Sunday, 24 March 2013

Service Streets

Adelaide is blessed with not having freeways running through it. We came close but thankfully escaped that fate. There is a designated ring route around the city but it is a normal, yet wide, street with multiple lanes. There are no flyovers or highway junctions, just regularly spaced traffic lights.

On parts of the ring route, the streets are residential. Robe Terrace in Medindie is one of them. The houses along that street are generally large turn of the century mansions. Once upon a time, the residents lived pretty much on the ring route. However, a few years ago, the position was changed and service streets were built along there with large walls or bushes used to block the noise from all of the traffic.

In most places, the service streets are not through routes which means that once residents are off the ring route, they have a quiet route leading to their door step or driveway.

Another great thing about service streets is that they can be used as a designated cycle route. Currently, the ends are blocked with obstacles in the form of bollards, walls and shrubbery.

Nevertheless, they cover a pretty decent uninterrupted portion of the city ring route around North Adelaide. Here they are shown in red:

If you start at the Wine Centre on the corner of Hackney Road and North Terrace, you have the space that is currently car parking:

That continues alongside Botanic Park where there is plenty of space:

You then hit the bridge over the Torrens. That clearly requires a bit of remedial work. Indeed, a separate bicycle bridge would work best:

What's good is that it intersects with the Linear Park shared path. In this next picture (taken from the bridge), you can see a cyclist dressed in fairly typical Australian cyclist attire:

Then you hit the intersection with Bundey's Road which also requires a bit of remedial treatment to turn it into a friendly intersection:

Beyond Bundeys Road, there is space to move away from the road:

and then join Mann Terrace:

before crossing Melbourne Street:

and carrying along Mann Terrace. The route then crosses Robe Terrace:

and uses the service street to travel west along Robe Terrace:

The service street eventually crosses Main North Road to another service street:

And so it continues.

The space is there. All it needs is the little joined up bits to be fixed. Improve the intersections, remove the obstacles and close off the entrances that allow the service streets to be used as rat-runs, especially by Wilderness School mothers in their Lexus 4WDs.

Turning service streets into part of a joined up cycle network is easy. To see how, look no further than Bicycle Dutch:

On the rest of the ring route around the city, with a bit of imagination, you could easily find space to continue a wide uninterrupted bi-directional path. There are service streets along Fullarton Road (as well as the parklands) and the same applies to Greenhill Road. West Terrace already has a path (although it is too narrow) but it is not connected to anything.

Update (18 May 2014): I found this by accident when playing on Google Streetview (as you do). It shows how a service street connects with a two way cycle lane; for example, at the end of Mann Terrace in the picture above. It is on Gordelweg in Rotterdam :

Update (March 2015):

The crossings at Melbourne Street and joining Mann Terrace have been widened and improved so you can sail through them without slowing down rather than feeling like you're on an obstacle course. The improvements are part of updates to the Parklands Trail and there are plans to include off-road bike lanes along Hackney Road as part of the O-Bahn extension.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

There are d**kheads everywhere

This is one of a collection of Danish handlebar videos on Cyclodeo:

Within 10 seconds of starting, you see one selfish geezer who has (illegally) plonked his crappy Volkswagen Caddy on the pavement and bike lane. Then to top it off, without bothering to look, he whacks his door open into the path of the oncoming cyclist.

It just goes to show.

Still, the rest of the video shows pretty well the Danish way of keeping cars and bikes separate - a method we could adopt without too much fuss at all.

You then compare it to the Dutch though and you see just how well they do it. The video is from a small town called Harderwijk (population 47,000 - about twice that of Mount Gambier. It's about 10km across so twice the size. Just saying).

Friday, 15 March 2013

Rat runs

Every so often, a local council will recognise that allowing motorists unlimited used of local streets, regardless of whether they are local residents or just passing through, is a very expensive exercise. Contrary to popular belief, motorists do not "pay" for the road through registration and petrol tax. The bulk of registration fees are insurance premiums and the cost of administering the system. The cost of building and maintaining main roads comes from general revenue. In the case of local roads, it comes from the local ratepayers.

One way of lowering the maintenance burden is to cut down on the amount of traffic. The easiest way of doing that is to prevent "rat running". That is, allowing local residential streets to be used as thoroughfares by people who are just driving through the area.

Any suggestion is generally treated with the usual howls of protest, the loudest coming from people who do not use those local roads but feel a towering sense of entitlement to use them. After all, they "pay" for the roads, don't they? The howling is dressed up in other reasons such as; it will make other roads more congested, it will damage local businesses and the crowning turd in the cowpat - it will stop emergency services vehicles from getting through.

All complete nonsense of course.

In most areas, there is generally no designation between roads. The main difference between main arterial roads and residential streets is the width and the fact that the arterials have a 60 km/h speed limit while the residential streets have a (inappropriately high) 50 km/h speed limit. Other than that, anyone can use them as they wish.

You can see that in almost any suburb. This is a side street in Kilburn close to the corner of Regency and Churchill Road. I took this street at Random. It is Alabama Avenue and runs parallel to Churchill Road. After visiting Bunnings, I turned on it from Churchill Road to head east:

Here is the view looking back towards Churchill Road:

Here is the view towards Prospect Road at the other end:

You can see it is an invitation to all motorists to use it as an alternative to Regency Road. Nothing to slow you down except a couple of junctions. The signal is clear. This is space for cars with no obstacles to slow you down. You can speed through there with blinkers on. You would never believe this is a place where people live. All sense of neighbourhood is destroyed. Tragically, the two east-west streets either side are exactly the same.

This is a big problem right across Adelaide's suburbs. The street should be blocked to through traffic. Not just traffic-calmed with speed bumps. They make no difference to traffic levels. They merely provide a slight irritation for drivers and an even bigger one for anyone on a bicycle. The road should be blocked. It should be physically impossible for through traffic to be able to use it.

It is not hard to find somewhere that proves that blocking through traffic does not result in the sky caving in. This is a small part of Modbury Heights in the north east:

You can see that the streets inside the yellow coloured main roads are not open to through traffic. If for example you turn onto Minerva Crescent from Ladywood Drive, you very quickly end back there. There is no way to drive through to the other main roads. You have to use the main roads themselves to do that.

These neighbourhoods are doing ok. Emergency Services vehicles are getting through. Properly categorising streets by use can make a huge difference to local amenity. It is not the only thing of course. It should be part of a number of things done together to make our suburbs suitable for people rather than motor vehicles but it is a pretty easy one.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The school run

It is all very well blowing off steam on a blog with mediocre viewing figures about how great things would be if everybody thought the way you do. Sooner or later, whatever your personal views might be, you have to live and get around in one of the most car-centric cities on the planet.

Usually it is my poor wife who does the school run and like most of the population, she does it by car - because of the distance involved, the expense and inflexibility of the bus service and because getting the children to ride their bikes is simply unrealistic as long as the only place to ride is the road.

Today I had to do it though and let me tell you, it was hideous. There is something very weird about being stuck in stationary traffic like that, blood pressure rising, sweat levels rising and nowhere to go. You're just stuck there strapped into a seat. The only way to blow of steam is by screaming.

Once you get to school, you see a line of huge cars and 4WDs in a line being directed by men in fluorescent vests. One by one, little uniformed boys and girls jump out of the back of the cars in turn. It reminded of that bizarre footage when Paris Hilton's mother came to pick her up when she was released from prison. She didn't even get out of the car. There was just this awkward hug through the car door.

It is all grossly irrational. All of those cars. All of that wasted space. The wasted money. The danger. The lack of freedom and the lesson we are teaching our children.

It brought home to me again why this set up we have where we are so dependent on cars for everything is not good for us. I cannot put it any better than this comment:

The roads in [insert name of your city] degrade the quality of life of everyone who lives in the city. It's not only "cyclists" who are affected, but also parents who have to work as unpaid taxi drivers because they can't let their children travel alone, those same children who would like more freedom but who don't get it because they're not allowed out on their own, people who live on a "rat-run" and wish they did not, and also the everyday driver who doesn't see an alternative but to drive because nothing else feels safe but for whom it's not a stressful experience.

Exactly. This is of course what a school run should look like.

The typically irrational school run, even for Claudia Schiffer. Borrowed from here.