An Unbroken Line Through The CBD
It’s hard to believe, but there’s a single continuous and unbroken cycling line through the heart of one of Sydney’s largest CBD areas, Parramatta. It shows just what can be done with planning, money, commitment and some luck. I set out with my trip computer and stopwatch to prove how poorly conceived the Parramatta River cycleway is, and came away with a startling result.
As I enter Parramatta Park from the Westmead gate I survey the challenge ahead. The skyline is filled with tall buildings, the sun is just setting, and my goal is to ride continuously without touching the ground from one side of the CBD to the other, and average 20 kph, smack in the middle of the evening peak hour. Sacre bleu, impossible, idiotic, so it seemed.
Starting on the internal park road I whip up some speed to get the early average high, down a short slope and across a causeway then a short climb up to the Stadium. Behind here an all bitumen route exists, but I need a short grassy detour to bypass a gate blocking through access, a small gutter drop, another gate; this time with a very narrow squeeze between steel posts and I’m off into the pool car park. You need 360 degree car awareness to barrel through here at speed, and knowledge of the exact aisle the cycle path begins to hit it at full speed.
The first big obstacle is O’Connell St, and there’s and underpass, and the same applies to Marsden St, the two biggest vehicle thoroughfares so far. A quick dart through a private car park drops me into Market St. Church St ahead has little traffic at this point, and the left turn into the bus lane is unimpeded, followed by a good look over my shoulder as I make a big right turn into Palmer St. There’s a pedestrian crossing nearby for the feint of heart, but now speed is my ally. Soon I’m turning into Sorrell St and after a slight hold up at some construction works I zoom down the awfully steep ramp to the riverside path.
Here the obstacles are more likely to be toddlers and mums with strollers, and none are prepared for a cyclist passing at 25 kph, but seem apologetic as I sprint past. Wilde Ave is easily under passed and I’m across a small but dangerously narrow causeway to the Rivercat terminal. The wheelchair ramp is impossible to find amongst the maze of stairs and I glance longingly across to the construction fence where the next cycle path extension is almost ready take cyclists smoothly out to and under Macarthur St and bypass this little problem.
I find the ramp, and burst onto the Charles St footpath, bypass the traffic lights and join George St. Hang on a second, yes Parramatta does have traffic lights, these are the first ones I’ve seen so far, amazing considering where I am. As George St approaches Macarthur St I find again there’s an underpass in just the right place, it’s a low volume traffic road, but it works. Now I’m off freely down the riverside along George St, quickly onto the Noller Parade footpath so I can go the wrong way down a one way street for a few metres, welcome to cycle commuting, then along River Rd West to the footpath beside James Ruse Drive. Up across to the North side of the river and there’s yet again an underpass under the biggest and widest road of the journey and I meet the start of the Parramatta Valley Cycle path at the UWS campus.
I check my trip computer, and the average speed for the 5.65 km is 20.6 km./h. Wonderful! I made it. And it shows that my wheel has been rolling for 16 minutes and 19 second. I check my stopwatch and the reading is just startling, total elapsed time including stops is 16 minutes and 20 seconds. In my 5 kilometre dash across the CBD I’d been stationary for just 1 second, unbelievable. I had baulked at either the gutter drop near the Stadium or the steep descent into the river. I am forced to record that the ‘transport ratio’ of this 5 km combination of paths and back roads, to the nearest whole percentage point, is 100%. I have drawn a new line on my cycling map, and the line is purple to signify perfect.
One week later I return to try the run in the opposite direction, and I’m exited to find the new works near the ferry terminal are open, and this means that the ride from East to West can now be done in the same time, with the same lack of obstacles; except a few dozen after-work joggers by the river who thought they owned the path.
A combination of excellent use of a natural asset (the river), carrying out of some good planning, and a good sprinkling of concrete in just the right places, has resulted in a cycle route that is totally continuous. Yes there are still some improvements that can be done, and the Council has some plans in that direction west of O’Connell St. Work is needed around Church St and near the Riverside theatres to remove some difficult on-road metres, or add some signage to warn motorists of cyclists crossing the road here; but as of today this amazingly good commuter route is open for business.
And of course the ends of this little survey are not the ends of the path. The Westmead end of course become the North-West T-Way and the route now goes to Windsor, although sadly with too many traffic light crossings to make it anything near as attractive; and to the East the PVC goes to Silverwater, thence you can cross the river into Newington and Olympic Park with a beautiful run all the way without encountering any traffic lights.
It’s a fine day on a bike when you have to stop for water, not for traffic.