The Sydney Harbour Bridge cycleway runs between Millers Point and Milsons Point along the western side of the bridge. On average, around 2,000 cyclist trips are taken across the cycleway on weekdays, making it one of the most heavily used cycleways in Sydney. It is the only cross-harbour bike route and a critical part of Sydney’s bicycle network.
Access at the northern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge Cycleway is via 55 steps that connect with Bradfield Park at Milsons Point. The steps create a bottleneck, present a safety hazard and deter people from cycling. Plans to upgrade the cycleway access have been discussed for many years although no solution has been agreed. By letting this problem go unresolved we are missing the opportunity to enhance a critical link on one of Sydney’s most popular cycleways.
The NSW Government is committed to cycling as an important mode of city-serving infrastructure. Future Transport 2056 places objectives to increase cycling within 10 kilometres of major centres. In addition, during the COVID-19 pandemic, cycling has seen an increase in popularity as people take to their bikes to avoid public transport and keep fit while access to gyms and leisure facilities has been restricted. In this context, the NSW Government has taken a fresh look at the project to address the continued access and safety constraints and find ways to encourage more people to cycle.
We have carefully considered alternatives to a ramp including lifts and travelators, a cycleway on the deck of the Harbour Bridge, and swapping the cycleway to the eastern side.
As a result of this analysis, we have confirmed the current cycleway is an asset worth investing in and a ramp would be the best replacement for the northern steps. Our investigations have demonstrated that:
- Providing ramp access at the northern end would quadruple the capacity of the cycleway and help to meet increasing demand over the next 20 years or more.
- The cycleway needs to remain on the west side of the bridge to connect to the Kent Street cycleway and to cycle routes through to Darling Harbour and Pyrmont. The western side also provides direct access to the northern cycle route along Alfred Street in Milsons Point.
- Whilst lifts and travellators would provide cycleway for heavy bikes and older or less able cyclists, they would not remove bottlenecks or safety risks and could actually reduce the current capacity of the cycleway.
- If it ever became feasible to put cyclists on the deck of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the existing cycleway with upgraded access would still be needed as a north-bound bike lane paired with a south-bound cycleway on the bridge deck. That’s because bridge lanes would be too narrow to be a two-way bike path, once road safety barriers were put in place.
Around 30 ramp concepts have been considered since 2012. We reviewed them against user, place and heritage criteria and arrived at two which met our objectives: a linear ramp extending north over Burton Street above Milsons Point Station plaza, and a loop extending over the southern bowling green at Bradfield Park Central south of Burton Street.
These two concepts were exhibited in June 2021. Feedback showed the linear ramp has strong public support. Our survey received 2,578 responses of which, 82.9 per cent supported the concepts put forward, and 68.3 per cent preferred the linear option.
While the survey also showed that 60 per cent of respondents from the two immediate postcodes of 2060 and 2061 opposed the project, they also expressed higher levels of support for the linear option compared to the loop. Thirty two percent of immediate residents supported the linear option versus 20 per cent support for the loop.
The linear option is preferred because it, provides better rideability, removes conflict with pedestrians, Kirribilli market operations and recreation activities in Bradfield Park Central, and is a lighter, smaller structure. The linear option also requires considerably less ramp length and structure compared to the loop.
We understand this is a highly significant location and is valued by visitors and the local community. This is why we issued a public Registration of Interest (ROI) in August 2021 to find leading design firms with heritage and Aboriginal design expertise capable of developing a concept befitting this nationally and internationally significant location.
We received 18 responses to the ROI. These were assessed with advice from the office of the Government Architect NSW and Heritage NSW. We then shortlisted three teams and asked them to enter a four-week competitive design process. The three shortlisted design teams were:
- ASPECT Studios with Collins and Turner, Design 5, Yerrabingin, JMT Consulting and Eckersley O’Callaghan.
- REALMstudios with Dinjama, Aileen Sage, Lucas Stapleton Johnson, Dr Mike Harris, Pmiengineers and Nick Schleiper
- Civille with Dinjama, H+N+S, NEY and Partners and Sue Rosen Associates.
Before they got underway, the teams were briefed by representatives from North Sydney Council and Heritage NSW, as well as experts in Designing for Country, who outlined their expectations and aspirations for the design process.
The three designs that resulted from the competitive process were presented to a Design Jury in February 2022. The jury sat on two separate days, and visited site twice, to consider the designs.
The members of the Design Jury were:
- Abbie Galvin, Government Architect (Chair)
- Alex Tzannes, Director, Tzannes Associates
- Helen Lardner, Director HLCD
- Craig Kerslake, Director, Nguluway DesignInc
- Lucy Creagh, Principal, Lucy Creagh Urban Projects
- Garth Paterson, Director, Paterson Design Studio Pty Ltd
The Design Jury observers were:
- Rob Emerson, Director Open Space, North Sydney Council
- Sarah-Jane Brazil, Heritage NSW
- Bruce Pettman, Member, Heritage Council Approvals Committee
The design Jury shortlisted two of the three schemes: ASPECT Studios and Civille. Transport for NSW will now make the final decision with full consideration of inputs from the community and stakeholders.
The following statement has been prepared by the Design Jury:
“The Design Jury was very pleased to be invited by Transport for NSW to contribute to the pursuit of design excellence on this important project. Some excellent work was produced by the design teams involved and we commend them for their efforts.
After careful consideration the Jury has agreed to shortlist two schemes. In progressing the Project the Jury recommends a balancing of the ramp alignment, heritage significant views and relationship to the exceptional open space setting. This recommendation is made to Transport who will, the Jury understands, consider inputs from the community and from stakeholders in making a decision.
We the Jury thank Transport for a rigorous and fair process and look forward to seeing design excellence remaining a top priority going forward.”
Feedback on the three ramp designs was invited between Monday 6 December 2021 and Sunday 16 January 2022. The engagement had a reach of 35,000 people and resulted in 1,708 responses, of which 1,063 were via a survey designed as the main feedback channel.
When asked for a preference, over half (51%) supported the ASPECT design, 15.5% the Civille design, 12.4% the REALMstudios design, and 11.6% preferred no designs. Nine and a half percent of respondents did not state a preference.
The public were also asked to rate each design against heritage, open space, design quality, Designing for Country and rideability criteria. The ASPECT design achieved an average rating of 3.83 across all criteria. By comparison, the overall average rating was 3.01 for Civille and 2.89 for REALM. In addition, the Aspect design achieved an overall average rating of above 3 out of 5 from local and non-local people, and riders and non-riders.
ASPECT’s design was seen as the best of the three designs, providing a light and modest response to the significant setting and offering an optimal riding experience. Concerns were raised about how the design would impact Bradfield Park North due to its extended length, and about its integration with pedestrians on Alfred Street.
REALMstudios design was seen as a bold, interesting and contemporary design with excellent consideration of Design for Country. However, some people also thought it was heavy and imposing and would be too intrusive on Bradfield Park.
Cilville’s design was seen as graceful and simple and had support for its viewing platform and sensitive landscaping at the ramp base. However, it was also viewed as having an intrusive alignment and there were mixed views on its rideability.
The winning design will set the direction for the ongoing design development of the ramp including the ramp landing in Bradfield Park. Following the selection of the winning team further consultation and design evolution will occur. The community will have an opportunity to view updated designs during the public display of the Review of Environmental Factors.
About the preferred design
Transport’s Reference Design stopped short of Bradfield Park North which concentrated most impacts in the plaza area rather than the parkland area to the north. However, based on advice from the NSW Heritage Council Approvals Committee, we allowed the teams to explore alternative linear alignments to achieve a suitable outcome that balances heritage, place, active transport and open space considerations.
ASPECT Studios chose to develop a scheme that would run closer to the Harbour Bridge viaduct. This alignment received a favourable response from the community and was shortlisted by the Design Jury as one of two designs to move forward.
ASPECT’s preliminary assessment suggests that tree impacts caused by this alignment would be minimal, and this will be verified with further assessment by an arborist. It is correct that the chance of impacting trees will be increased by entering into Bradfield Park North but we will do everything possible to keep these impacts to an absolute minimum and in particular to avoid significant trees.
The ASPECT scheme has sought to lessen potential conflicts between bikes and pedestrians by moving the landing further north, away from the area of high pedestrian activity outside Milsons Point Station.
The design is still only at an early stage of development. The next stages of design will make sure the integration of bikes and pedestrians is well-considered.
By landing at a point further north, ASPECT’s ramp would be higher at the point it passes the station entrance. This gives it greater clearance over the station awning and reduces the overall view impact.
In arriving at a final decision, Transport undertook further analysis of the shortlisted designs by ASPECT Studios and Civille. This helped to determine that the ASPECT ramp would have the least impact on heritage views to Sydney Harbour Bridge and towards the Station entrance, and contributed to the selection of ASPECT as the winning team.
We have met community representatives and North Sydney Council officers on site to discuss this proposal. We have also provided an assessment of this option to North Sydney Councillors. We appreciate the time and effort put into the option but believe that the ramp would not be suitable for everyone from 8 years old to 80 years old.
Our engineering and Active Transport experts have assessed the design and determined that it would be necessary to lengthen this ramp significantly to make it suitable for all cyclists. This would result in a ramp that extends out across the bowling green or that requires a double loop, similar to what we presented to the community in June 2021. We believe these outcomes would have an unacceptable open space and visual impact.
Transport has involved stakeholders, community groups and the wider public throughout the project development and design process. Our process has been transparent and genuine.
Between July 2020 and May 2021, we held 24 meetings with Council, local community groups, cycling groups and stakeholders and have since twice taken options to the wider public to ask for feedback.
We have invited Council to collaborate with us to help shape the design of the ramp and deliver a positive outcome for the local and wider community.
The results of our June consultation period showed more than 80 per cent of survey respondents support a ramped access to the cycleway and 68 per cent support a linear design.
We appreciate some local community members do not want to see a bike ramp in Bradfield Park yet, a vast majority of the wider public do. After more than two decades, four sets of investigations, and over 30 options explored, our investigations have demonstrated a ramp presents a technically feasible solution that will deliver significant mode-shift over the next decade and which, through Design Excellence, can respond sensitively to the context of this nationally significant location.
Engagement with Aboriginal elders has shaped a cultural framework document for the project that includes design principles reflecting the stories of local knowledge holders.
The three design teams were briefed about the significance of the site for Aboriginal people at the start of the competitive design process. At the end of the competitive design process, the winning team’s designs will be reviewed by the knowledge holders to ensure their views are properly considered and continue to shape the design.
Alfred Street South bike path
The separated cycle path will provide a safe route for less confident cyclists between the bike ramp and the existing bike network on Middlemiss Street. We put early plans out for public feedback in June 2021 and updated plans in December 2021. Feedback shows support for the proposal and for the principle of separating bikes and pedestrians. However, people want to know more about how the designs of the crossings and Lavender Street roundabout would work.
Space would be created by undergrounding the power cables along Alfred Street and slightly reducing the width of the traffic lanes and parking. The road would still be wide enough for cars, buses, loading and parking. The footpaths along Alfred Street would be retained and the existing boundary of Bradfield Park will not be changed.
Most parking on both sides of Alfred Street would be retained, albeit with some relatively small parking losses to improve pedestrian and cycling safety and accessibility. Around 15 car park spaces would be lost to make room for the upgraded pedestrian and bike crossing. We would try to limit the number of spaces lost through the design development process. Current loading spaces would be retained.
We have developed an early and indicative cost envelope for the linear reference design. The contract cost would be released once a delivery contract has been completed.
Construction of the ramp is subject to environmental and heritage approval. More details about construction timings and impacts will be released as part of the Review of Environmental Factors in 2022.
Transport needs to lease a site from North Sydney Council to construct the ramp. This lease will be temporary for up to three years. The three-year period is the maximum anticipated lease term and would cover a range of delivery activities from site establishment to demobilisation and hand over. Actual construction activity should take between 12 and 18 months within this three-year window, subject to confirmation by a future delivery contractor.
Kirribilli markets are a wonderful asset to the local area and can only benefit from the increased number of visitors that the new bike ramp will attract.
We are committed to making sure the markets remain in operation throughout the construction period and are working with market operators to temporarily relocate some of the stalls to Ennis Road subject to Council approvals. Stalls in the Burton Street Tunnel would remain operational throughout construction.
We will need to take up some space in Bradfield Park Central to store equipment and materials. We are working hard to keep this to a minimum so that the bowling greens can continue to be used by local schools and residents. However, we won’t be able to confirm the actual amount of space required until we secure a delivery contractor.
Southern cycle access
The main access point at the southern end of the cycleway is via a shared path that connects the Kent Street Cycleway to a ramp, which turns sharply to cross the Cahill Expressway and joins Upper Fort Street. Cyclists, cars and pedestrians travelling to and from Fort Street Public School create a ‘pinch point’ in this location. However, there is an alternative route for cyclists via Kent and Argyle streets and Watson Road.
In 2016, Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) developed a design concept to replace the current southern access with a separated and more accessible ramp. A Review of Environmental Factors was displayed in 2017. However, the REF was not determined because the southern access project is unfunded.
Since July 2019, Transport has taken a fresh look at the project and has determined:
- The need to upgrade the southern access is not as urgent as the north. This is because a ramp, though far from ideal, is already in place, and cyclists have a less steep alternative along Kent Street, Argyle Street and Watson Road.
- The 2017 design attracted a range of feedback which will take some time to resolve.
- Staging investment in the cycleway provides an opportunity to monitor increased demand generated by the northern access upgrade and then assess the southern access design in this context. This would enable a longer term cycleway solution to be properly considered.
- Any short term impacts caused by the interaction of increased numbers of cyclists and students on Upper Fort Street, can be mitigated through relatively minor road modifications.
We are committed to getting the right long term solution for cycleway as a whole but are not proposing to upgrade the southern access project just yet. We will stage our investment by first upgrading the northern access delivering local road safety upgrades and we will keep looking at the investment needed as demand increases in response to the northern upgrade.
The following questions were raised at the project livestream event on Monday 15 December but, due to time constraints, were unanswered. This document provides responses to those questions.
View towards Milsons Point Station – before and after (Aspect Studios)
Aerial view: Before/After (Aspect Studios)
Meet the project team
Pop up event
- Date: Wednedsay, 12 January 2022
- Times: 4:30PM - 6:00PM
- Address: Foot of the Northern Steps, Milsons Point, NSW 2061
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Sydney Harbour Bridge Northern Cycleway ramp design survey
Provide feedback on the three ramp concept designs. Feedback closes at midnight on Sunday 16 January 2022. Responses will be analysed and presented to the Design Jury for consideration along with their own assessment of the three designs. We will only be including responses to the feedback form in our report to the Design Jury.
Sydney Harbour Bridge Cycleway
Northern Access Project
Locked Bag 928
North Sydney NSW 2059
If you would like help in completing the form, please contact us on 1800 581 595 or at sydneyharbour