The NSW government is allocating $15 million for projects to provide more space for public movement. Image by Paul Braven/AAP PHOTOS

Health

NSW pledges $15m for public distancing

2020-05-09 15:16:55

Some $15 million will be set aside by the NSW government to help councils provide more space for people to walk, cycle and exercise safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan, announced on Friday by NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes, also includes an extension of George Street’s car-free zone in Sydney’s CBD, a new pedestrian-only boulevard behind Liverpool’s Railway Street and a “people’s loop” in Parramatta Park.

Councils will have until June 10 to apply for grants of up to $100,000 for temporary projects such as widening footpaths and cycle lanes and up to $1 million for medium-term projects such as extra crossing points, wider kerbs and lower speed limit trials.

Mr Stokes said in a statement on Friday the COVID-19 pandemic had significantly increased the demand for easy and safe access to public spaces.

“Whether it’s new cycle lanes, pedestrian-only streets or wider footpaths, we’re committed to working with councils and communities to fund projects that can make life better for everyone – both now and once the pandemic is over,” Mr Stokes said in a statement.

When asked about congestion and safety on inner-west Sydney’s popular Bay Run, Mr Stokes told reporters on Friday the state government had suggested to Inner West Council it consider transforming the loop into a one-way track.

He encouraged the council to consider applying for signage under the grant program. 

“We do have to do things in the short-term to make sure footpaths and popular running tracks that we already have work efficiently and practically in the face of the pandemic,” he said.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said she was pleased by the George Street extension plan.

“With new street trees, planter boxes, outdoor dining, seating and pedestrianisation, people were already taking back and enjoying George Street before COVID-19 hit. When the crisis passes, it will once again be a place to linger and gather rather than just hurrying through,” Ms Moore said in a statement on Friday.