I've never been on the thing myself (and according to the NRMA, no other cyclists have ever used it either).
TAXPAYERS are pouring millions of dollars into lining motorways with cycleways that are barely used - and are building a new bicycle lane the NRMA says will effectively cost $300,000 for every cyclist that uses it.
I just had to see this sinkhole for myself.
The Iemma Government is building a cycleway alongside choked Epping Road, despite as few as 25 cyclists using that corridor each day.
At $7.6 million for the Epping Road cycleway, the NRMA says that would amount to spending $300,000 per cyclist on a lane that is unlikely to attract many more riders, based on the experiences of the M2 motorway.
The people that write this stuff might like to consider that most of the "cycleways" that have been constructed in Sydney are the equivalent of the infamous "bridge to nowhere". We have potemkin cycleways. A nice ribbon of concrete that starts nowhere in particular and suddenly stops at nowhere useful. For any transport artery, be it a canal or a river or a road or a railway or a flight path or a space elevator, it has to join up two places that people want to travel between.
The RTA has this wonderful knack of completely failing to get the idea that most people have a particular destination in mind when they leave home in the morning. They want to go to school or work or the shops. Imagine if the RTA built roads that stopped a few kilometres short of your house, and then failed to go anywhere near a mall or university or hospital. Imagine how stupid you'd think they were if you built a multistorey car park, and then they didn't join the road up to the entrance.
Things like that might detract slightly from the utility of the transport medium of choice, and act as a disincentive for people to use it. Luckily, most of us cyclists are not terribly rational, so we don't let the ongoing cock-ups of the RTA from detering us from going for a ride.
From where I am, the most direct route would be to go over the Gladesville Bridge and then straight up to Epping Road. However, I've tried that a few times, and I am not a big fan of the heartbreaking hill known as Burns Bay Road. It's one of the few hills where I defer to vehicles with four wheels and actually get off the road and ride on the footpath, because it's impossible to go up that hill at more than about 9km/h (unless you are Lance Armstrong, who might go up it at 15km/h). It's a complete bastard of a hill - long, winding and steep, steep, steep. Last time I did it, I got to the petrol station at the top of the hill and just quietly expired in the shade by the bowsers for a while. Once my heart rate fell below 200, I felt that I might live to see another day.
So I thought I'd do the sneaky thing and go around the ridge line that runs along the north shore. I figured I'd go out to Rhodes, duck across to Meadowbank and see if there was a less hilly way up to Epping Road.
Well, guess what? There is no way to go around the ridge line. There are no gaps in it. You simply have to go up and over it, via a steep path or an extra steep path. As it turned out, the path I took was steeper than the hill that I was trying to avoid.
Once I got to Meadowbank, I had no idea of where I was going. Therefore, I fell back on that old favourite known as The Force. That, and waiting for another cyclist to appear and simply following them in the hope that they were going where I wanted to go.
As luck would have it, The Force delivered up not one, but two cyclists to follow. The second bloke that I latched on to looked remarkably fit, and he had calves like small hams. I was wondering how he got calf muscles like that, when the hill began.
I could see that it stretched up a long way, that it curved, and that it got steeper just before the summit. And I could also see that it was going to take several minutes of low gear grinding to get up that bastard. Oh dear, why couldn't I have gone via Linley Point like the sensible people do?
By the time we made it halfway up the hill, I swear the calves of the guy in front of me had swelled by 50%. Each calf looked like two avocados in a sock. Big avocados too. And sweaty to boot.
There was just no way in hell I was going to let that guy drag me off, so I hung onto his smelly avocado calves like a baby monkey hangs onto his mum.
After we got to the top, the rest was just a blur. I hung onto his tail for a while, and then he peeled off in a direction that didn't look right. So I studied the "map" that I had brought along, and that got me a few kilometres closer to my destination.
And then I ran out of map. I had printed out the section of map that I required, folded it and stuck it in the back pocket of my shirt. The further I rode, and the more hills I did, the more sweat it absorbed. By the time I was in the upper reaches of North Ryde, my map was no more. It was a ball of mush.
Plus I was out of time, so I did a U-turn and retraced my steps as best I could. I found that just by rolling, I hit 60km/h going down that nasty hill - without even trying, and I really would have let rip, except that there was a T-junction at the bottom, and bike brake pads are only so good for stopping heavy bastards like me.
After 2 hours and about 40km/h of riding, I was home again, never having seen the Epping Road cycleway. I took note of the street names of the intersection where I turned around, and had a look at the map after I had stood in a cold shower for half an hour. I had made it to within a kilometre of the start of the cycleway.
You might ask how I managed to not find an enormous motorway that cuts through the northern suburbs of Sydney. Well, it's easy when you are lost in the tangled back streets of suburban cul-de-sacs and roads that turn back on themselves. In fact, if I didn't know any better, I would have said that I was lost in Canberra.
The good thing is that having gone so far, it shouldn't be too hard to do it again, and then push on the final kilometre to the cycleway. Next time though, I am packing the map in a plastic bag.
The other good thing is that I will sleep like a log tonight. I am utterly, utterly shagged. Those hills were something else.