Cycling overlooked in state's light rail plan

18 May 2016

Cyclists could be forced to mix with motor vehicle traffic under a light rail plan that ignores cycling's role in urban revitalisation.

Transport for NSW's Review of Environmental Factors (REF) excludes safe, separated cycleways and outlines heightened risks for cyclists on King Street, where no stopping zones will create alternate dual-lane carriageways between Union and Darby Street at peak hour.
Council's Connecting Newcastle vision to revitalise Hunter Street features separated cycleways protected by a buffer of parked cars from centre lanes shared by light rail and motor vehicles (above left).  
"Cyclists don't need Hunter Street but Hunter Street needs people on bikes," Cycle-Space International Director Dr Steven Fleming told The Property Council's Velotopia Lunch last Friday, emphasising the revitalisation aspect of the light rail project.
Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the REF only claims that a review of options to support a dedicated east-west cycleway on King Street would be undertaken.
"Transport's proposal to widen King Street in many locations for traffic makes it difficult to see where separated cycleways could fit," the Lord Mayor said.
"Cycling is somehow being treated as an afterthought despite the fact the government has billed light rail as an urban revitalisation initiative.
"You would have thought that safe, separated cycleways would be a prominent part of such a plan.
"Council has long held plans for safe, separated cycleways in Hunter Street. These would bring our growing suburban cycleway network right into the CBD, but our plans will be blown away by TfNSW's proposal for a separated light rail corridor."
The centre lanes of Hunter Street will be reserved for light rail cars under TfNSW's plan, despite the fact they will only run every 10 minutes.
This won't allow room for parked cars, separated cycleways and other street improvements needed to bring more people into the CBD.
A shared pathway in place of the footpath on the northern edge of Civic Park is the REF's only provision for cyclists, leaving a 400m gap between the park and Union Street in which riders will continue to be exposed to car doors and mix with general traffic during peak hour.
TfNSW's REF also acknowledges that cyclists won't have free rein on Hunter Street, where tracks will sit 100mm above the ground instead of being recessed.