Cycling in Sydney Australia
I had a whole day to kill yesterday. The solution was, of course, a bike ride.
It didn't matter where, but it was going to be long. In the end, I made it up as I went along, setting off on a loop from the lovely, leafy North Shore out to Parramatta, then Liverpool, Campbelltown and into the southern highlands via the freeway and, after Picton, the old Hume Hwy. Where then would depend on how I felt.
Not everything went as well as it might. For which I blame the government. Not necessarily the current government. Not necessarily even one level of government. All the governments which have failed so spectacularly over the last six decades or more.
Now, dear reader, I know you know what I mean here. Their worst failure, you'll agree, is in provision for cyclists. But, from my observation over a 200+ km route, I was left thinking that, beyond token projects, governments have not even tried to provide for cyclists and in many, many cases have neither thought about them nor, in many, many places, even recognised their existence. I believe this is largely why, on my route between Liverpool and Albion Park, that I saw only one, yes one, other cyclist. And by "cyclist", I mean anyone on a bicycle. (Xmas Day attracts a throng by comparison!)
The whole hideous road system around Sydney has developed since WWII solely to benefit people in cars (and, judging by motorists' constant whingeing, doesn't do that very well) with only minuscule space allocation to any other transport mode.
Not news, I hear you say, but before you tune out, let me mention just two examples of government cycle-blindness which I noted on my random randonnee.
First, signposting. What signposting??
Directional advice in the form of signs is a pretty basic requirement for a transport network. But beyond a few short corridors it is pretty much non-existent for cross-regional bicycle trippers in NSW.
I tried to follow the bus Transit-Way, parallelled by a cycleway, from Parramatta to Liverpool but lost it by Wentworthville, just about the next suburb. Random stretches of "cycle path", actually glorified footpaths but at least generally traffic-free (including the intended traffic), occasionally appeared but, without any indication of where they went, soon had me at a dead-end. I tried following the shared footpath of the Cumberland Highway, surely a top-10 contender in the list of the world's ugliest roads, using the motorists' signage, but the "facility" I was riding on simply ended at an intersection in the middle of nowhere with no information supplied as to where cyclists should go. "To Hell" seemed appropriate. Since there was no footpath ahead on the road's western side, I swapped to the east side, crossing about 10 traffic lanes via pedestrian lights to do so. There was not even a footpath, let alone a shared one, on that side either but I followed a parallel service road adjacent to some houses for a few hundred metres before it veered away to who-knew-where. I gritted my teeth and took to the kerb lane of Cumberland Hwy, pedalling madly downhill in the traffic until a footpath reappeared. Not particularly enjoyable for an experienced cyclist, absolutely unthinkable for a novice.
Second, road shoulders.
Given that there are SAA Standards for near-everything, one might expect roads to have to conform to some consistent standard. Especially roads where speed limits are 70 km/h or higher and on which cyclists are likely to need to ride. This category includes all country roads. To conform to my imaginary Standard, road shoulders would be smoothly sealed and at least a metre wide for a 70 km/h road and wider as the limit rises. They would be regularly swept of debris. There would be no lip, which could bring down a rider, between the shoulder and the travel lane.
What I noted was that shoulders vary from non-existent, or with huge potholes or jagged edges, to wide and rough-sealed, with lips up to 10 cm high where the travel lane has been resurfaced multiple times while the shoulder has not. Shoulders came and went randomly as did little bicycle logos on them. Speed limits stayed at 110 km/h on the freeway, and at a ridiculous 100 on busy, narrow, winding, hilly connectors like the Wollongong-Picton Rd.
Of course, my imaginary Standard, would require funding to implement. Impossible while there are single-occupant cars to encourage and there are no cyclists out there to benefit, are there? No, since the near total lack of thought to their needs by all three levels of government over six decades has virtually eliminated transport cycling. (Build it and they will come, I say.)
The resultant total car dependency could explain why Picton appears to be a finalist in the Fattest Town in NSW Contest. Or perhaps I only think that because I spent too much time there yesterday. That's 45 minutes of my life I will never get back. Oh, the horror.