Matthew Arnison <email@example.com>
September 20021In July 2002 I moved to Revesby, and I hoped to ride my bike atleast once a week to my work at Sydney Uni, near Redfern. So a week after moving in, I took a morning off and tried the route out for the first time. It took me 1 hour and 40 minutes to go one-way, but there was a fair bit of stuffing round. Since then I've ridden in to work once or twice a week, returning home at night with my bike on the train.
I've found various ways to make the trip faster. Depending on which way I go, it can take as little as an hour. Since the train trip is 50-60 minutes, door to door, cycling seems a pretty good option to me. It takes about the same amount of time as the train, but I can feel the sun on my face and get some exercise. Not to mention smile and wave to the friendly walkers and gardeners I meet along the way, who seem to be a bit happier than my fellow train travellers on my days off the pedals. No one smiles at strangers on the train.
A rough outline of my route, with difficulty ratings:
There are also some new cyclepaths in the planning stages:
I started my first trip just after 10am on a normal Monday. Because it was after peak hour, some streets are fairly relaxed, and there aren't many parked cars to deal with - they've all gone to work. Things might get a bit more interesting when I leave a bit earlier in the morning. Bumper to bumper is OK for cycling through, but a steady stream of anxious drivers at 50 km/h is not so nice.
Starting from somewhere around Revesby station, this feels pretty low key compared to cycling the back streets of inner Sydney. There's lots of fairly direct options, I take Marco Av then Spinx Av, across the roundabout to Watson Rd. I use the lights on Watson Rd to cross over Fairford Rd, I head down the end of Stuart St to hook up with a north-south shared cycleway along Salt Pan Creek.
There are atleast two cute duckboard bridges across the creek. One is just north of the motorway, so I turn left and head north. You get to ride under the concrete and speeding cars. There's another crossing further south alongside the railway crossing, with Meager Av as one way to get onto the path there. There seems to be access to the north-south path from most streets on the west side of the creek.
When you take the northern crossing, turning right at a junction after passing north under the freeway, you go over two bridges. Right a the end of the first (western) bridge is a nasty blind spot, where the path curves right with a large bush blocking the view. You're meant to walk your bike on the duckboards anyway, maybe on the bridges too -- it's not clear to me. Generally I'm go pretty slow through here anyway. You end up near McLaughlin Oval. There's another funny spot at the easten end of the second bridge where a railing forces a sharp left turn.
There's lots of nice paved paths heading around this area, but not much in the way of signs. Same goes for the Salt Pan Creek paths - there's nothing to indicate that you can use these paths to connect through to the east. There's not much in the street directories either. You just have to have heard about it or go exploring.
Anyway, after running into a few dead ends on the northern side of the motorway, I take a path back under the motorway, which heads south straight after the second bridge in the creek crossing. From there I picked up a lovely off-road path which winds through parks and gum trees all the way to King Georges Rd. The destination signage is minimal, but you basically just head east with the motorway on your left hand side. There's a few road crossings, some of which are better than others. This is a good path if you know where you're going or you aren't easily put off.
It's a bit desolate at first, between Salt Pan Creek and Belmore Rd. I'm not too keen to cycle through that bit at night, Riverwood's a nice place but it can get a bit rough. In the daytime I've had no trouble, and I often pass people gardening or tending to the native plants.
The Belmore Rd crossing is nasty. There's big bike logos on Belmore Rd itself, but there's also plenty of small trucks I would rather steer clear of. I head up the footpath and wait for a break in the 4 lane traffic. There's nowehere safe to wait in the middle, and the dodgy ramp onto the path on the other side delivers a sharp jolt, focring you to slow down just when you're trying to finish crossing a busy road. Plenty of room for improvement here.
You then pass two ovals on your right, with the sound barrier of the M5 on your left, behind which the motorway can be heard but not seen. Bonds Rd is a much better road crossing, with a concrete thing in the middle called a chicane, that lets you cross one half of the road, then pause in the middle with concrete strips on either side, before choosing a safe gap and heading back onto the path. If we have to cross a road, then that's more like it! After Bonds Rd there's a funnly little steep hump in the path, then a moderate uphill cycle through a park with gum trees here and there.
There's another dodgy road crossing at Penshurst Rd. The road is fairly quiet, one lane each way. But there's no ramp on the western side where you'd think there should be one, and nowhere to wait in the middle of the road. Having negotiated that, you head steeply uphill for about 500 m and pop out on Rosetta St. You then take Rosetta downhill and zig zag through a sound barrier to King Georges Rd, which you need to use the pedestrian lights to cross. Which takes a while of course. Again, not really any signs for bikes.
On the other side of King Georges, there are maps for the ``M5 Linear Park'' showing routes to the east on both the north and south sides of the motorway.
Once you pick up this path, it's pretty sweet. There are lots of signs atleast reminding you that you're on a cycle path, and it's pretty hard to lose the trail. The road crossings are good, although you have to use another set of lights to cross at Kingsgrove Rd. It's quieter because the M5 East sound barriers are better I guess. And a lot of it is downhill. Nice!
There is one bit on the south side where a lovely downhill run is interrupted to send you along a back street for a hundred metres or so that could be a little better signed. There's some cute mini give way signs to cross a Sydney Water access road to a canal. Why the cyclists rather than the trucks need to give way at this point though I'm not sure.
Also a few bits could do with some optimising. An example: there's one bit near Beverly Grove Park where you make a right hand turn near a motorway underpass. In winter, it's in dark shadow, and there's gravel right where you're trying to turn. I can see many a cyclist sliding off here
All those grumbles are on the south side. The north side is a lot smoother.
Anyway, you end up pretty quickly at Bexley Rd and there the cycleway stops and it's back to bodgy backstreet bike bashing.
This bit is mostly OK. Not that fast, but with my experience cycling the inner city, this feels relatively relaxed. Less traffic, almost no parked cars on a weekday (mind you I don't pass through here until after 9am), and no trucks.
When the M5 East Cycleway ends, there's a pedestrian overpass with nice ramps so you can cycle slowly over Bexely Rd. But then to get south of the railway line, you have to get over the bridge. The choice: busy Bexley Rd, with 2 narrow lanes each way, or take a dodgy narrow footpath. As always, when I'm on a footpath, I go pretty slow and give walkers absolute right of way. Legally Ishould be walking myself.
The first left after the bridge is Slade Rd. It's OK on a weekdy after peak hour, going east. There's a nasty sharp and narrow crest with no shoulder on the south side and no footpath, so going west is not very attractive at all for cycling. Even on the north side, there's offten parked cars just where you need an escape hatch. Because of the crest, you need to assume the cars will not see you, even more so than usual. I turn on all my defensive cycling skills as I pass through this squeeze point.
But after that it's fairly cruisy. The intersection with Hartill-Law Av at the Bardwell Park shops is fairly realxed, if you're relaxed about being assertive on a bike. Slade turns into Darley Rd, which heads down a steep hill, passing through a park as you cross Bardwell Creek.
A bit of fidgetting just before Turrella station helps to avoid the narrow main car route. Left into John, right into Hannam, left into Wilkins, right into Rickard, then left back onto Hannam. This little bit of Hannam has no parked cars, but not really any rooms for moving bicycles either. It's quiet, but I still stay a bit wary.
As you pass Turrella Station, suddenly the bike route signage kicks in. There's none between Bexley and Turrella, but from here to Arncliffe it's meticulous, pretty much the bets I've seen in Sydney. Every intersection is clearly marked with directions on which way to cycle. Just like the cars get everywhere else in Sydney when there's any doubt on which way to go! There's also random bike logos painted on the road, although you have to look for them under the wheels of parked cars and trucks. I'm still not sure how useful these are other than to help councils pretend they've built a cycle path.
Speaking of trucks, there's plenty around as Arncliffe rapidly mutates from industrial to high rise residential. Even after the building is done, I'm forecasting an increase in parked 4WD's and anxious BMW's as folks who move into these sorts of flats are going to want more than the one car space they're allotted. So conditions are expected to deteriorate.
So, anyway, the route from Turrella Station: Turrella St, Thompson St, Bonar St, Guess Av, Arncliffe St. Arncliffe St brings you onto the western side of the Princes Hwy, just south of the Cooks River Bridge. Here we have another entertaining cycleway episode. Those lovely bike signs I was telling you about, they point straight across 6 lanes of traffic, with no median strip, not even a ramp onto the curb on the other side. With help from an RTA engineer I found out they're going to build a set of traffic lights here. Phew. Meanwhile, despite the green river bank on the other side, I try to avoid the temptation to play frogger with my bicycle.
From here it's north over the footpath on the western side of the Cooks River Bridge (which seems to be encouraged by the bike logo signs, somehow presumably that's legal for this bit).
Marrickville: ``A nuclear free zone. Bicycles can piss off too.''
Some of the bike routes in Marrickville are a con job. They're deceptively half decent at first, but the plan seems to be to terrify you out of such a silly thing as cycling through this suburb. Semi-trailer splat factor is high. Lots of car doors to dodge. Dumps you on King St with nowhere to go. The irony is that people living in Marrickville Council have the lowest car ownership in the state.
Illawarra Rd seems to be the best north-south option.
South Sydney Council seems to say, ``cycle if you must, but do it aesthetically, and keep out from under the wheels of my luxury 4WD!'' But things are generally better in South Sydney than Marrickville (or maybe it's just that I know the territory better), and it's the part of Sydney where you're most likely to see other cyclists on the road.
More info to come as I find time to write it...
Thanks to Neil at Bicycle NSW and Brad at the RTA for talking me through some possible routes before I did it the first time. Thanks to Paul and Fiona from Marrickville and South Sydney Bicycle User Group (MASSBUG) for pointing out Illawarra Rd as the best option through Marrickville. Thanks to Paul from Bike South West BUG for the guided tour through Earlwood and along the M5 shoulder.
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