Sydney's Harbourlink Cycleway

The SMH has a report on a new cycleway proposed for Sydney's lower north shore called the "Harbourlink".

As someone who cycles through this area fairly regularly, I've got to say this is a great idea - there are some great cycle paths (multilane paths with an additional lane for pedestrians, completely separated from the road system) leading in towards North Sydney, but North Sydney itself is a traffic clogged obstacle for cyclists who want to head across the bridge into the CBD.

LIKE the walkways built in the canopies above rainforests, North Sydney Council hopes to lift pedestrians and cyclists above the urban jungle, with an ambitious plan to build an elevated path running from the southern end of the Harbour Bridge to as far north as Falcon Street.

The path, still at the concept stage and estimated to cost up to $30 million, would run 2 kilometres from the deck level of the bridge to St Leonards Park and Falcon Street along the Warringah Freeway. The council hopes that by bypassing North Sydney's hilly streets, traffic congestion and car pollution, many more people will walk or ride to work.

If it goes ahead, it would be one of Sydney's most scenic commuting routes, with views of the city's skyline and both sides of the harbour.

The air bridge - or Harbourlink, as the council has dubbed it - would also provide the missing link for cyclists commuting south from Lane Cove, said North Sydney's Mayor, Genia McCaffery. "Having a decent bicycle network in Sydney is a key part of sustainable transport," Cr McCaffery said. "Many people are deterred from riding bikes because there are no proper dedicated routes or because access to routes is difficult."

The proposed air bridge would separate pedestrians and bike riders from car traffic. At its highest, it would be six metres off the ground and would be held up by columns at intervals to span the road corridors. The amount of foot and bike traffic that would use the air bridge will be investigated in the next stage of the project, which the council is hoping will be funded with state or federal government grants.

Cr McCaffery said people also often felt they were taking their lives in their hands because they had to ride close to cars. Motorists either could not see them or had no respect for cyclists, she said. "You cannot ask people to ride bicycles unless governments provide safer bicycle routes … we need to separate the bikes from the cars," she said.

It's all good except I suggest it suits inner suburban yuppies who work in the CBD, not so much battlers from the outer suburbs. The barriers and laneways are good now I recall a cyclist who hit a pedestrian on Canberra's Kings Avenue bridge. The choice was going over the railing into the water or sprawling on to the road to be run over by a car. The latter was avoided only by good luck.

When the cycle commute is really long, say an hour each way, you have to wonder whether the energy would be better spent digging spuds in the garden.

It isn't just inner suburban yuppies who work in the CBD - there are plenty of other people in the city.

Admittedly most of them probably don't come from the north shore, but anything which extends the off-road cycle system is good from my point of view - local councils tend to copy stuff that they seeing working elsewhere.

It's cute, but it seems like a bit of a token effort, designed to be cute rather than useful.

I mean, to the left dominating the picture is a big four lane highway. On that, you could have the outer lane with a riased area shielding it as a cycle lane, then a light rail lane, leaving two lanes for cars and trucks. This would allow the carrying of several times as many people along the highway.

I think the freeway at that spot is about 7 lanes in each direction. However messing with the road system isn't with the realm of North Sydney Council's power (not that road anyway).

I still think it is useful - its not like the bridge cycle lane could take any more bike traffic than this new construction would funnel in anyway...

The cross-bridge rail lines have disappeared underground at this point.

As long as the $30M was funded from extra tolls on the Bridge, I'm all for it. But why stop there? Why not a wholesale congestion tax used to fund a complete city wide bicycle infrastructure that links well with trains, buses and ferries and penalises single driver cars?