Every few years an idea that seeks to place cyclists firmly outside user plans for the greenest and most used social space in the heart of Sydney is floated, notes Philip Gomes.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

The Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust that manages Centennial Park
has called for submissions from interested stakeholders on a plan called
the Grand Drive Safety Improvement Project with two of the suggestions
the placement of speed humps on the drive and further reduced speed
limits. One of our key areas of visitor safety concern at Centennial Parklands is the management of traffic flows in Centennial Park, and in particular the convergence of motor vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and other park users on Grand Drive
I've always felt that calling the main thoroughfare through and around
Centennial Park the 'Grand Drive' was ironic, an unintended tip of the
hat to the cars that ate the park and the users everyone spends most of
their time trying to appease.

Interestingly, the most enjoyable
and popular periods for all users of the park are the car free days, you
would think they would get the hint.

Needless to say the speed
hump and 20km/h provisions, if implemented, would kill most serious
recreational cycling in the park stone-cold dead. And to call a speed
hump 'cycling friendly' is another sign that the park is influenced by
thinkers that know nothing about cycling.

Do any of the key park employees actually ride a bicycle?

In
the 20-plus years I've been riding in and around Sydney there have been
no less than three attempts to implement some new way of using the
park, which always seems to benefit motorists and other users to the
detriment of cyclists.

The last effort was an inherently
dangerous counter-flow proposal that would have seen Grand Drive users
ride, rollerblade, skate and run opposite the stream of oncoming
motoring traffic.

Thankfully that proposal failed in the face of
an energetic and intelligent group of cyclists who mounted a credible
denunciation of the plan, one that again had at its heart more in
parking and speed humps along the drive.

Now there is no question
various user groups come into contact with each other in the park.
Cyclist vs motorist altercations happen on an all too frequent basis.
And then there are those times when an errant but lovable pooch runs off
the leash and decides to take out an entire bunch as they roll around.

Been there and done that, as they say, and I still have the mental and physical scars to prove it, as do a few of my friends.

Now
I'm the first to agree that there are some bunches that use the park as
their own private motorway, riding in a way that disrespects other
users and is not suitable to the nature of the space. I'm looking at
you, triathletes.

And then there are the rich white dudes
(MAMiL's) who drive to the park in order to roll around. Seriously guys,
ride from home. You'll be helping lessen the congestion in the most
used public space in Sydney and get a bit of street cred doing it.

Centennial
Park has implemented several initiatives in order to control the loose
cannons. Speed guns, speed limits and diligent rangers who monitor the
park for dangerous use all contribute to a safer experience for the
majority of users.

I'm happy with the way things are now.
However, my two decades' observation and use keeps informing me that the
real problem is still the car.

Most drivers use their access to
the park as they should but some use the Grand Drive as a rat run to
avoid congestion elsewhere in the dense Eastern Suburbs and others a
long-term parking lot. This, no doubt, adds to the congestion.

Ultimately
the Centennial Parklands will have to confront the idea of banning cars
from the premises and only allow parking on the outer areas of the
park, though I'm sure the cashed up NIMBYs in the neighborhoods
surrounding the park will fight tooth and nail against that idea.

Cyclists
are an integral part of park life, one of the few spaces where we feel
somewhat safe in a city where our rights as road users are increasingly
marginalised. The proposed changes are a bad idea when there are other
more credible solutions at hand.

Sydney cyclists, have a look at the draft plan and proposals and let us know what you think.

Twitter: @Philip_Gomes