Monday, 29 December 2008

How to completely fail to find Epping Road

The opening of the cycleway along part of Epping Road has no doubt been so traumatic for the RTA, they will never open another one. The screeching and hollering from motorists that feel they have been denied an extra lane could be heard over a Spinal Tap concert (with the volume turned up to 11).

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.

3 comments:

Wand said...

Gee BOAB - you were getting pretty close to my area of Sydney which is in the hills about 5 km further west of Epping Road. If I'd known you were coming I could have thrown out the welcome mat!

And I have not tried out the Epping Road cycleway either - or the M2 (what's left of it) - probably won't. Overall I'm content to cycle around this area pumping up hills and taking in the scenery from a couple of cycleways that the local council built through the bush.

Claire said...

This post was inspired by the ingenious and controversial "Boy on a Bike." I hate repeating ideas written by people much more talented than I am, but it's one of my biggest pet peeves and one of the most simple yet important issues to solving Sydney's public transport issues.

This post probably won't mean a lot to anyone that isn't committed to constructing proper bike-paths in Sydney. I can understand why so few people consider this an important issue, given the hostility with which cyclists are treated by the state government, and oblivious commuters. It is not at all ironic, that this is not a very visible issue. But having recently moved to Drummoyne, my boyfriend and I are amongst the many other cyclists in our area that celebrate having a "bike path" to ride to work as an alternative to the hour and a half bus or car ride that is peak hour traffic on Victoria Road. The only problem is, as you will read in the following blog, the RTA has a nasty habit of building cycleways that are the equivalent of the infamous "bridge to nowhere:"

"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. Instead, they have constructed a nice ribbon of concrete that starts nowhere in particular and suddenly stops at nowhere useful. Imagine if the RTA built roads that stopped a few kilometers 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 multi-storey 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 deterring us from going for a ride."

http://boy-on-a-bike.blogspot.com/2008/12/how-to-completely-fail-to-find-epping.html

For me a proper cycleway throughout Sydney is important because I believe it has the potential to be the cheapest and most ingenious solution to congestion in Sydney. Many commuters who work full time, struggle to find time to exercise given the amount of hours per week they devote to traveling to and from work. A proper bike path that logically connects all of Sydney would be a pretty decent idea that would not only cut down travel time, and relieve congestion, it would also increase the health of Sydney residents.

Now, I'm not a doctor, but I can say with some certainty, that people who have to commute to work, are probably the people who are most in need of exercise. Commuting has already been proven to be one of the most stressful experiences, but for families who work long hours in stressful jobs, the chance of heart-disease and stroke increase exponentially as they get older. Especially with an aging population, exercise is the very best thing to keep a healthy heart, healthy bones and lower cholesterol. If there were proper bike paths in Sydney, I truly believe people would make the change, and invest in riding to work.

There are only benefits to this:

1) Incidental exercise means that people will get fit, lose weight and no longer feel bad about not devoting enough time to exercise. Or if they already take time out of their day to exercise, finding an alternative time that is also convenient (i.e riding to work and getting fit), they do not have to endure the guilt of having less time to spend with their friends or loved ones.

Think of the most common long-term health problems of the 35-50+ age bracket:

- Weight gain.
- Heart disease (heart attacks, angina).
- Stroke.
- Clotted arteries (as a result of cholesterol and fat deposits).
- Arthritis.

Exercise has been attributed to be a direct preventative of all of these health problems (that and fish oil).

2) People will be able to spend more time with their families, not having to worry about leaving early enough to miss peak hour, or arrive home late because they've been stuck in traffic.

3) Although the cost of a proper bike, plus the helmet and the rest of the gear can be a hefty investment, if people truly commit themselves to riding to work every day, even with the cost of a bike, you'd still be saving on petrol and/or travel passes.

4) With less people having to drive to work you will be simultaneously relieving congestion, as well as cutting down on carbon emissions.

Unfortunately, the RTA needs to get it into their thick skulls that a proper bike lane ,(no - not one skinny lane that is shared with pedestrians), is necessary for increased proper and ongoing bike path usage. And don't think for a second that an already skinny lane with a frigging line of paint down the middle can be used as a defense. Every time I go out for a ride, I always see at least two people on the ground moaning in agony, holding various body parts, usually limbs and heads - as a result of pedestrian vs cyclist collisions.

As for the claim that the Epping Road cycleway is currently costing approximately $300 000 per cyclist as a result of the meager 25 people that use it - this is a convenient and completely fictitious statistic. Just last week I was driving down Epping Road, in the middle of the day, and I saw at least ten cyclists. This is mid-week, in the middle of the day. Imagine how many people would be using it during peak and rush hours. This "statistic" is being used to discredit one of the few good ideas Iemma had during his short-lived career, and one of the most necessary transport innovations Sydney has ever needed.

For more blogs like this one, visit An Irritating Truth , at:
http://www.anirritatingtruth.blogspot.com

An Irritating Truth said...

We found the entry to epping road cycleway! And we found the entrance, well ok - we found an entrance. It's up by naremburn (opposite the pizza shop), though I suppose that really doesn't help you much.