How a trip to Vancouver changed the debate over bike lanes in Sydney
Geoff Jaeger loves using the contentious bike paths, along Burke St in Surry Hills yesterday, usually to get to work. Picture: Damian Shaw Source: The Daily Telegraph
THE O’Farrell government is backpedalling on its hardline stance against Clover Moore’s Sydney bike lanes – two months after they forced her out of office.
Planning Minister Brad Hazzard has declared a truce over the controversial scheme, admitting the lanes were actually an important transport option for Sydney’s future.
Mr Hazzard’s comments follow an eight-day ministerial trip to Vancouver, Portland, Seattle and New York with Planning Director-General Sam Haddad – all cities that have successful bike lanes.
“I’m prepared to stick my neck out here,” Mr Hazzard told The Sunday Telegraph. “With increasing densities of cities, we have to look at all options. You have to start somewhere, and they are working. I can understand the angst because there is always the debate about cars versus pedestrians and cyclists. But, in modern cities around the world, they are embracing alternatives to having cars clog the city.
“The lesson from eight hectic days is we need to be open to these ideas.”
Mr Hazzard said he would not be diving head first into any “anti-bike or anti-pedestrian debates” and that Vancouver had increased the number of visitors despite “drastically reducing” the number of cars in the city.
“They’ve done that by increasing access for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport,” Mr Hazzard said.
His comments follow years of hostility from the NSW Coalition toward Clover Moore’s bike lanes, which many believe sparked the “get Clover” laws, banning MPs from also serving on local councils.
Ms Moore was forced to quit parliament after the laws were introduced because she chose to continue serving as Lord Mayor rather than the independent MP for Sydney.
Roads Minister Duncan Gay has threatened to “rip them up” and in March Premier Barry O’Farrell accused Ms Moore of making the CBD “as unfriendly for cars as possible”.
But Mr Hazzard has broken ranks with his colleagues to say the bike lanes were “working”. With Sydney’s population set to increase by 1.5 million in the next 25 years, breaking the dependence on the car had to be taken seriously, he said.
“I look at them sometimes when I’m sitting in a clogged-up street and wonder how long before we will manage to get out of cars and onto bikes or walking, so it’s a challenge,” Mr Hazzard said. “But you just can’t sit back and let things happen as they are because we all be sitting in cars in clogged streets, with cars not going anywhere and with everyone getting frustrated.”
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said it was “terrific” that Mr Hazzard had travelled and that he was interested in exploring different transport solutions for Sydney.
Having also experienced Portland’s cycleways, Ms Moore said she could see why he was impressed.
“It’s a matter of people adapting to change rather than focusing on the problems,” she said.
Ms Moore said she was looking forward to working with the O’Farrell Government. “We all want Sydney to be a really successful, liveable city,” she said.