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.