous intersections a cycling boulevard is a far safer and superior option to an inadequate overly narrow bidirectional cycleway still subject to car doors opening into it, with no safe unloading area for elderly and young from parked cars. Cyclists will still need to use the road causing further confusion to turning traffic. For many of us who will have to live with it on a daily basis rather than pass through once in a while it is not acceptable. Loss of parking is an additional problem that affects servicing and maintenance of properties and is not simply an inconvenience. For some people, especially shift workers, it can result in unpleasant consequences such as increased exposure to risk of mugging at night if unable to park anywhere near their homes. My wife has already been mugged here at night. thinking only of your ideal answer Jane as the passer through (if you even come here) and blaming one street for the world’s problems is the curmudgeonly tactic.

  • Guy Ollivier

    don’t think we don’t ride bicycles. Most of us do. We just don’t want a bad idea foistered on us. Work with with and get an answer that suits more people, a decent cycling boulevard. Then you’ll reallly get with the new century.

  • Guy

    Well now you can learn just what a disaster this inappropriate cycleway really is. Here is what people are saying about the cycleway now its been forced into nearby Bourke Road.

  • Guy
  • Local – Cyclist – Engineer

    The broad vision is great! No one disputes that, but the way this cycleway has been implimented is very poor. OHS FAIL!(1)Bourke Rd is a swerving jousting road with traffic, cyclists and pedestrians facing eachother at various points (cyclists share the footpath on one section anyway!). (2) There are several very dangerous sections, one where the stop sign for cars crosses the bike path at an extremely busy t-junction. (3) This road is a major artery for buses and traffic between the airport and city, industry, trades (tradies don’t cycle), businesses and the sourthern parts of sydney. Safety of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers must always come first, then the environment somewhere in at a close third it should also make sense utility and commerce-wise, in a local and development-sustainable way. If emissions were measured along this road, I doubt they would have decreased even though traffic has halved; the amount of braking, accelerating and swerving makes this road one of the LEAST green in Sydney! An alternative route (McEvoy-Euston-side streets then follow the Canal) would have made more sense for the lungs, safety and pleasure of the cyclists.

  • mark

    Moral of the story; In Sydney, if you build it, someone will whinge!
    I’m thankful that the City of Sydney is at least making a reasonable effort to make the city and inner suburbs more pedestrian and cycle-friendly.

  • Deano

    Motorists have created the problem themselves. If they didn’t treat cyclists with contempt and endanger their lives by the way they drive then there wouldn’t be the need for somewhere safe to cycle.

  • Jacqueline McPherson

    Anything written by M Gormley lacks impartiality and is biased and unprofessional.

  • sarah

    On 25/08/12, I was a passenger on the back of my partner’s scooter as we turned left from Bourke Street, Woolloomooloo, into a sidestreet, where we live. As we made our way down Bourke Street, we both surveyed the area for any possible cyclists, pedestrians, drunks, junkies and children, as we always do. This area is known for many drunks wandering aimlessly into the street without looking and children from broken housing commission homes, running around Bourke Street on their skateboards or on foot throwing caution into the wind. The coast was clear.

    With our left indicators on, we slowly entered the sidestreet, at approximately 10kmph and gave way, looking for pedestrians and/or cyclists. It was not much point looking though, because if you ever bothered to do this yourself, you would find that you cannot see oncoming pedestrians and/or cyclists from behind the wall of parked vehicles on Bourke Street when turning into any sidestreet. It isn’t much point in indicating either, because pedestrians and/or cyclists cannot see our indicators from behind that wall of parked cars! There simply is NO VISIBILITY whatsoever!

    As we proceeded to cross the cycleway, a cyclist (who according to witness statements was travelling at approximately 70kmph) slammed into the side of our scooter. We did not see him until he was about 90cm away from hitting us. His head was down, looking at the ground while riding and he made no attempt to put on his brakes or beep his horn. I don’t think he even saw us until he hit us. I let out an almighty scream and the following noise of the impact attracted many people from their homes. Two neighbours were outside at the time of the incident and saw the whole thing and have given statements to the police. One neighbour said that he saw US coming down Bourke Street but did not see the cyclist. Because of this statement, and the fact that I did not see any cyclists either, I assume that the cyclist in question was probably still a block or so behind us, flying down the hill.

    It happened so fast and with such force, that I did not have time to put my arm out to break my fall. In fact, I am glad I didn’t because I am sure it would have been broken. My head took the full impact of hitting the concrete and our scooter was moved at least 1 meter sideways from the impact. I don’t know where my partner landed as I was lying flat on my back and didn’t dare risk moving because my whole body was numb and tingling and there was an ominous pain in the back of my head and neck. My partner does not remember where he landed and actually does not remember much at all about the accident until he got up and saw me.

    Apparently the cyclist went over his handlebars and over us according to the witnesses. One witness called an ambulance and got the details of the cyclist, but he very quickly scurried away limping and clutching his wrist when the paramedics insisted on calling the police.

    Anyway, we were taken to hospital and I was scanned for skull and spinal injuries which came back clear luckily. I left with a colossal headache and pain killers. Our scooter has huge chunks taken out of it and many scrapes.

    What I want to ask is how can Clover Moore advocate this unsafe and badly designed cycleway? Many cyclists don’t even use it because they know how unsafe it is with car doors being opened onto the cycleway all the time. In my time living here since the construction of this atrocity, I see extremely dangerous things almost every week. I have seen a pram hit by a cyclist, car doors opened onto cyclists, pedestrians hit by cyclists and now me and my partner hit by a flying lunatic. Who the hell does he think he is riding at such a speed in a residential area? No other means of transport is allowed to reach such speeds yet a cyclist has no speed limit and can gain a lot of momentum coming down that Bourke Street hill. This speed freak would be better placed at the Olympics or in the Tour De France.


    People like this are a danger to themselves and everyone else around. If I was not wearing a helmet, my brains would have been all over the pavement. Or, consider that perhaps it was a kid or pedestrian he hit – they would surely be DEAD or very nearly so after that impact.

    Take into consideration that our scooter weighs approx 90 kilos, with an 80 kilo rider and a 60 kilo passenger. So, what kind of speed was this cyclist travelling at to be able to push a scooter and 2 people adding up to a total of 230kgs 1 meter across the pavement?

    I really have NO IDEA how Clover Moore can NOT put a speed limit on these cyclists. I can guarantee you now, that if you do not make some drastic changes to the safety of the cycleway or put some kind of speed limit in place that it is only a matter of time before some serious blood is spilt on Clover’s precious cycleway.

    I want Clover to ask herself whether she can handle having blood on her hands because it WILL happen and it could be a cyclist, a child, an elderly person, a pedestrian, a hobo or anyone.


    I am NOT against cyclists using bicycles as transport. What I am against IS how badly planned the cycleway is and the constant near misses I observe on a weekly basis. I used to admire Clover Moore for her stance on Animal Welfare, but after she placed this death trap cycleway in front of my house and the ensuing accidents it has caused, I have no option to oppose Clover Moore. How can ANYONE support someone who does not support the safety of ALL people living in Sydney – cyclists included. As mentioned, we usually use our scooter everyday for ease of parking, ease of travelling, less congestion, and it is more environmentally friendly and economical to run than my car – which I only use for very long travels or moving heavy items.


    I will no longer ride as a passenger on my partner’s scooter anymore after this incident. I will use my car from now on, no matter what the extra cost in petrol, parking etc. I’m happy to pay for my safety and if some speed freak cyclist wants to try and break a world record when I drive my car into my sidestreet, he can go for gold because the blood will be on his own hands and on Clover Moore’s.

  • Colin

    @Sarah, a cyclist doing 70km/h on Bourke St? That you think that’s even remotely plausible on Bourke St shows you to be very ignorant regarding cycling. Ignorant, or perhaps deliberately misleading.

    The fact is, you failed to give way when the law required you to. Your story sounds likes a desperate attempt to excuse your own illegal and dangerous behaviour.

    If there is a problem with visibility due to parked cars the answer is to have those parking spots removed to create better visibility. But the rider on a scooter is positioned much further forward than the driver in a car, which allows them to see around parked cars much better, so I also find your claim of poor visibility a little hard to swallow. A scooter rider can stop at the intersection with their eyes almost in line with the cycleway, and see up or down its length.

  • Bob Cliff

    Sarah, thanks for sharing your story, glad to hear everyone’s ok.

    As a former police motorcycle trainer, I have to say that, based on your account, the rider is more to blame here than the road layout.

    The rider turned into the path of another vehicle that had right of way. The visibility and sightlines may have been restricted, but that should have been a cue for him to proceed with caution, not carry on and “hope for the best” – especially being a vulnerable road user with a passenger’s life in his hands.

    If he did is rider training in NSW he should have been taught to buffer against and anticipate potential risks – in this case move into a position where he had an unobstructed view in both directions, then proceed when clear.

    If he were turning across a highway would he proceed if he didn’t have a clear view of oncoming cars, buses and trucks? With a pillion? I would hope not.

    I do not blame you for not riding pillion anymore with your partner, it sounds like he thinks getting to his destination a couple of seconds quicker is worth risking his, your and other road users’ lives for.

    I assure you not all scooter/motorcycle riders are like this.

    Oh, and indicating to turn does not give you right of way when you’re turning across the path of other vehicles.