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.

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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)

Things I just don’t get

  1. idontgettrumpHow Donald Trump can be the leading candidate in the Republican nomination race for the U.S. presidency.
  2. Why some cyclists (and I saw another example of this just a few days ago) will ride around with a cycle helmet draped over their head, but not buckled on, thereby incurring all the disadvantages of owning, carrying and wearing a helmet, without gaining any of the benefits that a helmet might give in the case of an accident.

Then drain, again drain

Although I didn’t intend it when I set out, a bike ride with my son around town today ended up visiting various sites in Newcastle matching the old photos in my previous drain blog post. Here’s the “Then and Now” comparisons.

Broadmeadow drain

Drain construction workers at Broadmeadow, NSW, 6 April 1900

Drain construction workers at Broadmeadow, NSW, 6 April 1900

Broadmeadow drain, 5th February 2016.

Broadmeadow drain, 6th February 2016.

The stormwater drain at Hamilton North, March 2017.

Update, March 2017: With subsequent research I have found that the location of the 1900 Snowball photo was Hamilton North, not Broadmeadow.

 

The Premier Hotel

Premier Hotel, Broadmeadow, 1892. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

Premier Hotel, Broadmeadow, 1892. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

Premier Hotel, 6th February 2016.

Premier Hotel, 6th February 2016.

View of the lowlands from Glebe Road

The Newcastle lowlands. 1897. Photo taken from intersection of Beaumont St and Glebe Rd looking north towards Hamilton. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

The Newcastle lowlands. 1897. Photo taken from intersection of Beaumont St and Glebe Rd looking north towards Hamilton. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

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Looking north from Glebe Rd towards Hamilton. 6th February 2016.

This modern view bears almost no resemblance to the 1897 photo, with the previously deserted lowlands now covered with trees, suburbia and industry. The only visible match (apart from Beaumont St sloping down the hill) is a spire of St Peter’s Anglican church in Denison St Hamilton.

St Peters Anglican Church Hamilton

St Peters Anglican Church Hamilton

St Peter's Anglican Church Hamilton.

St Peter’s Anglican Church Hamilton.

It seems that at some time the church has lost one of its spires.

New cycling laws are noise and smoke

cycle10kThe NSW government is introducing in March this year some new laws relating to bicycle riding, including increasing fines and the requirement for adult riders to carry photo ID when cycling. These changes are eliciting varied responses, both positive and negative.

From my point of view as a regular cyclist, commuting to work on weekdays and recreational cycling on the weekends, the practical impact of these changes is somewhere between zero and unimaginably small.

Most times when I cycle I already carry a photo ID in my wallet. The only times I might not have a wallet on me is on a short weekend ride with my son in quiet suburban streets. As for the increase in fines, if you abide by the rules then the size of the fines are irrelevant. But more than that, in my 36 years of driving a car, and 7 years of cycle commuting to work I have never, ever seen a cyclist pulled over to be fined. In fact I have never even heard of a cyclist being fined. No doubt it happens, but the infrequency of it makes all this talk about increased fines a meaningless irrelevance.

But aside from the almost negligible practical implications of these new laws, whenever a change in public policy is proposed, I believe these four questions need to be addressed:

  1. What is the problem that these changes are seeking to solve?
  2. How is it expected that the changes will be the solution to the problem?
  3. Is there any evidence or research that shows that the changes will solve the problem?
  4. What monitoring or assessment mechanisms will be put in place to measure the efficacy of the changes?

It seems to me that these four questions aren’t even being asked let alone answered in the current debate. All in all there’s a lot of noise and smoke, but no motion forward.

Creature from the drain

Cycling home from work this afternoon I found this tortoise, on Bates Street Hamilton North, rapidly dehydrating in the heat of today, and in a prime position for being run over by a car. I placed her1 beside the road under a tree and verified that I was looking at a live’n and not a dead’n, and then pondered for a while.

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I’m guessing that with the recent heavy rains she’s been washed down the drain and eventually managed to crawl out in Hamilton North. I wondered what to do for a while – putting her back in the bare concrete drain nearby didn’t seem suitable, so I carried her upstream in my lunchbox, and released her in Kerai Creek in Lambton Park, which is looking pretty nice after the recent restoration work by Hunter Water.

I went back later in the evening with my daughter to see how she was going, and found her lying submerged in the middle of the flow, and my immediate thought was “oh no, she’s slipped in and drowned”, but on picking her up she poked her head out slightly and gave me a healthy but  exasperated “not you again” look.

My daughter has named her “Flo”.

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1. Actual gender unknown. Assumed gender for narrative purposes.

Herculean Rubbish

On my cycle ride to work I pass old warehouses that have been converted to apartments. Each week somebody has to put the rubbish bins out on the street to be emptied, and rather than a haphazard and careless placement, the person here consistently does it with an order, precision, method and symmetry that would bring a tear to the eye of Hercule Poirot.

A classic example of this again this morning, even when there’s a car parked in the usual bin spot, there are arranged in a neat evenly spaced row exactly 10 bins on each side.

Herculean Rubbish

Herculean Rubbish

Whoever you are, your work is not unnoticed.

10,000 km of turning wheels

Six and a half years ago I started cycling to work. From the very beginning, to keep myself motivated, I set a target of a certain percentage of work days that I wanted to cycle to work. In the first year I set a fairly modest target of 20%, which I blitzed, and in subsequent years I raised the target, which is now at 80%.

Today I reached a significant milestone (or perhaps kilometrestone) in that I have now clocked up 10,000km riding to and from work.

cycle10k cyclegraph