Feature: Duck River Cycleway ProposalMark Robson wrote this article in 2003. He also wrote another related article that you may also like to read.
A Missing Link
When one takes a wide view of the cycleways of western Sydney there are two distinct networks starting to form. West of Woodville Road/Duck River throughout Greystanes, Wetherill Park, Prospect and Fairfield; and to the East based around Bicentennial Park and the Olympic site. To date a stretch a few kilometers wide separates these two networks. From a line roughly along Silverwater/Rookwood Roads to another line roughly along Woodville Road a cyclist traveling east to west has been forced onto normal roads.
Happily this issue is being addressed by two projects, the M4/Fox Street project which has opened in July, 2003 and this Duck River Proposal.
The point is that all of the cyclist traffic generated by the Western part of this network will be funneled through the M4/Fox St pathway to the western end of this proposal. Cycle traffic volumes are likely to be quite large, and a pathway width of 2.5 metres will not be sufficient, especially at weekends in the short term as new cyclists explore the new network of travel opportunities that this critical connection open, but also in the long term as commuters start understanding the benefits of traveling to work by bicycle.
A High Quality Solution Needed
AUSTROADS Part 14 outlines the necessary standard for regional cycleways, and I have no doubt the traffic carried on this proposed cycleway will indeed be regional. The pathway intersection with the M4 path will need to be of a very high standard; with wide radiuses and clear indications of which cycling direction has right of way.
When the existing on-road cycle lanes along Holker St from Silverwater Prison Complex into the Homebush Bay Olympic site area are considered, it is quite likely that Duck River will become the route of choice for cyclists traveling from the M4/Fox St pathway at Granville to Homebush Bay. I consider the riverside nature of the proposal is a major attraction, and much more attractive than the industrial nature of Adderley Street and its narrow traffic light controlled crossing of Silverwater Road at its M4 underpass.
Also travel from Granville to suburbs along the northern side of Parramatta River such as Ermington and Meadowbank will be via Duck River. There is now a continuous cycling facility from Meadowbank Ferry Wharf to the City. This will become a commuter route in the future and so it is important to get the design right now in the planning stages so that it can carry large numbers of adult cyclists that see travel time as important and hence are moving at reasonable speeds (30 kph plus).
For these reasons the connections to existing cycling facilities at the northern end of the proposal is critical. For travel to Homebush Bay Holker St will become a cycling thoroughfare. Holker St should be linemarked with on-road cycle lanes in both directions for its entire length, creating for the first time a continuous cycling facility from Parramatta to the city.
The short loop through Silverwater Park and Wilson Park is an opportunity to create a Silverwater Road underpass, allowing cyclists for the first time to cross this obstacle without having to stop and dismount at traffic lights. In fact, at a continuous 25 kph it may be faster to do the extra 1000 metres around this loop rather than travel down Holker St and negotiate Silverwater Road at traffic lights, where a wait of 2.4 minutes at the traffic lights is highly possible (2.4 minutes is the time it takes to travel 1000 metres at 25 kph). The project should include continuation of an off-road pathway through Silverwater Park, under Silverwater Bridge and linking up to the existing cycle lane adjacent to the bus only road between Newington Road and Silverwater Road.
Along the central part of the proposed alignment, and to the northern end there are some right angle bends that are of concern. Cycle traffic at 20 kph needs a radius of at least 5 metres to turn safely. Industrial buildings on street corners can reduce sight lines below minimum safe levels. These corners needs to have radiuses as large as possible within the constraints of the space available, with clear warning signs for approaching cyclists. On other projects I have seen the path divided in half, leaving it clear where the centre of the path is with a 10 cm of grass, or some other permanent centre line treatment to avoid head on accidents.
Safety at Crossings
There is a concerning trend emerging when off-road cycleways need to cross a road. At grade crossings where the cyclist must give way to motorized traffic do nothing to encourage cycle use; and for parents with school age children this type of intersection is extremely dangerous. ALL road crossings should be at either underpasses or traffic lights; and where the cycle traffic is not parallel to the major traffic flow, such as where Holker St crosses Silverwater Rd, thought needs to be given to the signal system’s response to a cyclist pressing the button and to placement of the buttons so they can be pressed without dismounting. Though Short St appears a quiet street, it appears to be another example of “at grade” crossing of a cross street. At the northern end, there appears to be at least one of these type of road crossings on what is marked as a roadside pathway.
In Parramatta LGA, such a problem has been tackled at Clyde St by bringing the cycleway across the road about 30 metres from a pedestrian crossing. Less confident and inexperienced cyclists then have the option of choosing to dismount and get right of way across the pedestrian crossing; this can also be the method of choice for experienced cyclists in busy traffic times.
At the southern end of the proposal, the roadside pathway alongside Junction Street and Parramatta Road runs parallel with the newly opened M4 pathway and seems redundant. Clearly this proposal will one day be linked along the riverside to the existing pathway that stretches south along the river from the southern side of the International Mail Centre rather than waste this part of the funding, I believe it would be better spent on bridging at least part of the narrow gap between point 27 and the International Mail Centre by constructing the equivalent distance of cycleway through the Clyde Marshalling Yards. Perhaps a temporary route can be established using the Clyde railway station overbridge, Berry St, and Martha Street to link to the M4 pathway. This would require only a few hundred metres of sub-standard footpath to be negotiated alongside Parramatta Road, and with some signs explaining the temporary nature of the route might be adequate until the missing 1.5 kilometres can be constructed to the proper standard.
Alternatively the funding could be spent on providing the Parramatta Road underpass beside Duck River so footpath based cyclists could pass under the obstacle it presents on their way to Berry Street to Clyde Station. The existing footpaths in the area, whilst below the standard for permanent roadside cyclepaths, are adequate for temporary use, please spend the money on advancing the final aspects of the project which when completed will be an off-road pathway the entire length of the Duck River. Signage could be used to legalise these existing footpaths for cyclist use until the project is completed. Of course the best solution would be to bring forward the funding for the completion of the final link through Clyde Marshalling Yards, complete the entire Duck River Cycleway and save money by not duplicating this section.
The original Bay to Mountains Cycleway concept called for on off-road link from Mona Park at Auburn to Homebush Bay. Whilst this proposal is not a direct link usable for commuters in a hurry, by making the connections at both ends the objective of having a continuous high standard cycling facility between these 2 points will be achieved, creating a fantastic leisure facility that will allow the community to experience the many benefits of cycling and perhaps help them to see the possibilities of travelling by bicycle regularly. When completed the Duck River cycleway will be a wonderful facility for both recreational and commuter cyclists and recreational pedestrians, however this proposal will not reap its full benefits for the community unless it is properly and seamlessly connected to existing cycling infrastructure at both ends.[an error occurred while processing this directive]