Paddington business owners are geared up to fight the City of Sydney Council and the NSW government over their proposed bicycle lane along Oxford Street in Paddington.
On May 15, the City of Sydney Council voted for the continued operation of the pop-up cycleway on Moore Park Road until May 31, 2026, or until the permanent cycling path on Oxford Street becomes operational.
Paddington local and owner of Café Lautrec, Mark Duff, said the Council acted as though the construction of a cycling path on Oxford Street had already been approved.
“They’re just saying it’s going to happen regardless of any protest,” he said. “It’s happening on Oxford Street and you [residents on Moore Park Road] just have to put up with it for another couple of years until we can build the cycleway on Oxford Street.”
The Moore Park Road pop-up cycleway, constructed as part of the state government’s Covid-19 response in 2020, has met with vocal opposition from local residents and interest groups, including Venues NSW and Rugby Australia.
“You don’t just make something someone else’s problem,” Duff said. “If you’ve got a problem with the Moore Park Road bike path, you don’t move it across to Oxford Street just to placate the people on Moore Park Road and then create another problem on Oxford Street.”
The Oxford Street East Cycleway Project proposes a permanent two-way bike line along the eastern side of Oxford Street between Centennial Park and Taylor Square. According to Transport for NSW, the project would “rejuvenate” Oxford Street, “improve safety” and “encourage more people to choose bikes over cars”.
At a meeting of the City of Sydney Council’s Transport, Heritage, Environment and Planning Committee earlier this month, Lord Mayor Clover Moore said she had the Transport Minister’s assurance that she was committed to continued collaboration with the City on completing the bike network.
“I met with the new Minister for Transport to discuss various transport priorities in our local government area, including accelerating the completion of the Oxford Street cycleway,” she said. “I further spoke with Minister Haylen and she committed to fast tracking the Oxford Street east cycleway, improving consultations and working on long-term solutions.”
The owner of Paddo Pets, Sharon McCarthy, whose shop is located on the eastern side of Oxford Street, did not share the Lord Mayor’s optimism.
“This just came out of the blue,” she said. “Nobody, Woollahra Council, the City of Sydney Council, or Transport for NSW, nobody came. They’ve made out that they did, but nobody came to have an actual consultation.
“They didn’t do a letterbox-drop, they didn’t arrange a meeting to talk to residents and businesses about what their plans were and we weren’t even able to give any feedback.”
Transport for NSW made the design available for public feedback in February this year via an interactive map. The results of the Consultation Outcome Report have yet to be published.
The current strategic design of the Oxford Street East Cycleway Project proposes a concrete media strip separating cyclists from buses and traffic. The number of traffic lanes is reduced from four to two, while retaining bus lanes and reduced kerbside parking.
McCarthy added that safety concerns are another reason why Oxford Street is not a suitable location for a cycling path.
“In the meeting, Clover Moore said that businesses would not be affected because the cycleway would be built on the eastern side where there are schools and churches, but that’s a safety issue,” she said. “Can you imagine elderly people getting out of the car to go to church and they have to cross the bike lane? Same with school drop offs. You know what kids are like, they just jump out of the car and run.”
The small business owner said the community’s disappointment went beyond the Lord Mayor and the City of Sydney Council.
“We’re really disappointed at Clover Moore and our local member Alex Greenwich,” she said. “He’s not consulted anybody. He is meant to be on side with locals, and he seems to be all for this with Clover.
“He was meant to be organising a meeting with residents, locals and Transport for NSW but nothing has happened.”
Local community group organiser Wendy Sheridan said the issue’s complexity has made it difficult to assess the proposal’s progress.
“Just so many things overlap and intertwine so it’s really complex, not straightforward,” she said. “All of it, the legislation, the social, infrastructure, the political requirements.
“In Paddington, space is so limited and so contested and to think that you could just walk it [the cycleway proposal] through is quite foolish.”
Despite several requests, the Council’s Transport, Heritage, Environment and Planning Committee deputy chair remained unavailable for comment .