We forced Bobbi Lewin to get back on her bike, with oustanding results! This once timid rider reveals the secret bike paths of the Inner West.
What more iconic image of the season is there than bike and rider? Zooming along, the wind in your hair; it is the epitome of freedom. Still, if you’d asked me two weeks ago if I wanted to go for a bike ride, I’d have declined. Fear of risking life and limb to these city streets keeps many would-be riders off their bikes. Yet, in the course of writing this article, I spoke (get it?) to several cycling enthusiasts who educated me on their favourite off-road paths, hidden places and virtually traffic-free routes. So when Fiona Campbell, Manager of Cycling Strategy for the City of Sydney, asked me to take a ride with her, I took a deep breath and said, “Yes!”
She said the main barrier to riding is wanting to be safe.
“When people think of cycling to work, they think of how they’d get there in their car, but there are really great short cuts hidden around,” says Fiona. She set out to show me just how easy it can be to get from the Inner West into the CBD, taking the new Broadway Link.
We began at Wilson Street near Newtown Station. Fiona tells me that Wilson Street is known as “the Bicycling Highway of the Inner West.” It’s a bicycle friendly street, quiet in terms of traffic, with sections of dedicated lanes. From there, we travelled to Shepherd Street and continued on calm roads making our way to Broadway.
I was anxious about how we were going to get across the busy intersections at Abercrombie Street and Broadway. My fears were alleviated when I saw the dedicated traffic signals for cyclists. “Traffic diversions help to make a street quieter and safer,” says Fiona. Diversions consist of traffic lights such as these that allow bikes through safely, road closures that provide access to bikes only, and roads that are one way for cars, but allow bike access both ways.
Our ride continued up Jones Street, Mary Ann Street and on to the new pedestrian and cycle network, Goods Line. From there you can continue on to reach Darling Harbour and the Kent Street cycleway. According to Fiona, the City of Sydney has built 12km of separated cycleways. The most important thing being done for cyclist safety, she says, is “infrastructure that separates people from traffic.” A separated cycleway is one with a concrete kerb between the cyclist and traffic.
In addition to the street routes, there are also several off-road paths around the area. John Caley, president of Bike Marrickville, shared a few of his favourites. “Along the M5, there’s a cycle route that follows most of it, from Bexley North out to Salt Pan Creek. A lot of people don’t know it’s there.” Another trail he enjoys starts at Wigram Road and follows Johnston’s Creek north, then connects with The Crescent and on to Rozelle Bay.
The Cooks River trail is a popular one. John says, “It’s really nice to jump on that trail from Rookwood Cemetery” where the path begins. “There is bushland or grass, a green corridor. Because you’re following a river, there are very few hills. It’s a nice ride.” It follows the river east to Tempe.
Fiona and John both mentioned the Whites Creek path as being a pleasant ride. It combines bike friendly street routes that connect with shared paths. “Get on it at Parramatta Road. It winds down Whites Creek Lane to Booth Street,” John said. The shared path starts at Booth and travels up to Brenan.
“I like Whites Creek, because it is traffic free, quiet, hidden and green, with some interesting houses and the great artificial wetlands,” Fiona adds.
Campbell and I took the light rail over to Hawthorne Canal, where we completed our ride. This shared path is on the GreenWay, a five kilometre corridor running from Iron Cove to Cooks River.
Part of the Inner Sydney Regional Bike Plan, a proposal to extend these paths, was intended to be included in the Inner West Light Rail Extension, but has been deferred by the state government. Leichhardt Council is proposing a plan to make upgrades to the Hawthorne Canal shared path.
While works are in progress to improve the future of cycling in the area, some feel there is much to be done. When I asked cycle enthusiast Andy Zootie what issues he felt were most important, he said safety. “Traffic is becoming heavier around the Inner West. More units are being built, with little thought for cycling infrastructure. We need more pathways to encourage people to ride more and safely,” says Andy.
Encouraging people to start riding is a primary focus of Fiona’s office and other programs around the area. “There is safety in numbers,” she says. “The more bikes on the road, the more the car drivers will become accustomed to sharing the road.” Twice a year, Fiona’s office conducts bicycle counts during peak commuting times at 100 intersections throughout the council area. The total number of bicycle trips has doubled in the last five years and increased even more in areas where infrastructure has been put in place.
Well, I can now say this previously frightened rider is contemplating a new bike! If you want to try out the Broadway Link yourself, join Sydney Rides Festival on October 24th for guided rides between Eveleigh Markets and the Powerhouse Museum.