There is planning underway for three new cycleways.

There is planning underway for three new cycleways.

The NSW government faces a race against time to build the next stages of the city's network of bike paths before construction starts on the central Sydney light rail line.

The latest bike count figures show the rate of growth in cycling through the city is slowing, even as the raw number of cyclists continues to increase, with government officials attributing the slowing growth to a failure to add to the city's hodgepodge of paths.

Under an agreement with the City of Sydney Council, the Baird government has said it will try to build three new paths through central Sydney before the middle of next year, when George Street is planned to close to traffic for construction works.

Closing George Street will have a major impact on traffic through the city, which is dire at the best of times, and the government wants to avoid running multiple disruptive construction projects at the same time.

The government has therefore said it wants to build planned lanes on Liverpool Street, Castlereagh Street and Park Street before work begins on the light rail line, some time after the Anzac Day march next year.

Building the lanes, however, would require a significant improvement in the rate of planning, approval and construction of bike lanes. Planning for the existing path on Kent Street, for instance, started in 2006 but the path was not built until four years later.

Under the agreement between the council and Roads and Maritime Services, the council will pay for the paths but the government will manage the design, consultation and construction.

A spokesman for Transport for NSW confirmed that the aim was to complete the majority of the work before the start of light rail construction, though ''if required, a change in construction timelines will be negotiated with City of Sydney''.

Separately, City of Sydney Council has also released its latest figures showing how many cyclists move through the city.

The figures show there were 60,000 cyclists counted in March this year, compared with 26,000 in March 2010. The growth, however, has slowed in the past two years. There were 55,000 cyclists counted in March last year.

Internal government documents attribute the slowing in the rate of growth ''at least in part to potential users still being faced with major missing links in the network''.

This interpretation was backed by David Borella, the president of advocacy group BikeSydney, who sheeted the blame on delays home to the state government.

''The deceleration of growth is directly attributable to the fact we haven't developed the network meaningfully in 2½ years,'' Mr Borella said.

The path down Liverpool Street would potentially provide the first separated east-west crossing of the city for bike riders, though cyclists are concerned the path will be built one block short of a proper crossing at its eastern end. The bike path down Castlereagh Street is intended to serve as an alternative to the College Street path, which the government wants to remove.