‘Vital’ Oxford Street cycleway to go ahead despite community split

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The state government has committed to building a “vital” cycleway along Oxford Street despite community consultation finding opinion is deeply divided over the Coalition-era project.

Transport for NSW spruiked its online survey of nearly 1500 people which recorded 57 per cent support for the planned cycleway from Taylor Square to Centennial Park on the southern side of Oxford Street, through Paddington.

An artist’s impression of the proposed Oxford Street East Cycleway from the Transport for NSW early feedback report.

But once combined with feedback from other channels, including calls, emails, doorknocking and form letters, overall support among the 2300 responses fell to 42 per cent, with 51 per cent opposed and 7 per cent neutral.

Transport Minister Jo Haylen said her department would now develop a concept design and final business case for the project – which has not yet been budgeted – and argued it would be good for Oxford Street businesses.

“A cycling link between the east and the CBD is vital to give people a real and safe option to cycle, freeing up space on our roads and seats on our buses,” she said. “People who wouldn’t normally feel safe riding on the road use these paths.”

Opposition transport spokeswoman Natalie Ward said Oxford Street was an iconic Sydney precinct and the government needed to rethink the decision “as it’s clearly divisive in the community”.

One traffic lane in each direction would be lost to accommodate the new cycleway.

In a consultation report published on Wednesday, Transport dismissed calls for the cycleway to run along Moore Park Road instead, noting Oxford Street was the more direct route and still carried more bike traffic than the temporary cycleway in place on Moore Park Road.

It also contended that “far from jeopardising local business, we believe the cycleway offers an opportunity to catalyse placemaking, encourage visitors, and support retail success”.

Complaints from residents involved the removal of several eastbound right turns from Oxford Street to the southern side of Paddington, and one city-bound right turn into Jersey Road, as well as the removal of bus stops and one lane in each direction.

Transport for NSW said it appreciated those concerns but would not amend its plans, although it was considering retaining a right turn from South Dowling Street eastbound into Oxford Street.

It also said it would review whether the 50km/h speed limit on Oxford Street should be lowered to 40km/h, but noted the road would not be suitable for a reduction to 30km/h, as some suggested. The department promised on-street parking would continue in both directions outside peak hour.

The planned Oxford Street east cycleway will run on the southern side of the road through Paddington.Credit: Brook Mitchell

The Oxford Street East Cycleway is an addition to the bike path from the CBD to Taylor Square which the City of Sydney commenced last month. That 900-metre cycleway – costing the state government $10.8 million and the council $3.2 million – is due to be finished next year.

The Transport for NSW report noted Woollahra Council formally withdrew its support for the eastern cycleway in November and now backed a permanent alternative on Moore Park Road.

This followed a motion at the council’s November 15 meeting endorsed by new mayor Richard Shields, also the new NSW director of the Liberal Party, who said the cycleway was part of Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s “war on cars”.

Liberal senator Andrew Bragg, who previously sought preselection for the lower house seat of Wentworth, has also been a vocal campaigner against the planned cycleway, dubbing it a “horrid boondoggle” that would damage businesses and disrupt Paddington’s heritage streets.

The Labor state government reopened consultation on the project after coming to office in March. The report reveals Transport subsequently held 17 in-person or online meetings with stakeholders between July and November, including Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, cycling advocates, community groups and businesses.

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