SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE – cycling the home town icon

Sydney has a new plan for spending millions of dollars on new bike lanes and infrastructure, and it has met predictable opposition from motorists and radio shock jocks. The usual arguments fly round: “This is not the solution to Sydney’s traffic congestion” (No it’s not, but it’s part of the solution; every car off the road helps a bit), “It takes away parking spaces” (Very few, and every bike means one less car needing parking’), “Sydney is too big, hot and hilly – we’re not Amsterdam” (No, and Amsterdam is cold, wet and crowded, so bikes could never work there)…

I ride the bike every day when living in Amsterdam, for commuting and for fun. So I tried to imagine whether cycling in Sydney could ever take off as a tourist activity. There are a couple of companies offering guided small group cycling tours. I haven’t road-tested them, so I can’t recommend (or condemn) them, but could Sydney ever offset expenditure on its cycling infrastructure by attracting more cycling tourists?

I tested a route from inner west Petersham, into the city centre, then across the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, to see what Sydney had to offer. I was pleasantly surprised.

Here’s the route in pictures…

Leichhardt Council's been spending some money on green paint and splashing it around Annandale. That's a good start, though there are still too many places where the green just stops. But the roads are quiet and leafy, and there are nice houses and parks to visit.


The digger wished me luck on the Anzac Bridge, but it's a good car-free cycleway and I didn't need it. The view from the middle is exhilarating and only the ramps at the ends are tricky.


A simple green designated cycle lane across Darling Harbour would make this bridge much safer for pedestrians and less frustrating for cyclists. As it stands, cyclists have to weave between them. But it's good that we're allowed there at all, and there's plenty to keep tourists happy here - shopping, cafes, aquarium etc.

Rumour has it that this art work in Hickson's Bay Rd was designed by a cyclist.


After a few false turns in the historic Rocks area, I found my way to the Harbour Bridge cycleway - note the signs banning pedestrians!

People pay big bucks to the Bridge Climb company to get this view. It's free from a bike - and still brilliant!


Security guards keep the joggers off the path.


Shame about the steps at the Milson's Point end - a ramp would be good, though I'm told the serious MTB boys and girls like the challenge of riding the steps.

The view from the Milson's Point side makes you think Sydney's not a bad city at all.

This is not a route for getting up great speed, and there are often frustrating waits at intersections where the cycle path stops and you share a footpath with pedestrians. However it is generally very safe, and certainly spectacular. More tourists should try it!

At Milson’s Point I met a couple of Sydney riders who had taken a week’s holiday just to go bike riding in their own city. ‘The bikes have been gathering dust in the shed,’ they told me, ‘and this is a cheap holiday.’ And how has it been? I asked. ‘Best holiday we’ve had in ages!’ was their verdict.

It was about a 26.68km round trip, including a few false turns and a bit of backtracking as I searched for photo opportunites. To see my route in detail, click here.

6 Comments

Filed under Budget travel, Cycling, Travel-Australia

6 responses to “SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE – cycling the home town icon

  1. spiegel

    hmmm, could you give me a true local description of the route. i find getting out of petersham a pain in the arse. what route did you take to the anzac? i couldnt enlarge the map you provided.

    • Sorry, Spiegel – I was testing out the new GPS computer too.

      If you click on the magic word “here” at the end of the article, you will now get the enlargable route, together with elevations, calorie count and generally too much information!

      But I think there’s got to be a slightly shorter route – this was my first try, after all.

  2. Mike

    Richard, That’s a fascinating way to look at Sydney. Are you planning to publish in print? Bikes in the city need all the visibility they can get. Best.

    • Good idea, Mike, and there could even be money in it! I think maybe an article on a few good Sydney rides would be the way to go. I’d concentrate on the ones for rookies – the hard men (and women) already know their good bike routes.

  3. Ride2Wk

    Nice article. It almost makes me want to return to Sydney! I worked there in the 80s/90s when the only bike facility was the SHB bike lane and I’m sure that was only there to try to keep bikes off the car lanes. Although if I was running late to work I rode with the cars.

    I used to love the northern ramp! It took many looks down it and watching a few others before I finally got the courage and rode down it on the race bike. You have to get the front brake on & off at just the right times to avoid either going head over heels on the flat or building up too much speed on the slope. I lost control and built up too much speed once but was almost at the bottom and managed to ride it out. Luckily no-one was coming. On a MTB it should be easier with the better centre of gravity and more rubber contact. I never rode up it but a friend on an early MTB used to.

    • Thanks for the very good North Ramp story! Did they have a barrier at the top of the stairs/ramp to deter people from riding straight on in those days? They do now, and I’ll use that as an excuse never to try it myself!

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