Tweed and traffic lights

This instalment of the Sydney Tweed ride is the third one so far in Sydney.  Originally it started in London organised by the forum.  However it's got a pretty broad appeal, the majority of bikes and riders there are not hipsters on fixies.  It's mostly everyday people on city bikes, vintage road bikes, mtb's, hybrids, folders, tandems and cargo bikes.  However no one has shown up on a penny farthing so far, that would be beyond cool.

I've attended both previous Tweed rides, the pace is somewhat, slow to say the least.  This year was different as the Bourke, Kent and King St cycleways were complete and were a featured part of the route.  However having 300+ riders on such narrow bike paths at one time was chaotic to say the least.  The problem I have found with the cycleways is that the light phasing is terrible.  The root of the problem is this: the City of Sydney controls the actual design of the cycleway but the RTA controls the light phasing and intersection design.  A big part of the problem is that the RTA basically operates with the ethos that automobile traffic takes priority over everything else.  Even to the point of objecting the addition of car parking spaces in an effort to revive a derelict retail strip because it would slow down traffic as people parked in these spots:

I've criticised the intersection design of the cycleways before, however the large crowd at today's tweed ride just exacerbated the problem.  The basic hierarchy of the intersections on Bourke and Kent puts Motor traffic right at the top, pedestrians a distant second and bicycles under that and only on demand.  The pedestrian lights will turn green once the traffic for the road parallel changes to green as well - this is usually automatic during the day however it changes to "on demand" mode during the wee hours of the morning - it is activated by hitting the crossing button at the traffic lights.

The 3 seconds you got a green light for the bike lane meant that the 300+
group got split up into bunches of about 10 or so

More waiting

The bicycle lanes will only activate when the magnetic sensor detects a bike, if this happens it will generally be phased the same as the pedestrian light.  Quite often they don't even work if you aren't directly over it and won't work at all if you have a non-steel bike.  Basically you can say that the RTA takes a very pessimistic view of the usage of the bike lanes; "Well I doubt many people will be using it anyway so what's the point".  I have no idea why they don't just phase it automatically with the pedestrian lights, this only slows down traffic turning right or left across the bike lane for a measly 5 seconds that the pedestrian/bike light phase usually goes for.  This is also on not so busy roads like Bourke St.  The majority of the traffic goes along the Eastern distributor and South Dowling st.

A typical Bourke St cycleway intersection showing the light sequencing
This method of light phasing has been universally applied to all intersections involving cycleways in Bourke, Kent and King St.  Basically cyclists are given a few seconds of green light, otherwise they are given a red to allow cars turning right and left from Bourke across the bike path.  However the cars get something like 30 seconds or a minute, regardless if there is traffic or not.  The bike light phasing is so comparatively short that often cyclists will run the red bike light because there are no cars turning at all.

The intersection of Albion and Bourke St

However I truly do not understand why they implemented this light phasing on the intersection of Bourke and Albion Streets.  Because Albion St is one way there would be no traffic turning into which would cross over the cycleway, yet it will only give bikes a green light if there is a sensor to detect it.   The same goes with the pedestrian crossing adjacent to it, people just ignore it and jaywalk because there are no cars coming towards them.  See below for the google maps location of this intersection.

Generally speaking, I find that the RTA gives very little priority to pedestrians or cyclists.  In the Sydney city CBD cars are king.  You often have to hit a button to "apply to cross the street" in which you will wait for a minute and get 10 seconds to cross the road whilst cars go as they please.  Typically as well, drivers often fail to give way to crossing pedestrians, they take the attitude that you are intruding on their space as a pedestrian.  So many times I have been crossing the street whilst I have been given a green pedestrian light and drivers waiting to turn have honked me.  Walking up George St is really an exercise in giving way to cars, there are plenty of plans by Clover Moore to pedestrianise the CBD which would be great. Hopefully the amalgamation of the RTA into Transport NSW will help this.


  1. Damn that seems very very annoying. And when you run the red then motorists cry 'cyclists are all bad and can't follow the road rules!' :P