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.