Thursday, 9 December 2010

New suburbs

Part of the State's strategic plan is to increase the population of Adelaide. I read somewhere that once the population of a State or province reaches 2 million, it starts to be more self-sustaining economically rather than being reliant on transfers from the central government. Whether that is true or not I don't know but economic activity seems to be one of the reasons for trying to increase the population.

All of those people have to be housed somewhere. It will be achieved, as I understand the Strategic Plan, with a combination of higher density living and new suburbs. One of the planned new suburbs is Buckland Park, which is far from public transport and other infrastructure. Another planned suburb called Waterview at least includes a railway station.

Most new suburbs in Adelaide have a particular look about them. They generally are made up of lots of quiet roads, including many cul-de-sacs, new show homes and in the middle a Woolworths or shopping centre with a big car park around it.

We have been doing them like that, with small variations, for years.

Once the suburb is finished, you will see some bus stops pop up along one of the main roads passing through. Call me cynical but it looks as if the bus service is the last thing that is considered. Cycling is not encouraged at all for local trips. A non-direct route out of a cul-de-sac is a tried and tested disincentive.

Mawson Lakes is perhaps a little better because it seems to have some bike trails but as usual, they are not designed as part of a transport system but are there to keep fit. They are pleasant paths which go nowhere. Mawson Lakes also has a shiny new railway station but if you go there you'll see it on the opposite side of the suburb from the shops, university and activity. That stuff has been put nice and close to Main North Road to encourage more driving.

As the population expands, we will no doubt see more similar car-based suburbs. You will not see anything as radical as non-direct routes for cars, separated cycling and walking infrastructure or a suburb built around a railway station.

If you want to see that, you have to go to the usual place. This video was made in 2006. It shows a Dutch town called Houten that was expanded in the 1970s to cater for the then growing population. It was made deliberately to be bike friendly and the results today are plain to see. It is not any less pleasant or harder to get around. In fact, the opposite is the case.

If the new Waterworld suburb off Port Wakefield Road followed these design principles, it would be revolutionary for us but would be the start of a slow and very welcome transformation (turn your volume down a bit at the beginning. I don't know why but they've use heavy metal music).


  1. I'm sorry about the music, it wasn't my choice either. To be correct, the video was shot in 2002, I am the man on the bicycle at the driving test.

    For a more updated view of Houten have a look at (better music!).

    Herbert Tiemens

  2. Thank you so much for the link. I should go back and check for comments more often. I only just checked.

    Amazing video.