Thursday, 25 February 2010

Poor cycling infrastructure part 1

In my experience, most articles about cycling promote certain common comments. The comments written by motorists who never cycle are usually quite obvious. They generally complain about the lawlessness of cyclists, flouting rules and so on. There is often a reason though for what appears to be a deliberate disobeying of a particular law.

This photo shows part of my route to work in the morning. I see a number of cyclists using the route in the morning. It seems to be popular with people riding to the city from the inner northern suburbs.

I come down Hawkers Road, Medindie, which is in the top left of the picture. It is not entirely ideal for cyclists because it is right next to a school. Opening car doors are a common hazard. The great thing though is that the traffic is slow moving so you can comfortably sit in the middle of the lane away from the doors.

The alternative is to ride down Northcote Terrace which is the main road to the east of Hawkers Road. To do so though would be suicidal. The traffic is heavy and fast moving and the lanes are narrow. There is no space for bikes. Some people do ride along it though. They all have two things in common: (1) male (2) lycra tights.

As I have said, this is used by a number of cyclists. When you get to the bottom of Hawkers Road, turn left to go towards the intersection. At that point, you are on a safe cul de sac running parallel to Fitroy Terrace. However, this is what you are greeted with:

The road is blocked and the only way through is to the left on to the footpath. The alternative is to turn right from Hawkers Road and go in the wrong direction until you reach the opening on to Fitzroy Terrace. Again, you would have to be suicidal to want to ride on that road because of the amount of fast moving traffic. This is the extent of the infrastructure on it - painted lines:

To join their route into the city, cyclists now have to use two pedestrian crossings, which involves, in true Adelaide style, having to press a button to apply to cross the road. If you don't make the application by pressing the button, the green man won't tell you when it is safe to cross.

This is the first:

You then go across this little island to get to the second push button crossing that you can see in the background:

Once you are safely across that crossing, you turn left onto this little dirt track:

Until you reach Kingston Terrace:

Kingston Terrace is blocked to through motorised traffic so it is a very pleasant and safe cycle route:

But you soon find that your way is blocked once more. This is what happens when you reach Melbourne Street: which happens after about 150m:

Again, the way is blocked and you are forced to use another pedestrian crossing involving yet again having to apply to cross the road. You can see in this picture that it is actually two crossings requiring two separate button pushing applications:

You then manoeuvre through this little passage and around the post to get onto Mann Terrace:

That is only half of it. I plan to post more pictures of the next section.

To be honest, it is actually good route. The thing is though, it is not planned even though many cyclists use it. They use it automatically because, despite the obstacles, it is the safest route.

Traffic engineers have simply painted white lines on Mann Road, which is four lanes wide on each side. If a cyclists wishes to turn right, a little box has been installed where they have to wait and look over their shoulder until they consider it safe to cross four lanes of traffic. Here's a picture of one:

Again, the only people who use it are male and in tights. You will seldom see a woman on it. You will never see anyone on a normal bike in normal clothes using it and not in a million years will you see a child using it. It is the sort of "infrastructure" you see all over Adelaide and it is the sort of infrastructure that the designer more than likely will never use. If they did, it would not look like this.

These sorts of pointless obstacles on what would otherwise be a safe and pleasant route on the way to the city and leading to at least two local schools are what make cycling so difficult and why so few people are attracted to it in this town.

For an example of how it should be done, go to Google Maps and pick any town or city in the Netherlands. I picked an intersection at random in Groningen so it is probably not even the best example. I went to that town because I have heard of it.

View Larger Map

Note the separated bike track with its own traffic lights. Note how many cyclists are using it and how normal they look. No tights. No helmets. No expensive racing bikes. No leaning over the handle bars like you are pushing a walking frame.

Follow the road across the intersection and see how the bike track does not stop. It is a safe distance from the traffic and it is not until some time after the intersection that it comes back closer to the road.

The Groningen intersection actually looks quite busy and is similar in size to, for example, the intersection between South Road and Grand Junction Road. Look at the difference though:

View Larger Map

There is just as much space here as in the Groningen intersection but no sign of any bike infrastructure at all. No thought has been given to it. There is no reason for that. It is not difficult. There are good examples all over the place. All it takes is a little will. Ignore people who moan. The demand for this is there, even from motorists who are equally concerned about the stupidity of forcing people on bicycles to share a road with fast moving motorised traffic.

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