Categories: News

Pedestrians should take back Sydney’s streets from cars

George Street used to be a traffic sewer, or a parking lot, but the new pedestrian zone around the light rail line has turned it into what Cities and Infrastructure Minister Rob Stokes rightly describes as “one of the world’s great boulevards”.

Anyone who took advantage of the glorious spring weather that finally arrived after the rains and wandered around the city over the past few days will have seen crowds of people enjoying the area, promenading in fancy dress for Halloween or fascinators for the Melbourne Cup.

Moreover, the city now hangs together in a way it never used to. The light rail line has put Haymarket a short and pleasant ride from Circular Quay.

This is good for business. Even lobby group Business Sydney has endorsed most of the road closures.

The City of Sydney says that in the two months after June, when the southern end of George Street near Haymarket reopened as a pedestrian zone, it received 18 applications for outdoor dining licences.

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Under a proposal last month, the north end of George Street near Circular Quay will also close to cars from January 9 on a trial basis. The wider pavements should also attract more restaurants and shops just as they have done further south.

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The closure of sections of Hunter and other nearby streets, which was proposed on Monday, will create a focus for the city around the new Martin Place station, which will open in 2024 as part of the CBD and South Metro Line and for the Hunter Street station of the Metro West line which will open in 2030.

It is not just pedestrians who are transforming the feel of the city.

Sydney is about to reopen a separated bike lane along College Street which was torn up in 2015 after complaints from motorists and many of the pop-up bicycle lanes that were set up during the pandemic will be made permanent.

It will be fascinating to see how far this trend can go in coming years.

Some cars will always have to enter the city either to make deliveries or transport the disabled.

But Sydney should reimagine itself as not just a city with a harbour but also one with thriving plazas and quiet, walkable streets.

Bevan Shields sends a newsletter to subscribers each week. Sign up to receive his Note from the Editor.

Jacky

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