Sydney Bike Lanes

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The cycle lanes introduced over the last few years in Sydney are an issue of lots of ongoing debate in the media. The Sydney Morning Herald reports on this regularly – and seems to favour the plan despite it’s (many) critics.  Basically they plan to have 200km of cycle ways in place by 2014 and are focusing on the dedicated cycle paths like the one in the photo. The plan is to have 55km of these in the city in the next year. From talking to people over in Sydney I get the gist that many motorists hate them and consequently the Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore who spearheaded the support for the program. The main point for all the anger is the fact that hundreds of roads immediately lost a whole traffic lane permanently and at all times. So overnight the traffic congestion (apparently) increased considerably. This is because the green lane has a curb closing it off to traffic.

This is logically designed for the safety of the cyclists. However as you will likely understand; riding a brakeless fixed gear bike in a closed single lane a couple of feet wide poses some ‘issues’. Now I’m only just getting my head around how they all work, and there are bizarre sections that loop around trees and bisect driveways etc so I’m a rookie and I’ve only commuted a litle bit on them.  The great part about all this is that there are lots of people from all walks of life and cycling persuasions commuting. You see girls on cruisers, Kids on BMX’s, Cadel Evans wannabe’s sprinting and weaving their way through the other bikes, tourers with duffel sized panniers, dads with kids in bike seats or those weird kid-trailer units that make them about 30 feet long, old dottery ladies with handlebar-baskets full of groceries wobbling and jerking in and out of lane…..the list goes on.

Now, I’m not hating on all these factors, but I’m sure you can appreciate that negotiating this on a fixed gear is a tad ‘challenging’. I’ve not been riding a whole lot over a winter of much work travel, so I expect my heart rate to be pretty high when I ride any kind of distance, but the adrenalin spike and machine gun pulse I experienced maneuvering through this mechanical mine field had me crapping my pants.

The thing that is most scary is the big fat square edged curb that stops you being able to cut out of the cycle path onto the road, you are locked in there for better or worse. So when you are getting some speed up down a hill and come across a slow spacially compromised rider you are at the mercy of them and what is coming at you in the other 2 foot wide lane. Speed checks have to be straight skids, sideways washes take you into the other lane. Hopping the curb is a mission because it’s quite big, the only saving grace is that it’s wide enough to almost manny across but it’s a bit harrowing. So I decided I’m much more at home taking my chances on the road, I’m way more comfortable negotiating cars in lanes. MISTAKE: as you may know Aussies can be quite vocal and it’s clear they believe that bikes belong in the cycle lanes, so they can become a tad hostile. More here: http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/AboutSydney/ParkingAndTransport/Cycling/

I’m staying in Surry Hills a bit and the commute is pretty much straight all the way down Bourke St to the Red Bull office in Alexandria. There is a new Deus Ex Machina store and cafe right at the top of bourke – it’s great – the people are super cool. The cats in the Deus CycleWorks store are unpretentious, and the girl who makes my coffee in the morning is nice. They had 6 MASH Cinelli frames on the rack and a grip of NJS frames including a dope Wattanabe, most of them teeny weeny but nice to look at.

I now understand why I see so few brakeless fixed gear bikes on the roads after experiencing commuting. Most bikes I see are conversions and/or track frames with freewheels and brakes. But I’ve also not spent enough time actually riding around or hooking up with other riders yet.

I’m back in NZ now for a few weeks which is great, hoping to get a ride in on Sunday if the rain stays away.

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