The RTA hates cyclists. You might have already guessed that, but I have proof.
I rode through the inner west to Meadowbank (where there’s these ugly apartments called Shepherd’s Camp or something similar – no self-respecting shepherd would come within a mile of them, I’m sure). From there, the bike path winds along the north of the river until it dumps you on a pot-holed dirt road ending in a boat ramp.
Once you get back on a bike path, you find that the section under Silverwater Road has been closed – I think there’s more ugly development about to start. Instead, signs saying Parramatta lead you onto Silverwater Road going south at the start of the bridge. Maybe you have to be a local to know the secret route that isn’tÂ signposted, but I was trapped into wending my way through the industrial backstreets of Silverwater and onto the footpath of the Great Western Highway – parts of which are labelled as bike paths. cracked and narrow and obstructed by street furniture and parked trucks along Auto Alley. It’s a sick joke.
After getting to the other side of Westmead Hospital, there’s a nice bike route to Richmond that parallels Old Windor Road – no cycling on that! Nice until you run out of signs and there’s a fork where one path loops back to the right and appears to head to Dundas or Northmead. The other path – the one I took and the wrong one – heads north-west; a more obvious direction you’d think.
Anyway. I ended up in the middle of nowhere and saw a path labelled with Blacktown, so I followed that as I figured that might be a decent route. Again, the signs end and you must have to be a local to know where to go. I started following main roads on the GPS map like Cornelia Road, and ended up on Blacktown Road, where I found a shopping center and stopped for lunch at 10am.
Perusing the map, I decided that the best route was BungarribeeÂ Road all the way to Doonside and then cut across the M7 where I planned to leave the cycleway. All in all, I think I made better time by not trekking north to Kings Langley.
After I hit the M7, I followed the route I had planned with a slight detour via an early turn through Plumpton where I passed a school I recognised from the ABC doco – Plumpton High Babies. It certainly looks bleak enough and boring enough out there that making babies must seem like an appealing diversion for teenagers.
The good thing about being on a bike is the ability to hit a footpath when the road leads you the wrong way. My route had listed Maple Road in North St. Marys, but that ends with a on-way south turn on Forrester Road. I headedÂ north on the footpath and jumped back onto the road near the roundabout at Christie Street.
After that it was a straight run to Penrith via a stop at Werrington County. There’s a car recycling plant somewhere near one of the creek crossings that isn’t very clean – the air was filthy and stinking of rubber and burnt engine oil for most of a kilometre.
Perhaps, on the way back, I might ride to Penrith and then catch a train into the city and avoid the uninspiring scenery. I was the only cyclist on the roads and felt like a real stranger in a strange land. I was heckled twice – once by a group of skinheads in a ute and the other time by some revhead who obviously felt I was taking up valuable room he could be using.
On a cooler day, though, it would be a decent ride as it’s mostly flat. I took two hours to get to Parramatta and there were a lot of commuters going into the city that I met about halfway there. Overall it was 4:38 or thereabouts for the 75km to Penrith.
It could almost be a doable thing – living in the mountains – if you had friends you could crash with for a few days, work from home a few more and commute by bike once a week. Just daydreaming of course.
One big lesson from all of this; a GPS with a map is essential. Local knowledge is also good, but you can do without if you’re prepared to backtrack a bit when the map doesn’t show all the features you’d like. Next time I should try it with the OSM map and see if that has a better set of features -Â like bike paths; that would be very handy.
The ride data is still on the GPS. I’ll upload it and update this post with map stuff once I get back to Sydney.
Update: Here is the ride data.
Question… where does the Duck Creek cycleway go? I saw a sign for this at the end of Duck Street, just west of Silverwater, and started to follow it, before deciding that it might not go to Parramatta. Maybe I was wrong; looking at OSM, it appears that it may be what I wanted to find as it would lead me onto and off the M4. It also appears to connect back to Olympic Park at Homebush, and from there, you connect to the section of my inner west loop throughÂ Five Dock. That would mean I could avoid the unlabelled mess north of the river!
It’s not something I’d do on a regular basis 🙂 I was speaking to a guy at the station with a bike who was merely commuting; I’d hesitate to call him a cyclist as it’s probably not an easy lifestyle to follow and it can’t be more than a secondary mode of transport in general, I suspect.
He asked if I were on crazy pills, but there were cyclists I saw on the M7 cycleway so you can probably be viewed as more normal further east.
The problem is the dominance of the car in the imagination of the ‘travelling public. Maybe once peak oil really hits and the GFC forces more people to the wall, cars will be too expensive to run and maintain over time and there’ll be more people forced to consider alternatives. I’ve heard reports that the rate at which bicycles are being bought has hugely increased in the last year or so compared to cars.
More facilities will help but it’s not like the roads are crap for cycling on – once you get used to the traffic. What would be better than bike lanes and similar is paths between shops and homes, and some place for kids to learn and get confidence.
I guess the normal roads I traverse most people (cycling) would consider horrible. I don’t regard traffic as such an enemy most of the time. It’s just the people who are idiots: in cars, on bikes, or on foot, it doesn’t really matter. I’m with Greg Egan on this one – paranoia keeps me alive. Regardless of the enemy.
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