European style cycling in Newcastle?

photo 1-11

I love seeing images of European streets with streams of bicycles flowing along the street, dominating the cityscape, their riders almost ethereal in their calmness. I dream about the day when we might see such sights in Newcastle without it being a peloton of training cyclists or just a group on a social ride.
So it struck me as a little odd when recently, at a talk given by a fellow bike aficionado who had recently travelled to Berlin, when she said that riding there was too relaxing and calm, that she missed the constant vigilance that we need to maintain to ride safely here: the constant checking for cars over the shoulder, the incessant watching of the ground for obstacles: gutter ramps to ensure they don’t have unexpected bumps, potholes, broken glass and grates, all potential dangers to the unwary cyclist.
When I ride in areas that are potentially hazardous but that have a large number of cyclists there is not the same quality of cyclists all following the same line that I see in those European images. Bikes are crossing in different places, and cars and pedestrians and maybe a railway crossing all add to the confusing mix. The whole scene becomes overwhelming with so much to take in and so many hazards to avoid. There is not the safety in the numbers or in the habitual riding the same procession that occurs in European cities. It makes me wonder if it will ever be possible on Australian streets to replicate the cyclists’ nirvana that European streets appear to be. Will we ever choose to travel that same path together and to possess the assurance that will gain the respect of the car drivers that we share the roads with?

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4 Responses to European style cycling in Newcastle?

  1. laurent says:

    I am not sure European style cycling is always a sort of ‘nirvana’ : as you wrote, constant checking is a good survival way.

    In my country some cycling highways are built over old disused railroads.
    For instance: from Bordeaux to Lacanau-Océan, a sixty-kilometers dedicated cycle-path gets across large wood, without car.
    Here is a good blog written by a sympathetic British cyclist:
    That’s a kind of paradise maybe, but it’s far from Bordeaux downtown.
    Next week I am going to ride this lane with my randonneur, I will appreciate quality of air and low level noise.

    • Vicki says:

      I think some cities would be better than others in Europe. I’ve visited Europe but only in the Netherlands did I see lots of bikes, most places it was like here. I haven’t been to Copenhagen though. That riding track sounds like our Fernleigh track, I’ve written about it a few times.

  2. laurent says:

    I’ve seen former railroad named “Fernleigh Track”: the great power of Google maps!
    By the help from your good pictures it seems this track is wider than Bordeaux-Lacanau’s, probably similar to the gold standard from Netherlands.

    • Vicki says:

      It is an excellent track, one of the best ones around, wide and well appointed, but there is a lot of conflict between fast cyclists and slower cyclists and pedestrians.

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