Cycle path ‘straw men’

In Section 4.5.4 of the November 2016 EIS for the Rankin Park to Jesmond bypass, the planners ‘investigated’ and ‘costed’ two alternatives for maintaining the cycleway between Jesmond Park and Jesmond. I just get the feeling that both these options were put forward simply as ‘straw men’ in order to be dismissed, and avert objections that had been submitted.

The first option is for a towering and twisting overhead bridge, like something out of a Dr Seuss book1, that would cost $30 million!!!! That’s surely a joke solution, like the obviously wrong answer examiners often put in a multiple choice question.

overAnd the second option proposed is for a subway that would cost $3 million, but is dismissed because (among other things) it would be subject to flooding.

underBut seriously, if you’re going to propose a subway route (purple dotted line) that is along the lowest point in the landscape and right next to a stormwater drain – of course its going to flood!

Why not route the subway 100m further south (red dotted line in the diagram below) where the land is 8 to 10 metres higher and not subject to flooding?  I get the impression they’re not really trying hard enough to find a solution, and that they don’t really want to try.


  1. Refer to the Bunglebung Bridge, in “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are”, by Dr Seuss, 1973.

Cycle snub on Jesmond bypass

Despite numerous people (myself included) submitting concerns about this to the planning authorities earlier this year, the ‘revised’ plan for the Rankin Park to Jesmond bypass still shows that the shared pedestrian/cycle path from Jesmond Park to Jesmond is going to be obliterated and replaced with not one, not two, but three separate traffic light crossings across eight lanes of traffic. (See section 4.5.4 of the EIS.)


The government is about to spend 280 million dollars to facilitate the easy movement of environmentally unfriendly cars and trucks, but is giving a middle finger to cyclists and pedestrians in the process.

If this madness of the triple crossings is persisted with, can I suggest a more equitable situation would be for every other day to have the crossings default to green for the pedestrians/cyclists, and any car driver wishing to proceed must stop at the lights; hop out of their car; press a button; wait in the rain, hail or shine for 2 minutes; repeat this 3 times; and only then be allowed to proceed.

Equinox digitabulorum

People mark the changing of the seasons in different ways. Some say that March 1st is when summer passes to autumn, a botanist may mark it by the chlorophyll exodus in deciduous foliage, an astronomer may mark it by the autumnal equinox when the sun crosses the plane of the equator.

But me, I mark it with the “Equinox digitabulorum” – the equinox of the gloves, the day that I have to start wearing gloves while cycling to work. Today was that day.


Neologisms required

As rich as the English language is, sometimes there are moments where there is no English word available to adequately describe that experience. I had two such moments on my cycle to work this morning.

Firstly, that moment, when you’re out on a foggy morning, when the mist disperses sufficiently for you to feel the warmth of the sun on your face for the first time. A subtle, but truly delicious moment that deserves its own word in the English lexicon.


Secondly, only moments before I took the photograph above, an elderly gentleman walking along saw some litter on the path (an empty beer can), and in a ‘civic minded’ gesture dealt with it by picking it up and … throwing it in the Styx Creek drain, the satisfied look on his face betraying his obvious belief that in throwing the can there he had somehow magically made it disappear! Surely the English language has space for one more word to describe this particular kind of insanity?

Any suggestions?

Cycleway balance

As a counterbalance to my ‘grumpy old man’ post yesterday about cycleway construction, today I give kudos to the council for repairs to the cycle path along Turton Road near Hunter Stadium. This cycleway has been there for a while, and is much needed and much appreciated. However over the years the growing tree roots had made this stretch of path quite bumpy.

Cycleway. Turton Rd.

Cycleway. Turton Rd.

For the last couple of weeks workers have been repairing the path, and while it’s not exactly ice rink smooth now, it’s a lot less ‘Monster Truck Madness’.

Update 2nd May 2016

Last week the council completed the repairs on this section of cycleway by laying down a new tarmac surface, making for silky smooth riding.


Cycleway ambivalence

Newcastle Council is currently constructing a new section of cycleway on Jackson St Hamilton North, which is on my regular route of cycling to work. I’m feeling pretty ambivalent about it. On the one hand I’m pleased to see any money spent on cycleway infrastructure. But on the other hand this project continues a tradition of building cycleways where they are least needed, and by implication not building them where they are needed.


Jackson St, Hamilton North.

Jackson St in Hamilton North is effectively a hybrid one-way street/cul-de-sac, as you can’t turn into it from Griffiths Rd. Apart from school start/end times it is a very quiet street with virtually no traffic, and therefore little added benefit in having a cycleway separate to the road. (If you click on the photo and zoom in, you can actually see a person standing in the middle of the street, with absolutely no danger of being hit by a car!)

Its a similar scenario on Griffiths Road alongside Richardson Park, where last year the council constructed a cycleway along a section of road that already had a wide and rarely occupied verge/cycle lane.

Griffiths Rd, Hamilton North.

Griffiths Rd, Hamilton North.

And the same scenario on Hobart Rd New Lambton, a year or two ago when a new cycle path was constructed along a section of road with a rarely occupied parking/cycle lane.

Hobart Rd, New Lambton.

Hobart Rd, New Lambton.

I’m guessing that the reason why the cycle paths are being built where they’re not really needed is that council has only a limited budget for cycling infrastructure – the places where cycleways are needed are in congested areas, where construction would be difficult and expensive, and the budget isn’t big enough. So instead the only option is to spend the money on smaller, easier projects, which will tend to be in locations where a separate cycle path isn’t really needed.

So where is it needed? My regular cycling route from Lambton to Wickham is fairly cycle friendly, so I don’t have much to complain of. The most obvious spot for improvement is Chatham Rd, Clyde St, and the Clyde St railway crossing in Hamilton North. I’d love to see a  dedicated cycle path along this stretch.

A cycleway here, please.

A cycleway here, please.

Actually, if I dream big dreams like Mark MacLean, I’d love to see a cycleway built on the following route, after the former gasworks site is remediated and turned into a nature reserve.

A cycleway here, pretty please?

A cycleway here, pretty please?

And finally, there is one other thing that makes me less than excited about the new cycleway in Jackson St – and that’s the pace of construction.

Jackson Street shared pathway construction.

Jackson Street shared pathway construction.

The council’s sign says that constructing 375 metres of cyclist pathway is “expected to take four months”! That works out to an average rate of progress of 3.1 metres per day! That’s a rate that I was going to describe as “glacial”, but when in the interests of scientific accuracy I looked up how fast glaciers can travel, I found that back in 2014 the Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland made a new world record when its pace was measured at more than 46 metres per day, which is 15 times faster than the Jackson Street cycleway. I am thus forced to invent a new adjective, and describe the pace of construction as “subinfraglacial”.

Jakobshavn Glacier. (WikiMedia)

Jakobshavn Glacier. (WikiMedia)