I think you overestimate the number of current cyclists who would opt not to switch over to a cycleway, and underestimate the number of prospective cyclists who would be attracted to it. Not all cyclists are of your mindset. Even if we accept your premise that 90% of cyclists won't use the cycleway now, we have to remember that infrastructure such as this is built for the decades to come. We must plan for future users as much as current users, because as you rightly point out, the purpose of this cycleway is to connect to the dedicated cycleway along Gore Hill freeway. It would be tragic to build anything less than a dedicated cycleway along West St. A West St 'shared zone' would not be used by many cyclists who would use the Gore Hill route, stunting the whole lower north shore network.
The crux of the issue is the fear that cycleways will marginalize cyclists who want to ride on the road. This fear is what motivates the 'American' approach I mentioned earlier of always treating the bicycle as a road vehicle. This paralyzing mindset is counterproductive however, because without dedicated cycleways, cycling will remain the domain of a subsection of society, sporting enthusiasts who are fearless enough to always ride on the road.
I can certainly see your points about building for the future, which is a good thing.
However, there needs to be education for motorists that just because there is a dedicated Cycleway does not mean that cyclists must use it. What happens is that it leads to the belief that bicycles don't belong on roads.
The idea of the shared zone is to make the road environment look like you should be driving slowly, not racing down a rat run. That way it becomes less intimidating for vulnerable road users, and does not require an adjacent path. West St is not an arterial rd that has three lanes of 70km/h traffic zipping by on each side. That IS the kind of road where you want a dedicated Cycleway like the Gore Hill/Epping Rd path.
I am not a Nth Sydney resident, just a Nth Sydney worker. 98% of my cycling is commuting, and I don't classify myself as a sporting enthusiast. I ride about 12,000km a year going to and from work. Even I stay off certain roads and use the footpaths and cycleways. The biggest danger on West St right now is getting doored, so cyclists ride wide. This annoys motorists trying to race up the street at warp speed, ironically ending at the police station, but it isn't otherwise a huge issue.
I'd be interested in seeing whether local residents would use the Cycleway, or whether the primary users will be those simply passing through.
One other thing I find interesting was that when I was a kid (80's), we had no cycleways anywhere. It never stopped anyone from cycling, and just about every kid had a bike and we rode everywhere. Motorists were used to seeing us and we never got abused. At some point in the 90's the attitude towards cyclists started to go backwards, and now we find ourselves here trying to get recognition again.
'11 Lynskey Cooper CX, '00 Hillbrick Steel Racing (Total Rebuild '10), '09 Electra Townie Original 21D
I notice that il padrone just posted a video about this issue here. That thread focuses more on the clothing mentioned in the video, but towards the end of the video, the presenter talks about infrastructure as well. Same message, slightly different delivery.
Talking about actual examples in Sydney, Wilson St which connects Redfern to Newtown is probably a good example of a shared cycling road. It's one-way at one end, and a dead-end at the other end. This makes quite a bit quieter compared to West St. There's frequent signage and road markings to tell other users to look for bikes. It's a popular route with probably at least a bike a minute even outside peak times, which is a constant reminder of other road users to respect bikes. The inner west is generally supportive of cycling, and I have never seen or experienced abuse.
Even so, I still prefer cycling on a dedicated cycleway such as Bourke St, precisely for the reasons mentioned in the video. Primarily, I can ride at whatever (slow) speed I like and I never feel pressured by the car behind me. This may not be a big issue for fast cyclists, but it is a big deal for slower cyclists. Also, the busiest part of Wilson St is unfortunately the hillest. Of course, Bourke St has more intersections, but that's an aspect of the route that can't be changed. Issues such as driveway conflict can be solved, using signage to remind cars of the road rules, or my preferred solution, speed humps.
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