Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Book Review

About a year ago, I received a friendly comment on my blog asking if I would care to write a review of WheretoRide Adelaide by Gerri Nelligan:

It is published by the same people who publish Bicycling Australia and Mountain Biking Australia.

The book is divided 5 areas (Adelaide metro, Adelaide Hills, Barossa & Clare Valley, the Fleurieu Peninsula and then the TDU routes) and contains detailed bike routes in each, including maps, a 'ride log' with directions and even an altitude indicator. Some routes are completely off-road, some on-road and many contain a mixture so there is something for everyone.

Each of the routes is described in great detail. The ride logs provide easy to follow directions and each chapter also provides a short description of the ride and the sorts of things you will see en route. You would be hard pressed to get lost.

As with many recreational rides, many people will need a car and bike rack to get to the beginning of them. The rides close to the city are exceptions but even then, if you are not in a neighbouring suburb, it is unlikely you will make the trek across town with a young family in tow. That is nothing unusual. Most families with bikes generally have some sort of rack to carry them. An exception is the two routes along Little Para River that start at Salisbury Railway Station. They can be reached by taking your bike on the train.

The book was last published in 2008. There have been a couple of small changes to some routes, such as the addition of the Mike Turtur Bikeway alongside the Glenelg tramway but the book is clearly still well up to date.

For family ride ideas or for those who fancy a leisurely weekend ride, I would recommend this book. Plainly a lot of work has gone into it. There are copies available on the counter at JT Cycles on Pulteney Street, Bicycle Express on Halifax Street and others. Certainly worth the $30 asking price.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Christmas wishes

In amongst all of the iPads, X-Boxes, Playstations, skateboards, dolls, lego, socks and jocks on Christmas day, there may be also some bicycles that Santa has dropped off for children (maybe Santa will bring me one to place the one that some n-er-do-well stole the other day). They will of course be very excited and may perhaps spend some time wobbling around the backyard on their training wheels.

Sooner or later, they will have been around the garden more times than they would care to remember and will want to go on a longer distance. They'll get to do that once or twice with mum or dad (or both) walking along behind them as they wait at every crossing. In some cases, mum or dad might crawl along next to them in the car because they don't really feel like walking.

In other families, the bikes may be packed into the back of the four-wheel-drive and taken to a special bike park where their owners can ride them in circles for an afternoon.

Before long though, in most cases, it will eventually get boring and the bikes will slowly gather dust and rust in the shed. And so while bike sales will outnumber those of cars for another year, not all of them will be used with any regularity.

Here's hoping though that in addition to the bicycle, long board, penny skateboard or scooter, those same children start seeing money spent on ways that allow them to travel safely, either with schoolmates or their families, further than their immediate neighbourhood.

Some green shoots are starting to show. Adelaide City Council seems to be getting the message. They have a bicycle plan and new plans for Frome Street seem to be going in the right direction. They include a lane of traffic being removed and plans for lanes than are an appropriate width. And who would have thought just a few years ago, Australia could support a magazine like Treadlie; one that is already attracting intelligent critiques. Indeed, it's supporting three business with that name but different spellings; the magazine, a bike shop in Adelaide (Treadly) and an online bike shop in Melbourne (Tredly).

A city with different yet equally viable modes of transport available is one that works better for everyone. The day I see my mother-in-law choose to meet her friends for tap dancing on an electric bike with her taps shoes and drink bottle in a bag on the back instead of driving the relatively short distance in her car, I will know we've pretty much made it.

Until then, I will enjoy continuing to vomit my thoughts onto the Blogger platform. A very merry Christmas to all two of my Google followers and everyone else who has ever stumbled across here by accident. Amazingly, I now need more than two hands to count my daily hits.

And of course, a safe, happy and successful 2013.

Certainly not my mother-in-law but hey, you never know one day
Picture from the Canberra Times

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Red Alert - Bike Theft!

I apologise for abusing my blog by posting personal messages but my bike was stolen.

Damn it!

If by some miracle you see it, would you mind calling the police on 131 444.

The bike is easily identifiable. It is a red Avanti Blade hybrid but it is distinctly recognisable by the black Copenhagen Parts Bike Porter attached to the front:

Fingers crossed.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Trams to nowhere

When the Glenelg tramway was extended from its out-of-the-way windswept terminus on Victoria Square to a new terminus at West Terrace ready to serve the new hospital being built, I distinctly remember a fair amount of cynicism and complaints. I even recall a small but vocal group of protesters standing on the steps of Parliament House waving placards and complaining that the wires above the track would ruin the look of city streets. Right next to them, North Terrace was choked with cars and buses and the noise they were producing. The irony seemed to be lost on them.

Since being built, the tram extension has convincingly proved that it was a good idea. During daylight hours, every tram you see is full. The ones from Glenelg are fuller but even the shuttle trams that only run between South and West Terrace are pretty full. It cannot be said that there is no demand for it. Indeed, demand often outstrips capacity.

The unexpected success led to a further extension soon after. The suggestions at the time were for a loop around the CBD or what was ultimately built, an extension along Port Road to the Entertainment Centre. The idea was that in time, the intermediate suburbs would be regenerated with higher density living.


I will always prefer a tram extension, railway extension, station reopening, busway; in fact anything public transport related over yet another road. But this time, I can't help feeling that we could have spent that $100m a little better elsewhere. These are the reasons:

1. The purpose, as I understand it, of the tram extension was to serve the Entertainment Centre. That really only needs to be served when there is a show on. At its fullest, it can hold 12,000 people. By contrast, the yellow trams have capacity for 70 seated passengers and another perhaps 100 standing. The red ones have a capacity of 180. Given that they run about every 15 minutes, that is not a lot of capacity and it would take some time to clear the Entertainment Centre. Unsurprisingly, it is not the most used form of transport after a Taylor Swift concert;

2. This is the weird bit. As the tram travels along Port Road, just a couple of hundred metres to the east is a perfectly decent railway line. It starts at Adelaide Railway Station (where the tram also goes) and stops (on its way to Outer Harbor) at Bowden station - just across the road from the Entertainment Centre tram stop. Here's a view of the entrance to the Entertainment Centre from Bowden station:

Here's my question: if the idea is to serve the Entertainment Centre and offer an alternative was of getting to and from concerts, why not upgrade and build a walkway to Bowden station? From there, you have the entire train network at your disposal. With a little tweaking, you could have direct trains running north and south. You can also get as much capacity as you want by linking railcars together.

3. When the extension was completed, a park and ride system was introduced whereby motorists could park their car at the Entertainment Centre for $2 and take the tram into the city. It is so popular that further parking is being built. Park and Ride systems are used around the world. What is often found is that rather than using the facility closest to their home, motorists actually more often use the facility closest to their destination. That is more than likely the case with this one. So all of those motorists coming from Port Adelaide, Woodville and Croydon now have this facility at their disposal. All of those places are served by the pre-existing railway line. It does make you wonder what the long-term plans for the railway are.

4. I don't know if you have taken the tram but to get from the Entertainment Centre to Victoria Square takes a long time. I timed it once. It took close to 30 minutes! According to the timetables, it can take between 17 and 23 minutes (still too long I think) but in reality it often takes longer.

I cannot help thinking that the money would have been better spent inside the CBD where the people are and where the demand is. Still, we are stuck with it. It would be a silly idea to rip it up now that it is there. Two things could make it more useful. The first is to extend it to serve the western suburbs. Rather than having it be blocked by traffic, it could follow Linear Park the way the o-bahn does and serve say the Brickworks Market, Underdale High School, Kidman Park, Ikea (potentially), the airport and a number of places in between. The older idea of having 'tram-trains' share the Port Adelaide railway line is pretty pointless.

And speed it up so passengers get into the city at least as quickly as driving. Allow the trams to go faster, synchronise traffic lights with sensors and get rid of that stupid single track section outside the Convention Centre.

PS: Here's the latest about trains: The plan is for a tunnel under the parklands. Why? Tunnels aren't cheap. Why not under the CBD? I can't help thinking this will be one of those plans that ultimately does not come to fruition.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Britannia Roundabout

At frequent and fairly irritating intervals, the subject of Britannia Roundabout comes up in the local news. It is always the same story. It's a terrible place to drive, nobody knows how to use it and, most recently, it was the source of the most crashes in 2011 - over and above all other city intersections.

Various solutions have been suggested over time. They include a $100m underpass, putting in traffic lights or turning the whole thing into a signalised intersection.

I do not doubt, as some commentators suggest, that some of the crashes are caused by drivers not really knowing how to use a roundabout but I think that the biggest problem with Brittania Roundabout is that it is not really a roundabout.

Here's a view of it from above:

Most roundabouts are round - hence the name. This thing looks like an Aids ribbon rotated to the right:

Where the two ends of the ribbon cross is probably the worst bit of the roundabout.

In the top left of the picture, a white truck is approaching the roundabout where it has to give way. The driver has to watch for traffic coming from her right (left of the picture just above the bright green car partially hidden by the trees). But the driver also has to worry about traffic travelling diagonally from the bottom of the picture to the top left. That traffic either travels straight to the top left of the picture or it may turn right and follow the roundabout in front of the truck.

So the driver is worrying about traffic from two directions about 160 degrees apart. And with the traffic coming towards her it is generally not until the very last second that it indicates right and follows the curve of the roundabout.

Those drivers coming from the left (just above the bright green car) also have to worry about traffic travelling to the top left of the picture - and there is generally a lot of it. Some travels straight on, some goes around the roundabout.

The picture in the news story illustrates the conflict that the ribbon design creates:

Source: The Advertiser

So what do we do? I think the most obvious solution might be to turn Britannia Roundabout into a roundabout.

One option that can increase the capacity of the roundabout is to install a 'turbo roundabout'. It can be done either with or without traffic lights. The idea behind it is that drivers are forced before reaching the roundabout to choose the exit they require. They do that by selecting the correct lane for that exit before entering the roundabout. It prevents lane changes and conflicts on the roundabout itself.

Above all though, it needs to be turned into a proper roundabout to get rid of that terrible source of conflict on one side.

The underpass idea is not a bad one but it needs one tiny change. This is a view from Google Earth of a roundabout in Harderwijk in the Netherlands:

David Hembrow has discussed it and others in detail. Note the red paths separate from the grey bitumen of the roads. They are the cycle paths. Not once is a cyclist forced into a pinch point as they are generally on Australian roundabouts. And nowhere are they required to cycle anywhere near a heavy goods vehicle.

We have paths through the parklands on that side of town. This is how you connect them with the eastern suburbs.

Here's the roundabout from the cyclist's point of view:

Imagine seeing Britannia Roundabout like that.


I cannot of course take any credit at all for this but this has been fixed. Instead of one, there are now two roundabouts:

Whenever I use it, it works so much better. Traffic is still slow in rush hour but my limited experience is that the tail-backs are not as long as they used to be.

It is a big improvement if you are in a car but on a bike? I wouldn't know because I have never gone near it on a bike and I do not intend to. Ever. Very occasionally, I see someone on a bike daring it and I wince in sympathy. Check out the video above. That's the only way to fix it.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Same old same old

If you come to work in the mornings along Prospect Road, your life was recently made a little less difficult. Until a few years ago, Prospect Road had two lanes of fast-moving traffic each side. The speed limit was 60 km/h and the whole street was almost a ghost town. It was not the best place to ride a bike, nor walk, nor stop, nor shop.

Since then, the council has slowed down traffic to 40km/h in the village centre, narrowed the road to a lane each side, added street furniture and painted bike lanes. There are still places where it can get a bit hairy but it is a significant improvement. An added bonus is that it has done wonders for business. The street is unrecognisable from 15 or 20 years ago.

Once you get to the parklands, you can use the British style crap "shared path" that is there. It comes to an end once O'Connell Street starts and it is there that you are once again unprotected on a busy road.

Adelaide City Council and the State Government have identified O'Connell Street as a possible "cycling corridor". Predictably, the usual feedback has already started:

None of the comments are a surprise: "People want to be able to pop in to shops on the way home. If there's no parking, they may shop elsewhere" - "It would definitely affect trade" - "If there're even less [parking], people will be likely to just drive off".

What are the assumptions behind some of these comments?

1. Almost all of my business is conducted by people who arrive by car;

2. They park close to me. If they cannot, I will not get their business;

3. My customers are short-term buyers on their way home. They stop, pop in, buy what they intend to buy and go;

4. The number of customers I have is directly proportional to the number of free, short term parking spaces close to my business;

5. Trade is directly affected by parking in close proximity.

With the first, shopkeepers have been shown routinely to overestimate the number of their customers who come by car and under-estimate the number who come on foot, by bicycle or by public transport. It is a very easy assumption to make but it is a mistaken one and one that could potentially be quite damaging to your business. It has been shown time and time again. Bicycles and pedestrians are good for business.

With the second, this seems to be nothing more than a presumption. There is no evidence for it at all. Again, it is shopkeepers underestimating the value of other customers. The bulk of the parking around O'Connell Street is on side streets the whole way along and in the various public car parks. The largest is at North Adelaide Village. It is free for the first two hours. Once your car is parked there, you can explore the shopping centre at North Adelaide Village, carry on down the street, eat somewhere and then watch a movie if you want. You will more than likely pass one of the business owners objecting to the removal of a few car parks. If you do, chat with them.

I should add - the car park is always busy. That is where people park. It is cheap and it is easy. It's also mostly underground which means you avoid coming back to a stinking hot car during the height of summer.

The third is an extension of the first and second. If your business relies on the few people who (a) can actually get a park close to your business and (b) do so on their way home, I'd think seriously about changing location or improving your marketing plan. As the shopkeepers rightly point out, the few drivers who shop that way are very fickle. If the car park is not free, they will more than likely sail past. Forget them. Attract the people who will stop for longer and spend decent money.

The comments are also a bit of wishful thinking. The shopkeepers are hoping that the on-street car parks near their business will be used to support their business but why should that be? Who's to say the person who parked there is not going to watch the new James Bond movie and stopping on the way at the bottle-o so they can smuggle in a beer?

Each of the statements totally ignores the increase in bicycle traffic that (properly designed) bike paths will bring. Bikes are easy to stop and encourage spur of the moment shopping. 

I often travel along O'Connell Street. It is not that nice to do it on foot. The traffic is very noisy. The businesses along there, especially the restaurants, do pretty well but imagine how much better they would do with all of that additional bicycle traffic. O'Connell Street is the main route into the city for a number of roads from the northern suburbs. With properly designed infrastructure, there is no reason why it could not be as busy as some of the best in other countries:

Picture from here

BTW: talk of "cycling corridors" is unhelpful. What happens before and after the corridor? If it's the same tired old crap, you're really wasting your time. It is the network we want to be focussing on. A grid-style network that people can reach easily and safely and takes them where they want to go - everywhere. A bit like the road system for cars. Just put them next to each other.

Update 2/12/2012: That clever artist and film-maker, Mike Rubbo, has just posted a film about this very thing - shopping by bike. Only 12 minutes. Definitely worth a watch.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Internet democracy

Every few years or so, we get to cast our vote to choose our representatives at each level of government. It has been pointed out (with some truth I think) that elections are won or lost in the few marginal seats there are and by the thinnest of margins.

With the exception of the ACT and Tasmania, or lower Houses of Parliament across Australia contain members only of the two major parties (with a very few exceptions that you could probably count on one hand). If you don't vote for either of the two major parties, you would be forgiven that your vote is generally wasted. Even so, we do at least have a say - and in secret. That is more than a lot of our friends overseas get.

Election day is only one small part of a functioning democracy. Communicating with local Members of Parliament and lobbying in different ways also count. As does taking part in consultations run by governments and local councils.

Often consultations ask for feedback about a specific project. The decision has been made but feedback is sought about how it will be implemented. For example, a decision might be made by a local council to introduce traffic calming. Depending on who bothers to provide feedback and how they do it, the final version may consist of a couple of speedbumps or perhaps (by some miracle) quiet streets completely closed off to motorised through traffic and built to discourage speed.

Occasionally though, a consultation is done where people are just asked for their views. A recent one is Adelaide City Council's 5000 Plus project. According to the website:

5000+ is a design-led project for the redesign, renewal and reactivation of inner Adelaide. Since June 2011, we have been collecting and enabling ideas and propositions from design professionals, businesses, not for profit organisations, government agencies and academia. We are now investigating how these ideas might work, developing guiding principles and a place shaping framework.

The best bit though is under the heading 'Your Ideas'. There are so far 36 pages of different ideas about how Adelaide could be improved. Some of them are just brilliant. For example, an themed adventure playground, Science Festival, an outside saltwater pool and the world's longest flying fox.

Some are obvious, such as a clear pedestrian route from the markets to the station, bike lanes that do not end, a tram loop around the CBD and finally getting rid of the dreaded "door zone".

Here's another person's crazy idea - Parkour in the city:

There are some great ideas. Register and have your say. You can agree and disagree with ideas just by clicking the thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

It's your city.

PS: I should say, I have absolutely nothing to do with Adelaide City Council. I just think this is great - a very rare opportunity to have a real say in the future of our city.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Another commute video

Wide roads, cars travelling freely, big houses, sun shining.

It could so easily be Adelaide.

A big difference though.

This is how it is done.

And how easy it could be.

(A word of warning - the video appears to have been filmed with a handheld mobile phone so it's all a bit Blair Witch Project. Don't watch it if you think you might get queasy).

Note the detour beginning at 5.34. Nobody is dumped into traffic without warning. The route continues without interruption.

And note the bridge beginning at 7.32. It could so easily be the King William Street bridge over the River Torrens. No excuses any more.

Saturday, 3 November 2012


I was in Melbourne just the other day for a whirlwind trip with my lovely wife. We went to see the Australian Ballet's 50th birthday gala - absolutely spectacular!

But back to matters more mundane, one thing struck me and it was to do with marketing. If you read bicycle blogs regularly, as I do, a conversation with cycling will go something like this:



Despite all of that, it is surprising how much (or little) 'normal' people know. I mistakenly assume that everyone watches Anna Pihl and Lulu the Bankrobber's Wife on SBS and not only see footage of raised, Danish-style bike lanes on TV but notice them too. Obviously my dear wife is not one of them.

We were walking along Swanston Street near what I later found out were new tram 'superstops'. There's some information about them on Daniel Bowen's blog and on the Bicycle Network Victoria website (where you'll find both the pictures below). The stops are raised and longer than your normal tram stop. When walked past them, we noticed the extra stripey bit that nobody seemed to be standing on:

You work out very quickly what it's all about when the next wave of bicycles pass through - and while we were there, it really was a wave. My wife said that the raised lane would ensure that motorists do not drive on it. She thought it was a brilliant idea. I must say I was quite disappointed that after all of my lecturing she still didn't realise that is what they do in Denmark.

In addition to the sort of infrastructure that has been shown to encourage a change of transport for some journeys, using a bicycle could do with a bit of decent marketing in this country. Regrettably, the Dutch masters have been way too modest for way too long. They have finally started the Dutch Cycling Embassy that has some useful information. But, just as an example, the CROW Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic has been around for a while now but hardly anyone knows about it.

Our Danish friends are pretty good at marketing as the video below shows. In addition to building their famous raised bike lanes, they have adopted a number of measures to make the life of people who get around by bicycle a bit more pleasant. They include footrests, special cargobike parking, the ubiquitous raised lanes, new greenways, new bridges, the famous 'green wave and even handing out chocolates by the karma police.

The video goes for just under an hour but it is well worth a watch from an Australian perspective. Perhaps watch it while you're folding washing to help pass the time.


 By the way, this is a cross-section of the tram stops with the bike lane showing:

A final point, given the large numbers of people using the stops on Swanston Street and what is now (by Australian standards) a relatively large number of people using the bike lanes, you would think a preferable design would have had the bike lanes running behind the tram stops to avoid all that conflict. That will eventually come I am sure.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

A long(-ish) post for a long bike route

Some time ago, the State Government announced plans to build a series of 'Super Schools'. They have since been built. One of them (Roma Mitchell High) is in Northfield just north of Grand Junction Road. It replaced about three high schools that have since been closed. As a consequence, its zone is massive. It stretches west to the other side of the railway line and south pretty close to North Adelaide. The shaded area in the map below shows only part of it. It includes the parts that are bordered by yellow lines. It may even be larger:

When it was in the planning stage, the then Education Minister, Jane Lomax-Smith, held a public consultation about it. I thought about going and asking whether the Minister planned to do anything to assist students in getting to school under their own steam rather than encouraging more traffic and hoping the bus service is good enough. In the end I didn't go but I can't help thinking the answer would have included words like 'committed' and 'encourage' but effectively would have been 'no'.

A school zone that large requires a bit of thinking. Luckily with not too much thought a decent network of bike routes could quite easily be constructed. The school itself is just south of the skate park on the corner of South Terrace and Briens Road in Pooraka. The skate park is where Northfield (or possible Stockade) railway station used to be. If you start there and go west, you can follow the old railway line as far as Dry Creek. There is plenty of space for a wide bike path. With a bit of imagination:

... it could cross the Gawler railway line and then follow the freight line towards Port Adelaide. Alternatively, if you start at the skate park and go east, you can follow Dry Creek as far as Reservoir Road. There is plenty of space for a Linear Park style bike route.

The whole route covers a fair distance. I made a map of it. Here's the eastern part:

and here's the western part:

Where the route crosses Main North Road, it is just next to the 'Gepps X' home centre. This is looking east towards the skate park:

This is looking west from the same point:

This is a close up where you can still see the platforms from the old Pooraka railway station:

You would obviously need a decent crossing treatment here with lights. For example:

Travelling west from the skate park, the route is very wide. This is part of it looking across at the children's playground which is on the way.

Near the skate park, you can see the roof of the school:

It would not be difficult to have a path from here leading straight into the school grounds.

South of Grand Junction Road where the bulk of the school zone is requires different treatment. Most of the area is residential and bordered by main roads. Dealing with them is easy. Increasing cycling permeability while decreasing permeability for motor vehicles is the way to do it. There is tons of literature on the web about how it is done. Simply lowering speed limits is not enough. You have to make rat-running impossible and through routes for bicycles not just possible but actively encouraged. That in turn requires proper categorisation of roads and their uses.

I do not for a minute pretend to be an expert but the idea is to unravel cycling rouets from car routes. Some streets can be designated as bicycle streets. That means cars are guests and the only cars that need to be there are those that belong to that street's residents or visitors. This post is a great starting point. Nothing like experiencing it yourself of course. The point is that you could make a significant difference to traffic congestion by allowing students in a school that big to get there some way other than in the back seat of a car.

In turn, the north-south main routes leading up to the school also require treatment. Hampstead Road is wide enough. Main North Road is wide enough. Churchill Road is wide enough. For roads that are busy, painted lanes are useless as we all know. Simple raised lanes are probably not enough either given the volume of traffic. Proper separation is required:

(Borrowed from here)

Having said all of this, a specific route to a specific place is probably not the best way to build a cycling network in any event. It only really serves the people who want to go to that destination or somewhere along the way (and then only assuming it's fast and direct enough). What is required is decent facilities where people need them and will use them - on main roads. That sort of visible, high quality infrastructure is what really encourages alternatives to the car. Once you have that, the secondary routes sort themselves out once they are properly categorised and treated accordingly with a combination of closures and one-way streets.

Anyway, back to the school route, if you are a train tragic like me, here's an old video showing the route from the front of a train:

At 2 minutes, the train reaches Northfield where the skate park is now and at 2:49, it is at Pooraka where the overgrown platforms next to 'Gepps X' still are

Saturday, 13 October 2012

My wife is seriously hot

My wife has been shopping again but this time at Cue. She bought two dresses this time.

The first is a very cute peach coloured dress. This is the front:

and this is the back:

There is no link to it because it was already on sale when she bought it. You'd probably have difficulty finding one now.

The next one is very different but just as cute on her:

They call it a Lace Design Jacquard Dress. The link will probably work only as long as the dress is available. At the time of writing, it was already on sale.

As with the other frocks, these would look fantastic if she wore them on a bicycle. As we all know though, looking good is fine but if riding a bike is horrible why would you bother? I imagine a frock like one of these loses its lustre if you wear it while riding on one of Adelaide's busy roads. Also, riding around wearing anything is a crime if you don't wear a plastic lid even though nobody gets to see my wife's golden locks flowing in the wind.

So Taylor Swift, for example, would be breaking the law if she came to Australia and behaved in the same way she did recently in Paris.

Nudity is ok of course as long as you wear your helmet.

All it means is that nobody gets to share in my better half's loveliness.


Your loss.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Trains again

Yup. Totally relate to him.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Streets only for some

This great little video is currently doing the blog rounds:

It shows a young Dutch child learning to ride a bike. I found the video on Tim Gill's brilliant Rethinking Childhood website along with a great article about it. The point he makes is about the importance of allowing our children to develop in this way. He also acknowledges the designers who put together an environment that allows this to happen:

let’s not forget the planners and architects who put in those wide pedestrian pathways in their neighbourhood in the first place, and the politicians whose decisions made this happen. It is hard to learn how to cycle if you do not have safe, traffic-free paved areas to practise in.

Exactly. How many streets around Adelaide allow children to do this? None of them near me do, even though the council did try to (something I have already complained about).

You would be hard pressed to find a scene like this anywhere. If you do see children on bicycles, they are either in a special purpose park (having arrived their by car) or they are wobbling along a pavement that is too narrow for them and travelling far too slowly because:

a) their parents are walking with them (or slowly driving(!) as I saw recently) and
b) every single driveway is a hazard.

There was an article about driveways in yesterday's paper. Last year, there were 1204 crashes across the state with the vast bulk (85%) caused by cars reversing. Of those, 59 involved a bicycle and 33 involved pedestrians being hit. With those figures it is hardly surprising that you see so few children like the one in the video.

It does not appear to be commonly known but you actually have to give way when reversing out of a driveway - not just to other cars on the road, but to pedestrians and cyclists on the pavement as well as posties on their mopeds. That means treating the end of the driveway as if it had a stop sign. Stop, check your mirrors both sides and then slowly reverse. Just beeping your horn is unlikely to have any effect on a child who is probably not listening out for them.

Like many problems, I think you could reduce the number of those collisions by engineering the conflict away. If our residential streets were blocked much more, the traffic levels would be reduced sufficiently to allow people to learn to ride their bikes where they're supposed to - on the road. And you can then start filling the street up with all sorts of fun things:

(Borrowed from here)

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Why is it so?

Look at this smooth shared path near Christies Beach police station:

Although it is not that wide, there is enough space for two cyclists to pass each other with ease or for a cyclist to pass a person walking. So why does hardly anyone use it? This is probably why:

At one end, you are dumped into a busy intersection. The path does not continue the other side. There is not even a painted bike lane.

There are examples like this all over the place. Not that long ago, the tram was extended along Port Road to the Entertainment Centre. Part of the project included a shared path along the western side of that section of Port Road. It's called the Livestrong Pathway:

Like the one in Christies Beach, it seems that it is not used that much and you still see cyclists using that part of Port Road despite the fact that it has four lanes of traffic each side speeding along at 60 km/h:

Why is that? I cannot say I know the answer but one of the great things about blogging is that you can be self-indulgent and just write what you think the reason is.

There are two obvious reasons I think - one minor and one major. The minor one is that as you can see there is a painted line on that stretch of road as well as the shared path. It is what the two cyclists are using. That painted line connects (in the broadest possible sense of the word) to the painted line further north-west on Port Road. It also connects to the painted line on Park Terrace just around the corner.

By contrast (and this is the major reason), the shared path begins as an unmarked pavement at a (solely) pedestrian crossing on the corner of Port Road and Park Terrace:

If you passed it on your bike or in your car, you would never guess that it is the beginning of a shared path. Its location is the problem. If you want to ride a bike and feel safe, what would possess you to ride on the roads that lead you there? Port Road and Park Terrace at that location are both part of the designated city ring route. That is why both roads are wide, fast and dangerous. If you ever find yourself on that corner by a strange twist of fate, I would recommend you take a left at the beginning of the shared path and join the much wider and quieter path through the parklands. It will take you past the Festival Centre, Adelaide University and the Zoo without having to worry about a single busy road:

This is the entrance off Park Terrace

 and this is the entrance around the corner off Port Road

In fact, that path lets you cross Port Road next to the railway line. It continues a little way along the side of the railway line towards just past Bowden Station:

Now if only that route could be upgraded and extended.

It is I think pretty obvious that there is a need for a decent bicycle network. There is widespread support for better cycling infrastructure and there are slow and steady movements towards achieving that.

When designing new cycling infrastructure, there are two things that you cannot forget. The first is for the network to be joined up. A random shared path here and there is a start but if you want people to use it in decent numbers, they have to be able to complete their entire journey safely. Dropping people off at busy intersections like the one shown above is unhelpful. At the very least, it should be clear to the user where the network continues. In the photo above, it doesn't continue. That's really the problem. Any network is really only as good as its weakest link. A short burst of high-quality path looks good but is not that helpful.

The second is quality. Some new infrastructure consists of shared paths like the one above near Christies Beach police station and the one along Port Road. In both cases, they are just about wide enough for two cyclists to pass. Two people riding next to each other could not pass another person withough getting behind each other. Once you add pedestrians (especially if they're in groups, walking a dog, pushing a pram, etc), the problems start. Here is an example. At the beginning of the Livestrong Pathway, it crosses a bridge:

It is too narrow for two bikes to pass let alone people on foot as well. You really need at least 3½ or better still 4 metres for a proper two-way path. You then need additional width to cater for pedestrians. And ideally, they should be given their own separate area. Assuming all users are just ambling along at the same speed is a mistake. A good example of such a path is here. In other words, the paths must be easy and safe to use otherwise people will not bother. Narrow shared paths are the worst of both worlds. They create conflict between cyclists and pedestrians and in most cases, are simply too slow for people riding bikes.

And if you're building on road paths on a main road, two words - wide and raised:

 Borrowed from here (IbikeCPH's Facebook page)

In short, if cycling infrastructure is inadequate, people won't use it. Putting a shared use sign on a footpath is not enough. If your network is broken and disjointed, people won't use it. A network that is interrupted by a large and unsafe intersection is not a network at all. A great recent example of part of a joined-up network can be seen here.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Potholes - a postscript

If you come home to find your new puppy sitting next to a fresh turd and looking guilty, you can never say for sure that they were the culprit but chances are it was them.

I wrote a blogpost recently about potholes and the cost of repairing them. As with the puppy, I cannot say for sure whether it is bicycles or cars and trucks that are responsible but sometimes the potholes are just sitting there in the road like the dogpoo in my analogy.

Have a look here:

This is on Frome Road just before the bridge over the Torrens next to the zoo. Its bike lanes are in the ever popular door zone but it is nevertheless quite a well used route into the city. Further up the road beyond the roundabout is Adelaide CBD's only segregated bike lane.

Note that the bike lane is completely smooth and intact. The gravel there more than likely has been thrown up from the road to the right.

But note those potholes - lying there like little poo pellets freshly fallen from that BMW X5's exhaust pipe.

It certainly wasn't me.

And that, my friends, is another reason why bicycle riders do not pay registration. And all of this crap about bicycles being registered because of reckless cyclists speeding through red lights and nearly killing people all across the city is, well, crap.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012


I passed this street not long ago. It is just off Osmond Terrace near the Parade in Norwood:

It is interesting because it illustrates a number of things about Adelaide's residential street design that could be improved. The first is the use of the "Cross with Care" signs aimed at pedestrians:

Not all intersections have them. You generally find them close to schools. Norwood Primary School is directly opposite this street on the other side of Osmond Terrace. In other words, the signs are aimed at children.

Here is the driver's view as they approach the crossing:

Note that there is no "Approach with Care" sign for them. You can see there is a Give Way sign but that comes after the part of the road where pedestrians cross. Because of the tall fences each side, any pedestrians who may be approaching from either side are completely hidden.

Here is a close up of the part where the pathway crosses the road:

Note the road continues and it is the pedestrians who have to change level. The clear signal to all users is that it is the road that has priority. You find this design across the city - including around schools.

If the pavement continued with the same bricks and the road was raised to cross using ramps, a very different signal would be sent. Sooner or later, the road and pavements will need to be resurfaced. When they are, it would not be difficult to make some small but very significant changes.

For a far better explanation of how to design minor intersections with continuous paths, see here and here.

Friday, 7 September 2012


There is a superb blogpost about the process that was adopted to have halfway decent cycling infrastructure installed on one street in London. It is in Camden and it is described in detail on the Vole O'Speed blog (its author, David Arditti, is a board member of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. Its website has lots of useful information).

The blog post is long and shows the difficulties anyone potentially faces in improving conditions for pedestrians and cyclists. It is well worth a read if you are involved or thinking of getting involved in campaigning.

There was one point made in the post that got me thinking. That is how the designers and builders dealt with drains. As they are over here, before the bike path was built the drains were on the edge of the road in the gutter. The roads are sloped from the centre so that rainwater runs into the gutters each side and then drains into drains. In the case of Camden, the drains had to be reconstructed leading to further expense.

My big dream is for the wasted space on the side of the arterial roads throughout the CBD be used for wide, raised bike lanes like these ones:

To install them would be easy - just build the borders and then fill them in. There is a great post about how to do it with pictures of some in progress on Copenhagenize.

Let's say in some far distant future by some miracle, we manage to convince our decision-makers that spending a decent amount of money on alternatives to the car is a good idea. What happens when you tarmac over a drain? How is the water drained away, given that one would think you wouldn't want a bike lane on the sloping edge of a road?

I was thinking it would involve complex engineering to re-arrange all of the drainage but it's not quite that complicated at all. I searched on the web for information about it but without success. So I consulted the oracle - Mr Copenhagenize himself. He very kindly replied (very quickly) and said:

Cycle tracks, as a rule, are built along existing curbs, so the drains are rarely moved. They are merely extended upwards to the new surface of the cycle track.

There are instances when a major resurfacing or redesign is underway that drains are extended out to the new curbline, but they usually lead back to the exisiting drain location.

Does that at all help?

Oh yes it does. It means that a cycle track here just requires the drain to be raised a little. This, for example, could be easily fixed:

Where necessary, plonk in a new drain on the road next to the bike track and just connect that to the existing drain. Brilliant.

This drain obsession may perhaps lead to a diagnosis of aspergers but I promise it isn't. I was just trying to think of what other excuses there are not to put a bit of road space aside for this. Drains are now not one of them.

Thursday, 30 August 2012


If you really have nothing better to do than to spend your spare time reading bicycle blogs, it doesn't take too long to come across a phrase called "vehicular cycling". As I understand it, it refers to a series of techniques for dealing with an environment built primarily for the fast movement of motor vehicles. As an example, "taking the lane" refers to the practice of moving to the centre of a traffic lane so that (theoretically) drivers behind can see you and do not cut you off at the intersection or roundabout or other pinch point that you are approaching.

Some of the techniques are worthwhile in a hostile environment as survival techniques. I think they become a problem when they are sold as the best way for keeping people on bicycles safe as opposed to designing the environment in such a way that conflicts between motorists, cyclists and pedestrians are avoided. When I say design, I do of course mean proper design rather than designs that end up making things worse - which does happen from time to time.

A good tongue in cheek critique is here.

My own experience is that the problems with techniques such as taking the lane are twofold. First, you are putting your safety into the hands of the person behind you and how is in control of a very large and potentially lethal piece of machinery. The fact that you are in front of them does not guarantee that they will see you. Second, most people do not know what taking the lane is. It can be perceived as arrogant or anti-social when a person in a car, for no reason apparent to them, is greeted by a padded, lycra-clad backside in front of their windscreen. They will not necessarily try to kill you as a consequence but people have been known to make dangerous manouvres in an attempt to get past.

One of the best tips I was given for surviving hostile roads is to assume you are invisible. So for example, when you are approaching a junction with a road to the left where it is obvious cars coming from that direction have to give way to you, do not assume (a) they know that and (b) that they have even seen you. Very often they have not because their focus is on where they expect cars to be rather than where bikes will be.

Vehicular cycing, bicycle driving or whatever you like to call it suffers from the obvious drawback that nobody else knows about it. A perfect illustration is in this (frankly appalling video):

The cyclist is doing everything right. She has right of way but is totally ignored. Had she acted like a vehicle she would be under a vehicle.

Most people do not wish to harm others but setting up a system like that where road users with very different sizes and speeds are required to mix is a recipe for disaster. Unsurprisingly, only a small number put themselves in that position. It means the road toll is lower - not because it is safe but because they are so few people who put themselves in positions of risk.

As Dr Behooving so eloquently put it, "Designing out risk is so much better than expecting humans not to make errors”

Friday, 10 August 2012

Maintenance costs

I was reading one of David Hembrow's older posts recently all about how separation is achieved without bike paths on many roads. A comment came "with an agenda" from someone who didn't like the idea of being "forced" to use bike paths. It was gently explained to him that nobody is forced to but that given the choice between a direct and safe bicycle route and trying your chances on a busy four lane highway, most rational people choose the former.

A further comment suggested that the surface on the bike paths was of poorer quality. Again, it was explained slowly that that is simply wrong. He says:

It's sometimes of lower quality, but also sometimes of far higher quality. There are no potholes in the city which I live. Not one, either on the roads or on the cycle-paths. More than half the surfaces have been replaced in the five years that we've lived here, which is in line with the local policy of replacing everything every seven years. Are the roads that you cycle on all less than ten years old? Do you have potholes in Maryland? 

We certainly have potholes in Adelaide. I don't know if it's the recent rain but they are everywhere. Here is one intersection near me:

Here's a close up of one pothole:

and another:

Here's one in the process of formation:

and here's the bog up job to fix it:

Here you can see how a passer-by has dutifully piled up the broken tarmac into the gutter:

They are everywhere. Not just on the local side streets but you can see them beginning to form on some of the main roads too. The main roads are the responsibility of State Governments. If you are living in a marginal seat, chances are your roads will be fixed first. In safe seats, it can take longer.

Smaller, residential streets are the responsibility of local councils. They have to pay for all of that maintenance through collecting rates from residents. They also get grants from the State and Federal Governments such as the "Roads to Recovery" scheme.

I can't help thinking that the maintenance costs would not be quite so high if local councils didn't allow all of their roads to be used by all and sundry without any financial contribution from them.

Bearing in mind that I do not know the first thing about constructing roads, it seems to me that two things would make a difference. The first is reducing the heavy traffic in the first place. How that is done is obvious. The second is choosing a road surface that is not so susceptible to potholes. The layers of tarmac that we use appear prone to cracking after some time. The cracks get bigger over time and sink. Eventually, the surface of the road just seems to collapse into a pothole. Repairing it is expensive and so you see the uneven patches like the one in the photo.

My own humble opinion is that residential streets should be arranged in such a way that fast driving is physically impossible. Parking for residents and visitors should be arranged in clear bays that are indented from the road itself. Rather than tarmac, in some cases, pavers or bricks might do the job - only because if there is a problem, relaying bricks is so much easier and better than bogging over broken tarmac (it can be done smoothly so that it is bicycle friendly). You could use one of these fantastic machines:

Allowing through traffic to use council run and maintained side streets amounts to a subsidy paid for by local ratepayers. It is also unnecessary. Changing that stae of affairs is one of a number of easy policy changes that could be a world of difference.

As a quick postscript: it should be said that David Hembrow addressed each of the poster's comments with evidence. He did not respond again.