Sunday, 21 April 2013

Clipsal Bowden Development

Back in 2008, our State Government bought a very large parcel of inner city land where the Clipsal factory used to be. It is on the corner of Park Terrace and Port Road in Bowden. The plan is for the site to be developed into Transport Oriented Development known as Bowden Village.

Rather than the usual style of development, which consists of carving up a piece of arable land and plonking showhomes on it, this is being carefully designed from the outset. Developers are required to follow specific design guidelines. Already, properties are for sale:

They include townhouses:

and 3-level terraces as well as others:

Already, you can see how the streets will look. They are built in such a way that slow driving is encouraged:

One of the artist's impressions shows a large bridge:

Whether it is pedestrian only rather than an awesome bike and pedestrian bridge is unclear. It is also not clear where it goes. Time will tell.

The whole thing is organised by a new agency called Renewal SA which is run by that clever fellow Fred Hansen from Portland Oregon. He was responsible for putting their public transport system (Tri-Met) on the map.

As I understand it, the development is one of the reasons the tramline was extended to the Entertainment Centre, although I think whoever planned that may have forgotten that there was already a railway station there - closer to the site than the tramstop is.

One of the reasons for developing the site close to transport is to give residents the choice of using modes of transport other than cars and potentially not to have to own a car at all if they wish. The tram's ok but it's pretty slow from the Entertainment Centre to the CBD. It's also a bit of a walk from the other side of the redevelopment. The train is faster but not all trains stop at Bowden station so you can have a bit of a wait. It also used to be a bit dingy but that has improved significantly since the Loose Caboose café opened there.

Given the development's proximity to the CBD, you have to wonder why cheaper forms of transport are not being considered (or at least don't appear to be). Just across the other side of Park Terrace begins a safe cycle route all the way into the city. Much of the way it is pretty wide and in places has already been upgraded:

And who would not want a view like this on their morning commute:

This fairly rudimentary map shows the development relative to the city along with the current bike and walking route in purple:

As I say, a lot of the work is done. The trick is tidying up the loose ends. That is, making it part of a wider network. Join it up to the development using either the bridge or a decent signalised crossing. And at the other end, make it join seemlessly to the major roads through the city - where decent protected paths will of course be in place by then (!). Half the work is done. You also of course need to ensure that developers accommodate all of this as well. It's one thing to be able to get home or to your destination but you also need somewhere safe and easy to put your bike once you get there.

There really is potential for this sort of thing all over the place.

The point is, you don't need to spend $100m on a tramway to provide a decent, economical (and very cheap) alternative to driving.

I should add that I stole the pictures of the townhouses and terraces from the pdf's I linked to. They're on the lifemoreinteresting website.

Also, if there are ever any plans to develop pedestrian and cycling links from Bowden to the city, they really need to work on the signalised crossing over Park Terrace that is next to the railway crossing there. I had to wait 4 mins and 50 secs after pressing the button!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

An illustration

So there I was. It's 5.30. I am still at work on the wrong side of the Central Markets. I have to be at the Palace Nova on Rundle Street in time for a 6 o'clock movie. Don't have the bike. I'm in a suit.

In that situation, you have a choice. Taxi? Meh ... possibly but at that time of night, my slow wheezing jogging along Wright Street was faster than the line of cars going in my direction. In any event, you still have to get to Victoria Square to the cab rank and there's no guarantee of getting a cab. Even if you do, having to pay for it is a bit of an imposition, especially if you're a tight-arse.

The second option is the tram - from Victoria Square to Rundle Mall. It's slow and it really only saves you about 700m of the total 2½ km trip. Hardly worth it and a complete waste of time if you have to wait for longer than a minute.

I settled on walking/running. This is the route I ended up taking:

In the end, I just made it - hot, sweaty and puffed out. In fact, when I arrived, I did the decent thing and warned everyone I was smelly. I took off my jacket and the children said, "dad, dad, don't take off your jacket. You've got totally sweaty armpits."

Now this is one of the many illustrations that show the need for a decent bikeshare system - but with two qualifications. First, a quick comparison between Melbourne and Dublin shows that the one difference between the two (the dreaded "H" word) is a significant obstacle to spontaneous use. You would have to have an exemption for the system. Second, hiring bikes with our roads in their current state is a waste of time. Nobody in their right mind is spontaneously going to hire a bike to get across town if they have to dodge trucks and buses. That's really just another way of ending up with sweaty armpits.

In the childish wonderland that is in my head, there are bikehire docks across the CBD:

(From Wikimedia Commons)

They are connected by smooth wide bike lanes that are separated from fast-moving traffic and have their own lights at intersections.

People in suits, who are running late, can ride them 2½ km across town in 5 minutes. When they get to the Palace Nova, they dock the bike and walk in looking urbane and sophisticated - a bit like James Bond after he's had a fight.

You know it makes sense. Here's the alternative:

(Not me but it might as well be. Borrowed from Bubblews)

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Countdown Lights

In enlightened countries where pedestrians are treated with just a teensy bit of respect, they have traffic lights that tell pedestrians how much longer they have to wait. We have all stood on the side of the street, silently cursing while repeatedly pressing the button and pleading to be given permission to cross. A wait of three minutes can seem like an eternity - because we don't know when it will end. It's like a mild form of psychological torture.

If you have real time information about how long it will be before the lights change (or indeed how long it will be before the next bus), the pain is usually alleviated.

This is what they look like:

(Borrowed - hopefully legally - from a post on Twitter by Brooklyn Spoke)

And this is what we have:

They are on King William Street (Pirie Street intersection) and North Terrace so far (or at least those are the ones I have seen).

There is a subtle yet crucial difference between the two. The overseas ones tell you how long it will be before you can cross. Ours don't give you that information. Instead they give you a countdown telling you how much time you have left to scurry across the road.

It's like a silent Sergeant Major barking orders at you to get out of the way.

Nice idea. Poorly executed.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Accepting the the malcontents' mantle

For as long as any of us can remember, the phrase 'whinging poms' has been used to describe the English. However according to a recent editorial on the Guardian website, 'it's time for Australians to accept the malcontents' mantle'.

Yay. Here goes.

On the corner of Regency Road and Main North Road is Northpark Shopping Centre. On the opposite side of Main North Road at the same intersection is Regency Plaza, which contains a Woolworths, a Cheap As Chips, a bread shop, a cafe and a pub complete with pokies room. It is all surrounded by a car park the size of a high school which also serves Sefton Plaza just to the south. Here's an aerial shot:

The council provides a community bus for pensioners and others who do not have access to a car. It is run by a part-time coordinator who is then assisted by volunteers.

It runs a few services including a shopping run to Northpark and Sefton Plaza each week. You just telephone the designated number to book your seat. The catchment area served by the bus is quite small but non-motorised forms of transport are difficult to use because of the many physical barriers in the way. Hence the need for the bus.

At Regency Plaza, there is a stop set aside for the bus. You can see its two little shelters in the aerial shot above. It is just to the right of the building marked 'Woolworths Regency Plaza' and next to the green car.

Here it is:

You can see that despite the provision of a carpark the size of a football field, people are still that arrogant that they park their crappy cars where the bus should go. If there was any confusion, you'd think this might resolve it:

I can't quite see why people insist on parking there. I can only assume it is because the shelters provide a bit of shade. Not sure it makes a difference given that most shoppers pop in an out quickly and use the Woolworths as their corner shop - because all of the corner shops have been put out of business.

The most tragic part of all of this is that the big destination that the bus goes to is this:

A beige box with a large Woolworths sign. Although this picture looks like the arse end of the building where the bins are kept, you'll see in the distance that it is actually the entrance. Just to the right of the entrance is the community bus stop. It is one of the most drab and depressing buildings I know. How it got past the planning committee still amazes me to this day.

In case you were wondering, the two cars are a Mazda 3 with registration S674AVV and a Mitsubishi ute with registration S841ASG. Sunday, 24 March at 1.15pm..