Roads and Traffic Authority

The RTA's cycling web site.

Assessing a Cycle Path Scientifically: ideas for an objective assessment of bicycle paths, by Mark Robson.

When an Overpass is Not Justified: a sensible solution to the problem of bicycle path/road crossings.

CAMWEST Riders ‘Do’ the M7

Early on a recent Sunday CAMWEST riders met at Prestons to ride the M7 cyclepath. And what an awesome ride it is. Forty kilometres of uninterrupted cycleway, the words don’t even begin to describe the joy of two complete hours of riding without putting a foot on the ground. And uninterrupted riding it was for us, only stopping once for what the French call a ‘natural break’. Whipping down the inclines and knowing there’s open space ahead allows a rider to cover the kilometres quite quickly without any of the usual momentum sapping obstacles of lesser cycle paths. The M7 certainly sets the standard in smooth, open pathways.

The sports reserve in Ash Road at Prestons provides a great starting point except for a lack of water and toilets. Cars can be left here parked off the road, or the train isn’t too far away. Joining the M7 from here is a piece of cake, and we set off with double drink bottles filled to the brim. The path traverses some lovely wetlands and the sound of frogs and birds is always with you, just set your gaze to the side away from the motorway. Further on we come across some painted lines on the path, all leading to a crashing stop at the fence of a right angle turn. This is evidence that you can still have a serious accident on an off-road pathway.

Crossing the M4 bridge we have one of those ‘moments’ with a wayward pedestrian who jumps sideways as we approach from behind less predictably than a kangaroo in the scrub. By the time we’ve covered 25 km we are searching for water, and toilets, and find neither, as we knew we wouldn’t. When we reach the north end at Old Windsor Rd thoughts go to coffee and the inevitable, “Where’s the nearest coffee shop?” question arises. We look up the hills toward Norwest, change our mind and head downhill toward Parramatta and are rewarded with a coffee shop just off the North-West T-Way.

This was far from a path audit, it was a ride, to enjoy and experience the M7 at speed. It’s a superb ride, but take your own water. There are plenty of places where a tap or two could have been installed, but it simply hasn’t been done. Toilets are more difficult, and with the isolation of the area, with toilets may come vandalism and other problems. However, I fear the frog ponds of Hinchenbrook will become polluted by the natural output as cyclists feel forced to stop and ‘go’ in the bushes. Ladies, take your own toilet paper as well. There should be access to water and toilets at least every 15 km, and signposts are needed at the suburb connections detailing what services might be found there and how far, for example, an arrow with “Shops 900m”. There’s nothing worse than being 25 km from home and not being able to find a coffee!

The main criticism of the path itself that I heard on the day was about the almost continual gradient changes. The path goes up and over or down and under all of the motorway entrance and exit ramps, at least 20 of them, but also follows the original terrain rather than keeping with the nice steady gradient of the motorway itself. In some cases this is needed to create connections to path side suburbs, but in many cases the poor cyclist has to ride over the hill while the motorists is given a level run through a cutting. Surely those cuttings could have been cut 5 metres wider to include the cycle path.

We return home along the T-Way paths and discover just how poorly these have been constructed in comparison. The 2 T-ways almost connect together at Westmead, and the Liverpool T-Way returns you to within a kilometre of two of the M7 start point. It’s a 75 km round trip, with over 70 km of it being on cycle paths.

Mark Robson
November 2007