A People’s Map: WalkConnex and BikeConnex

WalkConnex and BikeConnex WalkConnex and BikeConnex

“If Sydney would up its game on streets and put the pedestrian experience at the top of the priority list, it would be a paradise,” Gabriel Metcalf.

In the vein of “go big or go home”, one reason we don’t have more spending on active transport modes like walking and biking is that they aren’t expensive enough to interest large construction firms to lobby government for them. Better Streets has demanded. “Build 1,000 kilometres of connected, safe, and direct routes per year for people riding bicycles and micromobility ” The liberal government of New South Wales does a fraction of this.

So we asked our social media followers (Twitter and Mastodon, and various mailing lists):

What are the most important walk (and bike) infrastructure projects to build in Greater Sydney. We are putting together a catalog of investments so that it is large enough for the big end of town to be interested. Details are good.

Readers of WalkSydney know why footpaths and low speed shared spaces are important. But having space for bicyclists is also important to people afoot for several reasons. (1) We don’t want bicyclists on the footpath, just as the speed and mass differences between cars and bicycles present a clear hazard, on a narrow footpath pedestrians and bicyclists are in conflict. (2) The more people who ride bikes, the fewer who will drive cars, which is better all around for safety and noise, and the environment, and quality of life, and even pedestrian travel times.

However many bicyclists (and even more potential bicyclists) won’t ride on every street. The two figures below illustrate the difference between access by bike using every facility that’s legal, versus the current low-stress bike network (including protected bike lanes and low speed roads). Obviously access, the number of valued destinations which can be reached in a given amount of time (in this case jobs within 30 minutes by cycling), is seriously diminished on the current low-stress network because that network is so sparse, and the rest of the network is so stressful to ride on. The solution is to expand that network, both by better facilities on major roads, and more lower speed roads where biking would be safe.

Jobs reachable by cycling within 30 minutes using all links where cycling is allowed (the high stress network). Figure by H. Wu at UNSW.
Jobs reachable by cycling within 30 minutes on the low stress network. This is a much smaller number of jobs than in the first, high stress network. Figure by H. Wu at UNSW.

The government has recently released a strategy. This strategy is better than no strategy, but it is incomplete in a many ways. The lines on the schematic maps are vague, which is understandable, as specifics would both lock them in, and potentially alarm opponents earlier than desirable. We are not so constrained. It doesn’t go far enough, but it also doesn’t clearly prioritise. It doesn’t number routes, which is important for wayfinding but also as a way of talking about specific corridors. It doesn’t show clear connections with transfers to other modes of travel. It doesn’t highlight particular bottlenecks (bridges and tunnels) that ought to be built.

The People’s Map, what we might call WalkConnex and BikeConnex, subverting the -connex suffix appropriated by motorways, comprises a proposal big enough to attract the attention of the big end of town and the construction firms that bid on large projects.

We organise the map into 4 categories, and list the top 10 (highest priority) items in each category:

  • C – Cycling Superhighways (Separated and Protected Bike Lanes) in Eastern Sydney. These would involve taking roadspace from cars from traffic lanes or parking.
  • P – Cycling Superhighways in Western Sydney
  • W – Walk/Bike Paths
  • B – Bridges and Tunnels

C – Cycling Superhighways

  • C1- Sydney to Macquarie Park via Sydney Harbour Bridge and Pacific Highway and Epping Road
  • C2 – North Sydney to Manly via the Spit Bridge.
  • C3 – Sydney to Bondi largely via Oxford Street and Bondi Road
  • C4 – Sydney to La Perouse largely via Anzac Highway
  • C5 – Sydney to Sutherland largely via Broadway, King Street and Prince’s Highway from the George’s River to King Street Newtown should be pleasant to walk on and safe to bike on.
  • C6 – Sydney to Bankstown to Liverpool
  • C7 – Parramatta to Sydney CBD, mostly on Parramatta Road (extending the M4 path and giving Great Western Highway/Parramatta Road/Broadway wider footpaths, protected cycle lanes, and distinct 24hour transit lanes, removing slip lanes, parking lanes, and SOV car lanes as needed. Removing advertising barriers recently installed on Broadway)
  • C8 – Bays Precinct to Lilyfield including Tunnel under the Leichhardt Lilyfield ridge
  • C9 – Victoria Road needs wider footpaths and to replace shared path with real bike lanes from reallocated road space, from Anzac Bridge to Ryde to Parramatta
  • C10 – Kingsford to St. Peters C4/C5 Connector Along Gardeners Road.

P – Cycling Superhighways in Outer Sydney

  • P1- Parramatta to Castle Hill
  • P2 – Parramatta to Macquarie Park
  • P3 – Parramatta to Bankstown
  • P4 – Prospect Reservoir to Potts Hill ( Prospect Pipeline Corridor)
  • P5 – Parramatta to Campbelltown
  • P6 – Parramatta to Penrith
  • P7 – Parramatta to Richmond
  • P8 – Prospect Reservoir – Blacktown – Castle Hill
  • P9 – Brighton Le-Sands – Rockdale – Kogorah – Hurstville – Punchbowl (meets C6)
  • P10 – Liverpool to Austral

W – Walk/Bike Corridors

B – Bridges

WalkConnex and BikeConnex.

Caveats. No proposal is perfect, and there are always lines that someone wants to add, tweak, or delete. We may have simply missed something important, and better than something listed here. Most of us would agree that additional lines are important too, but they cannot all be Top 10, so to add something, something else would have to be removed, to avoid this being a laundry list. (If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority). Once these are built, a whole new set of projects would become the top 10. The figure may have errors or bugs, we welcome feedback. Should it be a P or C or a W is somewhat arbitrary. This is the start of the process, not the end

In addition to the People’s Map, are a set of other People’s Infrastructure and People’s Policies

People’s Infrastructure

  • Mobility Hubs at every train station and major bus stop, including shared bike/e-bike corral, car sharing spaces, taxi/ride-hailing stand, EV charging, storage lockers, Opal card secured bike cages, postal lockers, and convenience stores.
  • Clear physical way-finding signage throughout the metro area, including meaningful bus stop signage.

People’s Policies

  • Ensure all roads that are not shared spaces (10 km/h) have separated footpaths that are wide enough.
  • Ensuring footpaths actually meet accessibility standards, with appropriate kerb cuts and are graded properly for wheelchair access, and are safe to use without trip hazards and without excessive street furniture blocking paths.
  • Ensure every time a contractor digs up a footpath, it is restored to better condition than when they started.
  • Ensure all roads with speed limits greater than 30 km/h that are within 2 km of public schools or shopping streets have high quality, protected bike lanes so that people can safely bike to local destinations..
  • Ensure all roads where minor streets meet major roads have raised pedestrian crossings. Include other traffic calming measures like replacing all ‘pedestrian refuges’ with raised pedestrian crossings; sharpening corners; installing bulb-outs.
  • Eliminate Beg Buttons, and ensure all traffic signals have an automatic pedestrian phase with a leading pedestrian interval, and the maximum amount of pedestrian time per cycle on the “walk phase”, not the minimum.
  • Shopping streets should be no faster than 30 km/h when not shared spaces or fully pedestrianised.
  • Revise road rules to prioritise pedestrians and bicyclists, and ensure the legal fault in collision lies with the heaviest vehicle unless proven otherwise.
  • Prioritise shopping street traffic light phasing needs for people walking.
    • E.g. Five Dock intersection of Great North Rd, Ramsay St and First Ave has five way traffic lights that take many phases to get through to get to the gelato shop/bus stop
    • Burwood Rd intersections
  • Abolish Local Traffic Committee
  • New neighbourhoods to be designed and built with public and active transport connections considered first.

Additional Information

Others have taken stabs and developing similar maps. Others will in the future.