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A billion-dollar freeway upgrade on Sydney’s north shore fails to address the “missing link” in the north shore cycleway and has forced NSW Active Transport Minister Rob Stokes to step in and bring the highway builders back to the negotiating table.
The four-kilometre Warringah Freeway upgrade between North Sydney and Naremburn aims to cater for the expected traffic from a new harbour crossing but does not include any cycleways.
These Warringah Freeway upgrade plans were announced in 2021.Credit:Edwina Pickles
The north shore cycleway was a “priority” cycleway in the NSW government’s 2013 Sydney’s Cycling Future plan. It was conceived as a safe, separated cycleway connecting the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the bike paths alongside the Gore Hill Freeway and Lane Cove Tunnel.
The freeway upgrade will cost about $1.2 billion but building a “20th-century toll road instead of a sustainable transport approach” will “funnel cars to pinch points”, and is “designed for the contractor, not the community”, independent North Sydney Mayor Zoe Baker said.
“It’s obvious if you’re doing a freeway upgrade you should embed cycling infrastructure and fill the missing link in the north shore cycleway,” she said.
“The contractors have managed to rip out 750-odd trees in Cammeray and they haven’t even spoken meaningfully to the council or bike groups about a design for active transport infrastructure.”
Hundreds of trees were cut down in Cammeray for an upgrade to the Warringah Freeway.Credit:Nick Moir
The way that many big infrastructure projects are being run is to release 30 per cent of the design before construction starts, leaving later decisions about active transport, tree removal and landscaping for the contractor, Baker said.
Stokes said building a major road project to benefit drivers “should not adversely impact on cyclists”.
“Bicycle groups have raised with me concerns about this process,” he said. “I’ve directed Transport for NSW to reset consultation with them and to provide immediate clarity about the future of the network.”
Bicycle NSW president Peter McLean said Transport for NSW needed to “hold the contractors to account” since a condition of the project was that the builder needed to consult councils and cyclist groups.
Bike paths along and around the Warringah Freeway will be cut by a billion-dollar upgrade.
“We’ve not received a bike network plan, which we’ve been strongly requesting for a couple of months now [and] we can’t comment on the project [without] the information to guide us,” McLean said. “On other road projects, we get this information but, on this, we haven’t.”
Transport for NSW said it was “simplifying the Warringah Freeway, making it safer and easier to use and more efficient and reliable for the benefit of all customers”.
But an assessment of the project in 2020 by NSW planning experts said, “It is unclear how it responds to both current and future demand” for cycling, and had “insufficient active transport linkages with the Harbour Bridge”.
Bicycles are far more efficient users of road space than cars, and total sales this year are heading to 1.5 million, Bicycle Industries Australia general manager Peter Bourke said. “To reduce congestion and emissions reduction, bikes are the way to go.”
Part of the freeway upgrade includes closing the Falcon Street underpass, which is a “hugely used piece of cycling infrastructure”, Baker said.
“But they haven’t told us how and where it’s going to be reinstated.”
A Transport for NSW spokesman said it was “always looking for ways to engage robustly with our communities on initiatives within our major infrastructure projects, and will continue to work with all our key stakeholders”.
Maintaining “safe access for cyclists” along the freeway during the five-year construction period is “not possible”, he said.
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