Transport for New South Wales’ recent proposal to build a cycle ramp at the northern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge has been at the centre of debate for some time, with North Sydney Council strongly opposing the ramp, calling it an ‘assault on parkland in North Sydney’.

While the council is open to a lift that would bypass the 55 steps some 2000 cyclists climb up and down every day with their bicycles, the transport body is pushing for the ramps to be implemented. 

With community consultation now complete, the proposals are now under revision, with Transport for NSW reviewing the feedback received last month. The online Q&A session, held on NSW Roads’ YouTube channel, received over 100 questions regarding the ramp. The 2000 cyclists that utilise the harbour bridge for their daily commute will at some point in future require some form of structure to bypass the steps, it’s just a matter of what that structure is that is the present issue.

sydney harbour bridge cycleway render

Let’s look at some numbers. While there’s 2000 cyclists that use the bridge each day, approximately 150,000 vehicles cross the harbour bridge heading in both directions across eight lanes. Cyclists have to dismount and climb up and down 55 steps on their commute, which, for cyclists, is a problem they wish to alleviate. There’s little doubt that a ramp or lift would increase the number of cyclists that cross the bridge, which would mean less cars on the road, which in turn means less carbon emissions. It’s for this reason that something must be implemented, but what that is, is the million dollar question.

A statement put out by North Sydney Council outlines the council’s position. Following a meeting on June 7 that saw all of its councillors unanimously oppose the ramp, the statement effectively speaks for the council and its constituents, likening the state government’s projections of increased workers and residents in the area to a “campaign of war.”

“The two options on the table (linear and looped ramps) are wrong on many levels,” the statement reads. 

“Both options have a detrimental effect on the beauty and heritage of the Harbour Bridge, an asset that belongs to all of Sydney.

“Both options cut into our open space. It’s not just the footprint of the ramps that is at issue, it is how the park will feel when the ramp is installed. The sunny, open parkland of Bradfield Park North, for example, will have an entirely different feel with massive support pillars and a cycleway stretching above it.”

Transport for NSW, on the other hand, sees the ramp as non-negotiable. As Clover Moore’s City of Sydney Council looks towards reducing emissions to net zero by 2030, a cycle ramp would almost double the amount of cyclists on the bridge, and offset a fair portion of Sydney’s emissions.

The governing body has conceded that both options for a ramp, of linear and looped varieties, would take away from the spectacle that is the bridge, but says it will not compromise on the safety of cyclists. It remains to be seen whether the position of North Sydney Council and the wider community will alter the proposals in any form, but the department maintains the proposed designs are in early development, and has consulted a range of urban designers, architects and heritage experts.

sydney harbour bridge cycleway render

The plan for the linear ramp will run above the Milsons Point Station Plaza, intertwining between a group of palm trees at the Station Plaza, stopping short of Bradfield Park North’s tree canopy. The department also concedes that it will take away views of the bridge from the park.
“The gentle curve would set the ramp back from the entrance of Milsons Point Station, reducing the view impact from Alfred Street and avoiding the need to remove trees,” a proposal document reads.

“The linear option provides better rideability compared to the loop and is a smaller structure that has a stronger artistic form and design.

“However, the linear ramp would run over the much-loved Station Plaza, affecting views from Bradfield Park North to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and from Alfred Street to the heritage entrance of Milsons Point Station. In addition, this option would have some impact on Bradfield Park North.”

The looped option also possesses positives and negatives differing from the linear ramp.

“It would be located well away from the Station Plaza and Bradfield Park North and allows for a future pedestrian connection between Burton Street and Fitzroy Street.

“However, the loop is a larger structure compared to the linear option and would be clearly visible when viewing the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the eastern side of Bradfield Park. It would require the removal of the old bowling club building and a frangipani tree on Fitzroy Street and could affect active recreation on the southern bowling green.”

North Sydney Council believes both ramp proposals take away from the parklands and the views of the bridge as a whole, which will not account for the projected growth of cyclists on the bridge in the coming years. It maintains that it is open to a lift, but not a ramp.

The proposal remains in limbo following community consultation. To watch the Q&A regarding the proposals, click here. With a local council and state government at loggerheads, the outcome of the cycleway is one that will be watched with great interest. One thing's for certain though. There must be improved access for cyclists on the bridge. What that looks like, remains to be seen.