It’s been four years since I started this blog and I’m evaluating whether things have changed much in Newcastle to make it more bike friendly.
There are now green bike lanes in some streets and I recall the first time I rode in one of them and how it made me feel much safer. They are used in the lead up to traffic lights and act both as a bike box and a way of better enabling filtering through the traffic to gain a position at the front of the traffic queue. These are both good things.
Vintage Spring riders in action. Photo credit Peter McNaughton
I’ve also organised three vintage rides which have helped to promote cycling in the city, as well as being good fun. Vintage bike owners always like the chance to showcase their bikes and many thanks to the City of Newcastle for funding them. I’d really looks forward to being able to attend a tweed ride but never thought that I would be the organiser of them.
Girl with dog in her rear basket
What I am most interested in though is seeing more bike around the streets and this is something that is much harder to quantify. I think there are more bikes, even though bike counts organised by NCM do not show this. When I am out I unconsciously count the bikes I see and while I used to count up to a dozen on a ride during peak commuting times, I now count twenty or more, once I reach a count of twenty I stop counting …
Family riding at Bar Beach
What I am sure of is that the number of people riding fancy street bikes, old ten speeds or other vintage bikes has increased. This is heartening as it indicates that there are more people just pootling around on their bike because its convenient. I also see more upmarket bikes than were ever around before. Also, more cargo bikes. Every year after Xmas there is an increase in the number of shiny new bikes, which has to be a good sign. I no longer get told that my speedwell is a nice bike by random strangers on the street and I take this as a sign that it is no longer unique, there are now so many nice bikes out there.
There has been progress made in the creation of separated bike lanes and shared paths in Adamstown and in Tighes Hill. They are not fully separated but are an improvement over bike pictures in the car door lane. There are also lights for both bike crossings at Kotara and at Throsby Creek, and the bike paths along the foreshore have been linked to the Throsby Creek path. At Merewether Beach, a properly separated lane has been installed and infrastructure all along the beachfronts have improved cycling there.
Family riding at Merewether Beach
Looking to the future, the biggest unanswered question is what will happen with Hunter Street and the inner city. This is still the biggest black spot in Newcastle cycling and with the rail line being made inoperable recently, everyone is watching to find out how the rail corridor will be used. A separated bike lane on Hunter Street would be just as good, but that seems to be an obviously needed improvement that does not get made, even though its revitalisation is supposedly high on the agenda of the council and, perhaps, the state government.
There are other improvements that I know of but have not ridden such as at Wallsend and Carrington.
Photo credit; Grant Donnelly
Westfield Kotara has installed a bike parts vending machine, a nice touch to encourage riders.