*(Photo: Bianca Healey)

It took a global pandemic for long-awaited cycling infrastructure to take shape in Sydney.

Following Federal recommendations to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission on public transport, City of Sydney and Transport for NSW opened six pop-up cycleways.

This was a bid to encourage more people to commute to work by bike.

The new cycleways connect existing bike lanes, are wider than other bike lanes, and have raised bollards to separate cyclists from other traffic.

Sarah Dickins, a lawyer and member of Sydney Cycling Club, said the lack of safe, connected cycle lanes in Sydney had  made commuting by bike frustrating.

“There would be great sections of cycle lane that would then just disappear,” she said.

Since August, she has been cycling to work using the Moore Park Road pop-up. This route connects existing lanes in the Eastern Suburbs to the city.

“It creates that vital link that was previously missing.

Attempts to improve cycling infrastructure have fallen short in recent years, despite funding commitments made in the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan.

General Manager for Public Affairs at advocacy group Bicycle NSW Bastien Wallace, said she has pushed the NSW Government to fill the gaps in Sydney’s cycle lanes.

Transport for NSW research shows 70 per cent of people say they would like to ride a bike or walk to work but feel it’s not safe enough.

“We said to the NSW government; ‘You need to do something better’.”

Ms Wallace said so far feedback has been positive, though there have been some complaints.

“The people who they wanted to get riding – people who are timid or intimidated by traffic – love them.”

City of Sydney cycling poster

City of Sydney bike poster encouraging residents to take up cycling. (Photo: Bianca Healey)

The City of Sydney has not announced plans to make the cycleways permanent.

However it said in a press release on November 3 that over 16,000 bike trips are being taken each week using the pop-up cycleways.

Most significantly, it reported that rider numbers in Sydney are 20 per cent higher than this time last year.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need to get more people walking and riding in Sydney.

“Our connected bike lane network has been invaluable during the coronavirus pandemic, given the renewed uptake in cycling,” she said. “People are now returning to the city, but we must maintain physical distancing.

“We need more people to walk or ride, freeing up space on public transport and roads for those who can’t,” she said.

Ms Dickins is one of the riders hoping to continue her new commute.

“I think that [the] cycleway should be made permanent, that would be wonderful,” she said.

Moreover she is seeing “so many more” people on the road taking advantage of the benefits.

“For commuting I find it’s faster than the bus, it’s faster than walking, it’s free, it takes me door-to-door.”

— Bianca Healey @biancahealey