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


  1. Edward,
    This government can't even organise cycling to Adelaide High School which they are expanding by 250 plus students. Oh wait, they are tripling the number of cycle parks...from 10 to 30...for 1,400 students. That's one bike park for every 47 students. So if every student cycled to school an equal number of times that means they would each get the opportunity to ride to school 4 days a year. This to a school within the Park Lands which is reachable by every one of the half-decent off-road paths we have. And the school's catchment zone sits within an easy 20 minute bike ride.

    But each of the teaching staff will be guaranteed a car park, and one floor of the extension is for 47 undercroft car parks. In this space you could fit over 1,000 bikes.

  2. I used to work at Mawson Lakes until recently and drove past the school every morning while and after it was built. I got so frustrated looking at that complete disaster and the hordes of obese kids being dropped off by their parents. Australia is facing a bleak future is this is how we are telling them the future of transportation solutions should look like.
    For a bit of inspiration: In my home contry town in Denmark they merged the two country schools (100+ pupils each) to one new school a few years back. The sports facilities (indoor 'stadium' and soccer fields) were relative new and adjacent to one of the old schools, hence it could not justified to abandon and build new. Solutuion: a bike 'road' was build parallel to a train track, across prime agricultural fields, even sporting an underpass to get across train line, so that the kids can ride 2-3 K (10 minutes) in school hours (hail or storm) to and from school sports, and not having to be dependant on a bus.
    As always Australia would have to look no further than Cycling Embassy of Denmark .
    But that would ofcourse be all too easy. Let's copy the US again and paint some useless bikelanes leading to nowhere, increasing the dangers or bikes mixing with cars, and pad eachother on the shoulder and say we are encouraging and committed.

    One day Australia will wake up and discover it is all too late.

  3. Tragically, you are both absolutely right.
    Thanks for commenting.

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