BIKE NORTH

SUBMISSION TO

HORNSBY COUNCIL’S

2017/18

BIKE PLAN REVIEW

 

 

FOREWORD

 

You can tell a lot about a community by the connections it seeks to make within itself and with the outside world.

If you have suburbs, schools, shopping and business centres that are really only readily accessible by cars or public transport this throws up a lot of barriers for people wanting to access those centres, especially when topography also gets in the way as it does in Hornsby Shire. It makes the centres to a certain extent exclusive; accessible only if you have the use of a car or if you live close to a railway station or bus stop [and, in the latter case, at the whim of someone else’s timetable, not your own]. The sense of community is diminished.

But if you can walk or cycle to such centres or suburbs, without fear of injury or too much exertion, a different sense of community engagement is engendered. Community contacts become more spontaneous and aware, more achievable and less dependant on expensive infrastructure.

Clearly, there are limits to how far one can walk or cycle to one’s destination. But, in normal circumstances in Sydney, if you live close enough and the choice is between battling the traffic and finding a parking space or walking or riding free of such challenges, many people would choose to walk or cycle. However, the current state of bicycle infrastructure in Hornsby Shire does not make the cycling transport option viable for many people.

Bike North is availing itself of the opportunity offered by the current review of Hornsby Council’s Bike Plan to advocate in favour of improving bicycle infrastructure in this local government area.

As one of Sydney’s largest bicycle user groups (BUGs), Bike North is a community based, non-profit, volunteer organisation which has operated for over 20 years to advocate and promote the use of bicycles for transport and recreation, with our goal of “Making cycling better in Northern Sydney”.

We all want to live in a community that is not just amenable but amenable to all, regardless of age, gender, social status, and mobility.

The recent engagement of consultants to again review Hornsby Council’s Bicycle Plan following an unsuccessful review in 2014, should not be another lost opportunity for making real improvements to local bicycle infrastructure. Bike North believes there is enough good will on Hornsby Council and among Hornsby Council officers to do something great with a revised bicycle plan, provided the right advice is taken and the right amount of boldness applied.

Bike North wants Hornsby Shire’s bicycle infrastructure program to be an exemplar of what ANY metropolitan council can achieve with the right drive and imagination and stands ready to assist Council to achieve such an outcome in any way it can. Come on, Hornsby. Time to saddle up ! 

 

Table of Contents

  

1. PURPOSE OF THE BICYCLE PLAN

 

 

2. SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM IN HORNSBY SHIRE

  

 

3. ISSUES TO BE ADDRESSED

 

a. Cycleway connectivity/major routes

 

b. Hazard Reduction /Blackspot Reporting/Communication

 

c. Measuring and Improving Performance

 

d. Signage

 

e. Parking

 

 

4. THE FUTURE  

 

 

Using the headings in the Table of Contents above, what follows in this submission is an outline of the issues Bike North feels Hornsby Council’s Bike Plan Review should focus on and, once completed and in broad terms, what action Council should take in relation to those issues.

 

PURPOSE OF THE HORNSBY COUNCIL BICYCLE PLAN

The Plan’s purpose should simply be to identify the best strategies that will encourage people to use bicycles for transport in Hornsby Shire and establish a program to implement those strategies.

With the unprecedented level of urban development currently underway in Sydney, it has never been more urgent than at present to properly integrate bicycle transport into urban planning at both the local and metro-wide levels, given the proven benefits bicycles have in reducing urban transport congestion. There are countless examples around the world of where this has been achieved and it is clear that the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) is also mindful of that reality in compiling its recent draft Plans.

Indeed, given the Federal Government’s declared commitment to improving national productivity through better urban transport, State and local governments cannot ignore their responsibility to address transport shortcomings of all types. The GSC report specifically mentions the Principal Bicycle Network (PBN), a concept picked up from NSW State Government agencies like the RMS, and repeatedly infers that local government will have to develop local bicycle routes that facilitate the eventual rollout of the PBN as part of the solution to Sydney’s transport congestion.

It is also useful to note that productivity improvements aren’t just measured by time and fuel savings. At a personal level, less driving means less fatigue, better physical and mental wellbeing and better work outputs. Being able to cycle to your destination in Hornsby Shire therefore can mean a lot less stress in people’s lives and makes our area a more desirable place in which to live.

 

SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM IN HORNSBY SHIRE

 The trunk roads of Hornsby are already heavily trafficked and getting worse by the day. There are some reprieves on the horizon but they will only be temporary as Sydney’s (and Hornsby Shire’s) population continues to grow and development continues unabated. In such circumstances we know from past experience that retro-fitting more roads or car-carrying capacity does not solve urban transport challenges, certainly not without prohibitive costs to the taxpayer and resident.

Between now and 2036 the Greater Sydney Commission reports that the population of Sydney’s northern district, which includes Hornsby Shire, will increase by a further 24%. Clearly other transport options need to be seriously explored, especially when one remembers that the vast majority of local journeys are only a few kilometres in duration. These are journeys that can easily be undertaken by bicycle in many situations, provided bicycle cycleway infrastructure is available, safe to use and convenient. 

Currently in Hornsby Shire, bicycle cycleways, where they exist at all, are too often neither safe nor convenient. To be safe they either have to be separated from general traffic or, at least, given a designated part of the road via line markings. To be convenient, they have to be as direct as possible and graded realistically. 

We all know hills and climbs in Hornsby Shire that would present a serious challenge to even the fittest athletes in the international cycling peleton, let alone ordinary citizens wanting to ride to the library, cinema, bank or coffee with friends. So the topographical reality of life in our area is that more manageable bicycle routes have to compete for space with existing busy roads or rail lines wanting to use the same less steep terrain. Therein lies the main problem for Hornsby Shire’s transport modes; they all have to stick to the same restricted ridges and more and more people want to use them.

In such circumstances, the successful roll-out of better cycle ways in Hornsby Shire has to be the result of regular, on-going consultation and concessions between Council, the RMS, Sydney Trains and the cycling public.

  

ISSUES TO BE ADDRESSED

 

a. Cycleway connectivity/major routes

Every government cycleway plan acknowledges that cycleway networks have to integrate effectively with each other in order to achieve realistic improvements to local and regional transport challenges. The State Government’s Sydney Cycling Futures 2013 plan acknowledges this and so does the Greater Sydney Commission.

Local networks facilitate bicycle travel within Hornsby Shire as well as feed into the RMS’s proposed Principal Bicycle Network (PBN). The PBN has to facilitate bicycle travel through Hornsby Shire to other major centres such as Castle Hill, Macquarie Park, Chatswood and Parramatta. To do this efficiently, our main through cycleways must follow the same terrain as Pennant Hills Road and the old Pacific Highway wherever possible, as well as some of the busier east-west cross roads.

Given developments such as the M1/M2 Tunnel, the predicted lessening of traffic along Pennant Hills Road provides a unique opportunity to use either side of that corridor for the establishment of a vital part of the PBN. The grades involved would facilitate fast travel between Hornsby and Pennant Hills making the route useful for commuters and it links neatly with the proposed Pennant Hills to Epping cycleway at Pennant Hills, for subsequent linkage to the Epping to Gore Hill cycleway, as well as a longer term proposal for a link to Castle Hill and/or Parramatta.

A current arrangement using The Esplanade at Thornleigh in lieu of the Pennant Hills road corridor for cyclists travelling between Pennant Hills and Hornsby is less than optimal to say the least given the traffic volumes, ‘door zones’ and negative camber bends involved.

It is absolutely crucial that Hornsby Council identifies the Pennant Hills Road corridor as a key part of any future local bicycle plan.

Other key routes requiring identification and attention are as follows:-

  • Hornsby to Ku-Ring-Gai - the current Ku-Ring-Gai plan has established a cycle route along Millewa Avenue which feeds naturally into Alexandria Parade at Waitara and, via one or more cross streets further north, to Edgeworth David Avenue. This route is already popular with cyclists and should be formally defined and upgraded to serve cycling needs;
  • Pennant Hills to Epping - a formal submission has already been made to the State Government about this by local groups including the Pennant Hills and Beecroft Civic Trusts and Bike North. The submission contains a number of options but the only topographically feasible one that would be acceptable to local users involves upgrading, for bicycle use, a recently built Sydney Trains service road on the eastern side of the railway line between Beecroft and Pennant Hills Stations. Any other option is simply too steep for bicycle use;
  • Hornsby and North - travel by bike between Hornsby and Mt Colah contains a number of hazards. Going north or south one has to navigate through a range of chicanes, traffic islands and door zones in the ‘old’ west-side commercial area which is very risky (bicycles at present are not allowed officially to use Station Street travelling south from the Coronation Street roundabout corner); travelling north or south between Hornsby and Asquith along Peats Ferry Road requires the execution of a number of lane changes and passage through a number of squeeze points in the absence of any cycle lane markings; and, once past Asquith travelling north, there is no cycle lane marked until Rupert Street Mt Colah requiring cyclists to ride in the active traffic lane in one of the busiest thoroughfares in Hornsby Shire;
  • Westleigh to Hornsby - currently there are some cycleway markings along Duffy Avenue but after that cyclists wanting to travel to Hornsby have to run the highly dangerous Chilvers Road/Milson Parade/Malsbury Road gauntlet or use a maze of circuitous and often steep back roads and laneways on the East Side of the Main Northern Rail Line that only set you out on Hornsby’s outskirts. If you had to assess this route for convenience you’d have to rate it as a fail;
  • Hornsby to Castle Hill via Cherrybrook - the Cherrybrook district is currently isolated for cyclists and infrastructure is urgently needed to provide good connectivity to the major centres of Hornsby and Castle Hill;
  • Castle Hill to Galston - Old Northern Road is currently a barrier to cycling for most people but is the obvious route for travel to and from Castle Hill. High quality cycling infrastructure is required along this corridor.

There are a number of other possibilities at a suburban level for improving local [i.e. non trunk route] cycling and Bike North can assist Council with feasibility advice about these. In current economic circumstances it appears, however, that they would need to be funded from State or Federal Government grants. 

One thing is certain for the future roll out of main cycle routes in Hornsby and that is that it will not happen without focused co-operation between some of the State’s most powerful public enterprises - Sydney Trains and the Roads and Maritime Services. Council and local politicians must therefore press their claims for these improvements vigorously. Another immutable reality for Hornsby Shire is that its topography significantly limits the use of any ‘Plans B’ which might otherwise allow for the creation of back routes away from heavily trafficked roads. In many cases, these busy roads are the only ways to get between suburbs and the corridors through which they pass are very restricted and much contested. The need for part of each of these corridors to be quarantined for cycleway usage cannot be overemphasised if Hornsby Shire is ever to fulfil its obligations to improve travel times for its citizens.

 

b. Hazard Reduction /Blackspot Reporting/Communication

The current arrangements for reporting cycling hazards and for consulting about cycling infrastructure issues are not satisfactory and need to be improved.

Bike North is firmly of the view that a regular liaison arrangement needs to exist between local representatives of the cycling public, the RMS and Hornsby Council. On occasions, it may even be advisable to have a representative present from Sydney Trains if warranted by the issues to be addressed. We advocate the setting up of such a liaison body at the earliest opportunity and suggest that Council use as a model the bicycle consultative groups established by Ryde, Parramatta and North Sydney Councils.

Council’s facility for reporting hazards is o.k. for dealing with potholes after rain, fallen trees or other damaged road infrastructure but a number of issues routinely arise which require attention from more than one government authority. This can be very difficult and frustrating to try to resolve by email or letter-writing, almost to the point where the agencies involved occasionally appear to be deliberately un-cooperative in the hope that the complainant will eventually get tired and go away.

Furthermore, the eventual roll-out of Council’s revised Bicycle Plan will surely require some regular tweaking which is best negotiated face to face.

 

c. Measuring and Improving Performance

Any revised Hornsby Shire Bicycle Plan will need to contain timelines, specific and measurable outcomes and funding strategies and best practice can always be learned and improved upon through discussion with peer agencies undertaking the same or similar tasks. There is no shame in seeking outside advice on such matters but in 2018 Council planners certainly need to consider all infrastructure development and town planning initiatives more holistically.

The task of improving Hornsby Shire’s cycling infrastructure through such an approach will be interesting to observe. For example, disabled access is now almost universally taken into account when designing and building infrastructure and the same attention needs to be paid to the active transport (cycling/walking) needs of Hornsby Shire.

 

d. Signage

Hornsby Shire’s Bike Plan also needs to rectify the almost total absence of directional signage for cyclists to help them find and stick to safe passages throughout the Shire. There are many examples of what can be done in this regard in neighbouring local government areas and Bike North urges Council to make specific provision for improved signage in the Plan.

 

e. Parking

Finally, Bike North agrees wholeheartedly with the Hornsby Mayor, The Honorable Philip Ruddock, that the wider provision of bicycle parking facilities is another area of improvement that needs to be addressed within the Shire’s service centres if more people are to be encouraged to choose their bike, instead of their car, to ‘go up to the high street’.

Improving the number and quality of bicycle parking facilities near service centres and buildings in the Hornsby CBD and elsewhere would involve the installation of more general access parking rails and in some situations possibly secure lockers or compounds.

 

THE FUTURE

This submission invites Hornsby Council to make it possible for Hornsby residents to use bicycles as viable transport options rather than as just recreational objects.

The bicycle is not a frivolous indulgence. It is the most cost effective individual transport device ever invented. It is also cheap and fun to run, compact, quiet and non-polluting and requires minimal infrastructure to facilitate its use in comparison to motor vehicles and trains. 

Now is the time to make Hornsby Shire an intelligent place in which to live and move around - by bicycle !

 

Justin Holmwood

Advocacy Officer

BIKE NORTH

13 February, 2018