An Ambitious Plan For Sydney’s CBD And Inner West Wants To Make 800km Of Streets Car-Free

The same folks behind the redesign of Sydney’s Central station have come out with a wild plan to convert up to 800km of roads into pedestrian thoroughfares, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Architectural firm Woods Bagot and urban consultancy ERA-co have released a study which reckons transforming the CBD, Inner West and pockets of the North Shore into pedestrian zones would take 100,000 cars off the road while making neighborhoods much more people-friendly.

“A surprising benefit of the COVID-19 lockdown is that urban streets got quieter and more pleasant,” ERA-co head of impact valuation Meg Bartholomew said in a statement.

“Cities around the world are now introducing measures to retain a more peaceful state. Our study shows what a strategy for Sydney could look like, at a micro and macro level.”

Their most ambitious suggestion – to tear up the asphalt on small, inner-city streets within 800 metres of major public transport stops – would most heavily impact the CBD, Newtown, Glebe, Surry Hills, Pyrmont, Ultimo and Kirribilli. Large chunks of Petersham, Redfern, Leichhardt and Balmain would also be affected.

Quiet residential streets would be targeted, meaning the main arteries of inner Sydney would still be intact for us to hoon through.

Kimber Lane in Chinatown isn’t totally car-free, but it was one of the most prominent quiet streets in Sydney to be revitalised. (CC-BY / Stephen Kelly)

After getting rid of cars, these new walkways could then be filled with community gardens, playgrounds and even markets.

“Transforming quiet streets is a wonderful conversation we need to have in Sydney,” the Committee for Sydney’s director of policy Eamon Waterford added.

“Turning streets back to space for gardens and children playing would increase the liveability of our city.”

While the NSW Government doesn’t necessarily intend to go ahead with the plan, it does line up very well with the government’s goal of putting more Sydneysiders within 10 minutes’ walk of green spaces.

In this case, more than 500,000 people would be less than 300 metres away from the newly converted green spaces.

However, Sydney’s notoriously shithouse public transport network would also need a bit of an upgrade if half of the Inner West were to suddenly become car-free.

So don’t go expecting Melbourne-style laneways in the harbour city anytime soon. But that said, Sydney’s future is set to be more walkable, and this plan might just be a preview of what’s to come.