The Hon. CATE FAEHRMANN [3.25 p.m.]: The stated main purpose of the City of Sydney Amendment (Central Sydney Traffic and Transport Committee) Bill 2012 is to provide for effective coordination of transport and traffic management in Sydney’s central business district. A new Government-controlled committee will be established and certain roadworks and traffic control works will be referred to it for approval by the relevant roads authority.
Unfortunately, the bill has very little to do with improving transport planning for the Sydney central business district and a lot to do with scoring political points. The bill is the Government’s tactical political response to a concerted campaign from sections of the media against the City of Sydney and its excellent promotion of active travel options in order to tackle congestion, specifically the part-completed cycleway network. This cycleway network, despite still being only a hotchpotch of disconnected links, has already increased cycling by more than 80 per cent during the morning and afternoon peaks.
The bill is a cynical political move from a Government that is yet to get any significant runs on the board when it comes to Sydney’s worsening traffic congestion, which is estimated to cost our economy a massive $8 billion a year by the end of the decade. The great irony of this bill is that, by contrast, the City of Sydney has an excellent record of initiatives and action that address worsening congestion. But an even greater incongruity in this move to discipline the City of Sydney is that all significant works already require approval from the New South Wales Government.
The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: I hope the Daily Telegraph is listening to this.
The Hon. CATE FAEHRMANN: I am sure it is.
DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Natasha Maclaren-Jones): Order! Members will cease interjecting.
The Hon. CATE FAEHRMANN: This committee is simply an additional layer of unnecessary bureaucracy from a Government that is so obsessed with removing red tape. The Greens’ advice to the Government is to stop pandering to the anti-cycling media campaign. There are quite a few lessons that could be learnt from the City of Sydney and from The Greens’ active transport “Changing how we move” initiative if we want to go that far. That would go a long way to evolving the way Sydneysiders get to work and help to get people out of their cars and around the city in a safer, cleaner and more relaxing way. Currently the New South Wales Government is doing little to reach its own very modest active transport targets. The NSW Bike Plan is available for viewing on the Roads and Maritime Services website and it clearly states that the Government will encourage more and safer cycling to increase the share of short trips by bike in greater Sydney for all travel purposes to 5 per cent by 2016 and double the use of cycling to get to work across all of New South Wales between 2006 and 2016. Building a cycle network is one of the most appropriate ways to encourage cycling as it allows cyclists to be separated from vehicle traffic and pedestrians, increasing safety and reducing the risk of an accident.
Around the world, cities are moving towards greater participation in cycling for travel purposes. It will come as no surprise to hear that Copenhagen and Amsterdam are the world’s top cities for cycling but what members might not know is that Tokyo is rated fourth. Barcelona, which six years ago had no appreciable cycling in the city, is now rated third. It is clearly possible to turn around a city in a short time and make it a great city for cycling. In Copenhagen in 2007, 36 per cent of commuter trips were by bike and 90 per cent of people owned a bike. But in Sydney in 2005 bicycle trips accounted for only 1 per cent of trips per day, although this is increasing, with about 4 per cent of people in New South Wales using a cycle for non-recreational purposes in a week. As I mentioned earlier, at last count the City of Sydney found that there had been an increase of 83 per cent in cyclists in the morning peak, and 82 per cent in the afternoon peak from March 2010 to March 2012, despite an incomplete cycle network.
More bad news for New South Wales is that it has the lowest participation rate of cycling for transport for all States and Territories. Metropolitan Sydney has lower rates than in regional areas, which is unusual in Australia, where cycling tends to be more popular in the largest cities. Cycling for commuting purposes attracts only some 13 per cent of all cycling trips in a typical week, so there is a long way to go for New South Wales and Sydney to catch up with advanced cycling cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Even New York, which is rated twentieth, outdoes Sydney. So if we are to live up to our reputation as the truly global and liveable city we should be then far more is going to have to be done to improve cycling rates in Sydney. Why is there not more cooperation from the Government on action to build more cycleways?
I have already mentioned that avoidable congestion will cost Sydney $8 billion a year by 2020. This figure gets bandied around by many, including the Government and the NRMA. Serious changes need to be made if we are to reduce the impacts of congestion on productivity. We cannot continue our obsession with motorways and widening roads which simply clog up within years; we need a paradigm shift. A big part of this will need to be encouraging active transport such as cycling and walking. The City of Sydney has been doing great work on active travel. Meanwhile our Minister for Roads and Ports the Hon. Duncan Gay has repeatedly stated that the current cycleways are in the wrong place, without stating where exactly they should be.
One of the few authorities in this State that has been actively promoting congestion-busting cycle networks, the City of Sydney, is now being slapped down by a Government that is more worried about its response to media campaigns that actually doing something about our clogged city. One of the main arguments bandied around against the city’s cycleways is around the reduction in street parking. It is not widely understood, however, that parking on city streets is actually a sure way to increase road congestion. Apart from the success of clearways that operate on main roads during peak hour, roadside parking reduces the flow of traffic in adjacent lanes. This is clearly outlined in the traffic management guidelines of Roads and Maritime Services. On top of that, 10 bikes can park in the space of one car.
In 2009 PricewaterhouseCoopers reported to the former Roads and Traffic Authority that there is a benefit-cost ratio of 1.8 for building the missing links of the Sydney Metropolitan Strategic Cycle Network. This was based on demand forecast data and the quantifiable benefits of active travel, assuming a 20-year evaluation period and a 4 per cent discount rate in view of the social capital value of cycleways. PricewaterhouseCoopers concluded that this work was economically viable at full risk adjusted capital costs. So what is not to like about increasing the cycle network in Sydney? The benefits are many. Cycling leads to improved health, improvements for the environment, lower congestion, independence for children and other socially disadvantaged groups, supports tourism, and provides greater access to jobs and services. Bike sales have outstripped car sales for more than a decade and cycling provides employment opportunities. This study used World Health Organization methodology to estimate health benefits and showed that it provides a very positive benefit-cost ratio of 3.1.
According to the report of PricewaterhouseCoopers report—providing mobility to all who are physically capable of riding a cycle or an electric cycle—cycling is one of the lowest cost transport options available, meaning that individuals from more socioeconomic groups and more locations can be upwardly mobile. It allows access to areas not covered by public transport and at times and routes convenient to the traveller. It opens up the city to those without access to a car. Additionally, bike paths have negligible impact on social environment, unlike major roads, which can cut communities in half. I should stress at this point that encouraging cycling is not automatically punishing motorists as the Daily Telegraph may have us believe. The easier it is to cycle, the more people will get out of their cars, making it easier for those who have no option but to drive.
An issue that arises time and again in transport forums across the State is that more people would cycle if separate cycleways were available so that they could feel safe on the roads. This bill will create an unnecessary and bureaucratic hurdle for active travel improvements, and all for the sake of a political point-scoring exercise. The City of Sydney already works with Transport for NSW, Roads and Maritime Services and so on. All cycleways must be approved by them already. The locations of some of the more contentious cycleways were all approved by the Roads and Traffic Authority prior to their construction.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: That’s not true, Cate, and you know it. That’s a fib.
The Hon. CATE FAEHRMANN: I ask that the Minister for Roads and Ports address that matter in reply. The Minister is yet to explain why these cycleways are in the wrong place, and why the former Roads and Traffic Authority approved them and where else they should have gone. Why this additional committee? The committee to be established by the bill was announced by the Premier on 4 April 2012. On 3 April 2012, the day before the announcement, the front page of the Daily Telegraph was headed “Clover’s CBD Carjack’. Then it had a double-page spread about cycleways being in the wrong place after a concerted attack for many, many months by the Daily Telegraph. It ran an “On yer bike Clover” campaign, with urban affairs reporters informed to provide daily attacks and news stories on Clover. It is incredible. We know that there have been News Ltd journalists camped outside or waiting outside her home to get stories. The campaign against Clover in the lead-up to this was absolutely disgraceful. On 3 April 2012—
The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: She’s only in politics. She is untouchable?
The Hon. CATE FAEHRMANN: I am not saying she is untouchable but this is a concerted campaign by News Ltd that followed up the next day—
DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Natasha Maclaren-Jones): Order! The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps will come to order.
The Hon. Lynda Voltz: Point of order: It is impossible for the Hon. Cate Faehrmann to speak when the Government Whip continually interjects during speeches.
DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Natasha Maclaren-Jones): Order! I remind members that interjections are disorderly at all times.
The Hon. CATE FAEHRMANN: That was on the front page of the Daily Telegraph on 3 April 2012 headed “Clover’s CBD Carjack”. It is incredible that the Government responded in less than 24 hours. If this was not a response to a concerted media campaign on this I do not know what it is. It was very unusual really. The next day the Daily Telegraph front page heading was “Barry says ‘No Moore’”. Within 24 hours the Government has a solution.
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: Point of order: The Hon. Cate Faehrmann has made certain allegations against the Daily Telegraph, which is responding to community concerns.
The Hon. Lynda Voltz: To the point of order: Members should not take a point of order to make a debating point.
DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Natasha Maclaren-Jones): Order! I do not uphold the point of order.
The Hon. CATE FAEHRMANN: The article on the front page of the Daily Telegraph related to this matter quoted the Premier eight times. I am sure all members understand the media and how journalists work. It is absolutely extraordinary for anyone in politics—the Premier or members of Parliament—to be quoted eight or ten times in an article and to be on the front page.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: They obviously supported what he said.
The Hon. CATE FAEHRMANN: I say the Daily Telegraph supported what the Premier said. I think it was a joint effort by the Daily Telegraph and the Government on this issue.
The Hon. Penny Sharpe: Point of order: The Minister for Roads and Ports and the Hon. Dr Peter Phelps continue to interject during this debate. I ask you to call them to order.
DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Natasha Maclaren-Jones): Order! Government members will refrain from interjecting.
The Hon. CATE FAEHRMANN: The City of Sydney was only quoted once in that article. It said that the Government already signs off on all of its transport proposals. What have we got after a concerted attack from the Daily Telegraph over many months against the city’s bike lanes and Clover Moore “Clover’s CBD Carjack”? The next day the Premier is quoted, “Barry says ‘No Moore’”. That was an extraordinary joint effort by the Government and the Daily Telegraph.
It is obvious to me, as it should be to all members, that this committee, regardless of its practical function, will be little more than an exercise in political point scoring against a council that is extremely popular with its constituents, communities, commuters and city businesses. The Greens hope that, whatever this traffic and transport committee does, the City of Sydney will continue to be leader in active transport solutions and that many more people will cycle to work and get the most out of the network of cycleways which is being built and which is of enormous benefit. In 10 or 20 years we will wonder what the fuss was all about. In fact, there would not have been a fuss if it were not for the Daily Telegraph‘s campaign about this issue.