Comments on Sydney’s Cycling Strategy and Action Plan 2018-2030

Sydney has released its Cycling Strategy and Action Plan for public comment. Mine are below:


I am pleased to see Sydney hopes to be a more bicycle friendly place. However the plan as laid out is insufficiently ambitious. So much more can and should be done. Sydney should be one of the world leaders in bicycling, but it remains a laggard, stuck in the mid-20th century.  A 10% target in 2030 (3-4x as many bicyclists as today) is good (better than today’s baseline), but the network doesn’t support that, it is not 3-4x as large. 

To start, think about the network: Every major street (say a street that warrants a traffic signals) which also has on-street parking has demonstrated space for separated bike lanes.  What is more important, storing cars 23 hours a day or moving people? The value of the network increases non-linearly with its connectivity. Even most streets without on-street parking have space for bike lanes. 

Among these which I am familiar with should be included Regent St/Gibbons St/Wyndham St and Abercrombie/Wattle, but there are undoubtedly more. The separated bike lane network should be as dense and complete as the arterial street network.*

Similarly, every block that has on-street parking should dedicate at least one parking space to bicycle parking, particularly for shared bikes. Action 1.5 is especially lagging. Bike parking is cheap to install and signals priorities and should lead rather than follow. 

Bikesharing is neglected from this plan.

Regulation is still hostile to bicyclists, including heavy fines and futile helmet laws. Helmets are indicator of danger. Biking should be normalised as in Europe.

A strategy for promoting and regulating eBikes would be good. Also promoting and regulating scooters, skateboards, and other wheeled vehicles (micro-mobility).

A strategy for promoting bike and ride to train and metro stations would be good.

A strategy for promoting biking to school (and Uni) would be good. Schools are at least mentioned, but it seems mostly an afterthought.

Bikes should be counted continuously at intersections (not just 2 times a year), just as cars are. There are technologies to do this, and RMS can be called on to do it. Electronic signs displaying bike counts on key routes is also a good marketing tool.



*Note: The base map p. 17 locates the Metro stations in the wrong place. The map does not distinguish between shared paths and separated bike lanes, which is a way of claiming credit for something that doesn’t actually exist.

States announce automated vehicle programs | Government News

Georgia Clark at Government News in Australia reports on Regional Automated Vehicle trials that have been approved for Coffs Harbour and Armidale, NSW. I get quoted

Regional trial a ‘milestone’

The NSW trial has been welcomed by an industry expert who says it indicates that Australia is “making progress” on automated vehicle technology.

David Levinson, professor of transport engineering at the University of Sydney, told Government News that rolling out automated vehicle technology in environments like regional areas has a number of benefits.

“The advantage of places like Coffs Harbour is that it doesn’t have the complexity of Sydney. It’s something more feasible to run now than in a more complex environment. One of the keys is the technology being introduced over time. You can’t throw the technology into a place where it’s not ready,” he said.

Professor Levinson said the trial was a “necessary check point and milestone” for the rollout of automated vehicles both in urban areas and more extensively in regional areas.

Maintaining the roads that the automated vehicles will be travelling on is crucial to the trial’s success and the prospects of such technology in other areas, he argued.

“This is not a random set of regional roads that may be in very poor condition, it’s a very specific series of roads. If you can’t run on these roads you certainly can’t run on roads in worse conditions,” he said.

Professor Levinson said that Australia will see more regional automated vehicle trials before the technology is deployed in other areas.

The Street: Design for People

I will be appearing at The Street: Design for People August 9 at 12:30 at the Powerhouse. Tickets via Eventbrite (not free, sadly). This is organized by Foreground, who published my piece on The Future of the Footpath.

A panel of experts examine how the burgeoning urban pressures of the 21st century are affecting how we design and occupy our streets, at a public forum on 9 August at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.

Streets are essential for transporting both people and goods, but they are much more than just thoroughfares. They have their own intrinsic value, serving myriad civic functions, from social interactions to commercial exchange, and from cultural expression to political debate. They are also constantly changing.

For the past month, Foreground has been running a special series examining the street, from green streets that work as a hedge against the effects of climate change, to the effects of changing traffic and mobility patterns on street parking, safety and shared usage, and how encroaching privatisation is challenging its legacy as a civic commons.

As the culmination of this special series, Foreground is convening a public forum of experts with a professional interest in the street to examine how this critical piece of infrastructure might address the burgeoning urban pressures of the 21st century.


Professor David Levinson teaches at the School of Civil Engineering at the University of Sydney, where he leads the Network Design Lab and the Transport Engineering group He is the author of the influential blog The Transportist, and is also an advisor to Sidewalk Labs spinoff Coord, which recently launched a data integration platform for urban mobility.

Dr Nicole Kalms is a founding director of the XYX Lab at Monash University, which leads national research in space, gender and communication. Her recent book Hypersexual City (Routledge 2017) examines sexualized representation in neoliberal cities.

Libby Gallagher is a registered landscape architect with over 20 years of professional experience on a range of public, mixed use and private projects in Australia and overseas. Recent award-winning projects include the Quality of Landscape Study for the City of Sydney and the Cool Streets Pilot Project for Blacktown Council.

Andrew Mackenzie (moderator) is a co-founder and co-editor of Foreground. Andrew has been a writer, curator, editor and publisher on art, design and architecture for over 20 years. He writes for various journals and newspapers and is a co-director at Uro Publications, and independent Australian publisher of books on architecture and design.

An Agent-based Route Choice Model with Learning and Exchange of Information

Recently published


Planning models require consideration of travelers with distinct attributes (value of time (VOT), willingness to pay, travel budgets, etc.) and behavioral preferences (e.g., willingness to switch routes with potential savings) in a differentiated market (where routes have varying tolls and levels of service). This paper proposes to explicitly model the formation and spreading of spatial knowledge among travelers, following cognitive map theory. An agent-based route choice (ARC) model was developed to track choices of each individual decision-maker in a road network over time and map individual choices into macroscopic flow pattern. ARC has been applied to both the Sioux Falls and Chicago sketch networks. Comparisons between ARC and existing models (user equilibrium (UE) and stochastic user equilibrium (SUE)) on both networks show ARC is valid and computationally tractable. In brief, this paper specifically focuses on the route choice behavior, while the proposed model can be extended to other modules of transportation planning under an integrated framework.

Keywords: agent-based model; route choice; traffic assignment; travel demand modeling

Choice of High Occupancy/Toll Lanes under Alternative Pricing Strategies

Recently published:


Figure 2. Price-reliability model.

High occupancy/toll (HOT) lanes typically vary tolls charged to single occupant vehicles, with the toll increasing during congested periods. The toll is usually tied to time of day or to the density of vehicles in the HOT lane. The purpose of raising the toll with congestion is to discourage demand sufficiently to maintain travel speeds in the HOT lane. However, it has been demonstrated that the HOT toll may act as a signal of downstream congestion (in both general purpose (GP) and HOT lanes), causing an increase in demand for the HOT lane, at least at lower prices. This paper develops a model of lane choice to evaluate alternative HOT lane pricing strategies, including the use of GP density, to more accurately reflect the value of the HOT lane. In addition, the paper explores the potential effect these strategies would have on the HOT lane vehicle share through a partial equilibrium analysis. This analysis demonstrates the change in demand elasticity with price, showing the point at which drivers switch from a positive to negative elasticity.

On false positives and false negatives and peer review

I have written previously about peer review. I wrote:

This leads me to the hypothesis that the primary purpose of academic Peer Review is not to review papers and give feedback to authors. It is instead to induce authors to submit work of high quality because they believe someone will read it.

Journals want to ensure good (e.g. novel and important) papers are accepted and bad (e.g. wrong or trivial) papers are rejected. In addition to the evaluative goal, peer review may also have a developmental goal, making papers better, as any paper can be improved. It seems reasonable enough as a goal, it has costs that are unnecessarily high.

There are two sources of errors that can occur, analogous to Type I and type II errors in statistics (which is which depends on what you take as the null hypothesis, rejection or acceptance):

Error 1: Bad papers are accepted. … This is a false positive.

Error 2: Good papers are rejected. … This is a false negative.

There has been a great deal of ink spilled about the acceptance of bad papers, and the retraction of wrong papers.  Obviously we would prefer not to accept bad papers as a community, as it is embarrassing, may mislead researchers and the general public.

However, we spend so much time poring over papers (the amount of time academics spend reviewing other academics’ work would surprise an outsider) to ensure bad papers are rejected that we inevitably cast our net wide enough to reject good papers. And so we almost never accept good papers on the first round.

Any rejected paper can always be resubmitted and a second (third, fourth, fifth) journal can get an opportunity to review it. This costs time. But more than that it costs a significant amount of mental effort. When the paper was originally submitted, it was immediately after the research was completed. The ideas were fresh in the mind. Authors were somewhat enthusiastic about the topic. By submitting the paper, the authors have mentally closed this project and opened the next one. But then 3 or 6 or 9 or 12 months later (or in one sad case of mine 8 years!) the reviews come back. And the reviewers want some change; the reviewers always see some way the paper can be improved. And no doubt in a perfect world with infinite time in a day, we would agree not only that this is an improvement, but that it is worth doing.

But instead, we are apathetic or antagonistic or busy with other things, as what was closed has now been needlessly reopened for what is in reality a very minor improvement most of the time to make the reviewer feel that his or her fingerprints have affected the outcome of the paper.

Some of my coauthors are also faculty members, and should have motivation to revise and resubmit, which may be a few hours to a days worth of work in many cases, and is a far faster way to get a paper accepted than starting from scratch. But the mental burden and pains reopened are that great for work from 1 or 3 or 5 or 10 years ago. I have more understanding for coauthors who are in industry, where the rewards from peer reviewed publication are another line on the CV and maybe an attaboy (attagirl) and a beer from colleagues, but not existential in the way tenure is.

But instead of revising the paper, it sits.

I currently have about 10 papers in this state (almost enough to move someone from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor at many US universities), ignoring papers that have been fully abandoned, and excluding papers that I have some confidence or hope will actually be revised and resubmitted soon. My coauthors have not yet made the revisions necessary,  (nor did I, but they were the lead authors and it was really their work), and so it was not done in a timely way and thus the original reviews effectively expired; and we have not sent it elsewhere. There are always reasons, with which I have empathy, coauthors have young families, new jobs, or are otherwise busy. In the end it is a question of priorities, and the personal benefits to publication for non-academics is not especially great, the benefits accrue to science and society at large. The positive spillovers cannot be captured.

And this is after I encourage, cajole, nag, and flog students and former students to revise and resubmit. And I suspect I am more systematic about this than most people. The amount of knowledge buried on people’s hard drives because of the peer review ‘revise and resubmit’ system is a huge loss to humanity and scientific progress.

Antecedents to a Pedestrian Bill of Rights

Below are some sources that make points similar to what might be in a Pedestrian Bill of Rights. Feel free to share more, I will add to the post. These are not in a particular order.

A shared space street in Bern, allowing only bikes, pedestrians and transit.
A shared space street in Bern, allowing only bikes, pedestrians and transit.


The illustrated Charter of Pedestrian Rights  (PDF) in English by Mexican pedestrian advocates   says:

As pedestrians we have the right to:

  • Cross the street calmly and safely
  • A city that fits my needs
  • Adequate public transportation services
  • Organized urban centers
  • Socialize in public spaces
  • Play in the streets
  • Suitable street furniture
  • Spacious sidewalks
  • A healthy environment and enjoyment of the space
  • Walk calmly on the street.

National Street Service: Jaywalker’s bill of rights

  1.  The right to cross without intimidation from motorists, whether in the crosswalk or not
  2.  The right to medical care without cost for injuries inflicted by motorists
  3.  The right to fewer moving traffic lanes
  4.  The right to lower motorists’ speed
  5.  The right to pass by
  6.  The right to stop, sit, recline, and rest without harassment or intimidation
  7.  The right to avoid activities one finds dangerous or unsavory
  8.  The right to express needs and desires for the neighborhood
  9.  The right to determine one’s own safest, most suitable route

LA’s new Mobility Principles for transportation happiness:

  • Freedom to Get Around
  • Freedom from Disruptions
  • Freedom from Harm
  • Freedom to Connect
  • Freedom from Exclusion

Austroads – Level of Service Metrics (for Network Operations Planning)

Pedestrian LOS

  • Mobility
    • Footpath congestion
    • Grade of path
    • Crossing delay or detour
  • Safety
    • Exposure to vehicles at mid- blocks
    • Exposure to vehicles at crossings
    • Trip hazards
  • Access
    • Crossing opportunities
    • Level of disability access
  • Information Amenity
    • Traveller information available including signposting
  • Amenity
    • Footpath pavement conditions
    • Comfort and convenience features
    • Security
    • Aesthetics
  • The Right-Of-Way When Using Crosswalks: Motorists failing to yield the right-of-way at crosswalks is the No. 1 dangerous behavior contributing to fatal traffic crashes in San Francisco. Motorists “shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.” Motorists must always stop for pedestrians crossing at streets corners, with or without traffic signal lights and whether or not the crosswalk is marked by painted lines. Further, even if the marked crosswalk is the middle of the block, motorists must stop for pedestrians.
  • The Right To Unimpeded Use Of A Crosswalk: A crosswalk is the part of the roadway set aside for pedestrian traffic. Motorists and bicyclists must stop behind the line at traffic signals and stop signs.
  • The Right Not To Be Struck By A Speeding Vehicle: Motorists traveling at an unsafe speed is the second most dangerous behavior contributing to fatal traffic crashes in San Francisco. Speeding increases stopping distance and collision force. When a person is hit by a vehicle traveling at 20 miles per hour, there is a 90 percent chance of survival. The survival rate drops to 20 percent if a person is hit by a vehicle traveling at 40 miles per hour. Motorists approaching a pedestrian “within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.”
  • The Right Not To Be Struck In The Roadway: While pedestrians should not jaywalk and always use crosswalks to cross a roadway, even if the pedestrian is within a portion of the roadway other than a crosswalk motorists must slow down. Motorists are under the duty “exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian” no matter where the pedestrian is on the roadway. This rule also applies to bicyclists because, as a rule, bicyclists have the same duties and responsibilities as motorists.
  • The Right To Unimpeded Use Of Sidewalks: Adult bicyclists, and even teenage bicyclists, are prohibited from riding on sidewalks in most California cities. In San Francisco, it is illegal to bike on a sidewalk if the bicyclist is 13 years of age or older. Of course, bicyclists can dismount and walk their bike on sidewalk. At that point, they are pedestrians under the law.

Los Angeles Walks reports on Los Angeles City Council file Number 87-2261 —  Pedestrian Bill of Rights

which says “The People of Los Angeles have the right to:”

  • 1. Safe roads and safe places to cross the street
  • 2. Pedestrian-oriented building facades, trees, flower stands, trash cans, awnings, etc.
  • 3. Safe and comfortable bus stops and public transit stations
  • 4. Appealing use of landscaping and available open space
  • 5. Full notification of all street widening that impinge on public open space and sidewalks
  • 6. Access to streets and buildings for disabled people
  • 7. Clean surroundings, requiring removal of graffiti and advertisements from public property
  • 8. Have needs of pedestrians considered as heavily as the needs of drivers
  • 9. Public works of Art

Arrol Gellner offered a Pedestrian Bill of Rights:

  • 1. When traffic laws say pedestrians have the right of way, that shouldn’t just mean that if you’re hit by a car, it’s not your fault. People on foot shouldn’t have to fear, evade, negotiate or maneuver around cars, whether moving or parked, just because planners routinely put the convenience of people inside vehicles far above that of people using their own two feet.
  • 2. No pedestrian should ever find that the only way to reach that store or office on foot is to cross a huge desert of asphalt, with moving cars threatening on all sides. Any parking area with more than two rows of stalls should be required to have a pedestrian walkway running down the strip where cars usually face off nose-to-nose. If these walkways reduce the space available for parking cars, well, boo hoo. Cars already take up 20 times as much space as a person does. Enough is enough.
  • 3. No pedestrian should ever be expected to cross more than four lanes of traffic, whether or not there are crossing signals present. The vast six- and even eight-lane boulevards that are being imposed on more and more of our suburbs tear neighborhoods apart and form virtual Grand Canyons to people on foot.
  • Once and for all, planners should shake the wrongheaded belief that the way to fix traffic congestion is to make roads wider. This is like telling a 400-pound man with a heart condition that what he really needs is some bigger pants. The wider we make our roads, the more traffic will arrive to fill them up, and the more impassable our cities will become to people on foot.
  • 4. In dense urban areas, pedestrians should be free to shop, stroll or sightsee without constant threat of assault by cars, buses or taxis. Hence, planners should provide centralized public parking at the fringe of city cores, offer a shuttle service and make downtown blocks pedestrian-only zones. Sedentary car jockeys would benefit from having to walk a few steps to get where they’re going, and the rest of us would be blessed with a quieter, greener and less-polluted city.
  • 5. Lastly, American planners should recognize that, in relative terms, cars are a mere fleeting speck of technology, like the chariot, the man-of-war and the steam locomotive. We bipeds, on the other hand, are hopefully here for the long run. It’s just plain dumb to continue building an entire nation around a machine that’ll likely be obsolete in 50 years — especially considering that, no matter what takes its place, we’ll always want to get around on our own two feet.

Breines and Dean (1974) write about a  Pedestrian Bill of Rights in The Pedestrian Revolution: Streets without Cars:

  • The city shall not harm the pedestrian.
  • The streets belong to all the people, and shall not be usurped for the passage and storage of motor vehicles.
  • People shall have the right to cycle in safety; that means ample provision of bikeways separate from trucks, buses and automobiles.
  • To reduce dependence on the automobile, city and suburban residents shall have the right to convenient, clean and safe mass transportation.
  • People shall be freed from the heavy burdens of daily travel by having the opportunity to live near their places of work.
  • Urban residents shall have plentiful and generous open public places – outside of parks – for gatherings and ceremonies.
  • Pedestrians shall have the right to breathe clean air on streets, free of the harmful fumes of vehicles.
  • Standing room only on city streets shall end by providing benches for sitting and relaxation.
  • The sounds of human voices shall replace vehicular noise on city streets.
  • Concern for the welfare of pedestrians shall extend to the surface under foot — with paving congenial for walking — and shall include human-scale street furniture and signs.
  • Urban man shall have the right to experience trees, plants, and flowers along city streets.
  • Cities shall exist for the care and culture of human beings, pedestrians all!


Donald Appleyard (1981) included a “Statement of Street Dwellers Rights” in Livable Streets.

  • The Street as a Safe Sanctuary
  • The Street as a Livable, Healthy Environment
  • The Street as a Community
  • The Street as Neighborly Territory
  • The Street as a Place for Play and Learning
  • The Street as a Green and Pleasant Land
  • The Street as a Unique Historic Place
This is being updated as part of: Donald & Bruce Appleyard, Livable Streets 2.0, Elsevier. Forthcoming 2019.

What will the footpath of the future look like?

I have a new piece up at Foreground on the Future of the Footpath. An excerpt below:

Technological developments will bring changes large and small to urban transport infrastructure over the coming decades, but the most widely felt impacts will be on the humble, low tech footpath.


Starship’s robot delivery service makes use of the footpath, rather than the road. Image: Starship

This article is part of Foreground’s The Street special series

Walking is the most widespread mode of travel, and much of it occurs on footpaths, among the least technologically sophisticated elements of the transport world. Nevertheless, footpaths are far from immune to the technological disruption already besetting transport infrastructure in cities around the world. In the future, footpaths may remain physically similar, made of asphalt, concrete, or brick, but how they are used, and what we know about how they are used, will change – if change isn’t already afoot.

Start with the kerb, the edge of the footpath and the street itself. Kerb space is an extremely valuable asset. …


Welcome Emily Moylan to Transport Engineering at the University of Sydney

We are pleased to welcome Emily Moylan to join the Transport Engineering group at the School of Civil Engineering in the University of Sydney. As the Faculty reports:

The School’s expertise in transport engineering has been bolstered from the EmilyMoylanappointment of Dr Emily Moylan, who was previously at UNSW’s Research Centre for Integrated Transport Innovation.

Her research interests include data science approaches to the variability of system performance and the incorporation of travel time reliability into transportation policy decisions.

“One of the things that really appealed to me about the University of Sydney was the campus-wide, multidisciplinary interest in transport and the excellent research being created by both the School of Civil Engineering and the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies,” said Dr Moylan.

“I hope to provide future graduates from the transport engineering major with the skills required to make data-driven decisions and become leaders in an increasingly data-rich field.”

Dr Moylan will also serve as an Honorary Associate within the Business School’s Institute of Transport and Logistical Studies (ITLS).