Four years of blogging about bikes in Newcastle

IMG_1277It’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.

Spring riders in action. Photo credit Peter McNaughton

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

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.

glebe rd path
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

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

Photo credit; Grant Donnelly

Westfield Kotara has installed a bike parts vending machine, a nice touch to encourage riders.

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8 Responses to Four years of blogging about bikes in Newcastle

  1. Ian says:

    Keep up the incredible work Vicki. Even though I don’t visit Newcastle very often at the moment, your blog keeps me in touch.

    cheers and never stop pedalling


  2. Dan Endicott says:

    We need to be careful about the green bike lanes. They still don’t show the required safety gap of 1.5m each side for cars to pass. So they are still continueing the bad Newcastle driving habits/knowledge

  3. Kimberly says:

    I am interested to hear what you and others think about how the newly disconnected rail line is affecting connectivity for cyclists. A friend coming from the Central Coast, who had somehow missed all the news about the Newcastle rail closure (!), was on the train with his bike. He was planning to come into Newcastle for the day and do some cycling around the foreshore and the beaches. At Hamilton Station he was surprised to find he had to get off, but was assured there were buses to take him into the Newcastle CBD. But, when he went to get on the bus with his bike he couldn’t. Prams can go on the buses, surfboards can go on the buses, but bikes can’t. Hmmm…. Newcastle Council has a cycleways policy, Merewether Beach strip has a new dedicated bike lane and I agree with Vicki I definitely see more people cycling. But now you can’t come into Newcastle on the train with your bike (as I have done many times from the lower Hunter Valley) cycle around the city and then hop back on the train and go home. My friend was ultimately OK, he’s confident and cycled from Hamilton to the CBD, but parts of it are a bit ‘hairy’ probably not best for unconfident/new cyclists on either Maitland Road or Beaumont Street due to the volume of traffic. I often (illegally) ride on the footpath in these circumstances, but you certainly wouldn’t want to do that on Beaumont Street near the station you’d be mowing pedestrians down. Wondered what others thought, this situation certainly seems crazy.

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks for bringing up this issue Kimberley. I have heard some others make the same complaint and I’ll do a separate post on it. Your friend could have ridden to Islington Park and ridden along the throsby creek path into Newcastle. But if you don’t know about it or how close it is to hamilton station, it’s not much use. I am thinking some signage at the station would be useful.

      • Yes that would be a good help. I think the bus drivers need to be aware and maybe could have a cycleway map to give out to riders after they tell them they can’t get on the bus with rheir bike. Better would be buses that can take bikes somehow. I’ve seen photos of public buses with bike racks on the front, can’t remember where but I think in Europe. Maybe these buses need to be campaigned for (or the rail line restored!) Any word on the new light rail carriages and whether they will be bike friendly? They are a long way off though.

  4. Vicki says:

    Kimberley, the bike racks on the front of buses were mooted but not adopted. Instead it was decided that cyclists could take their bikes on to wheelchair accessible buses but wheelchairs take priority if there’s not enough space. Maps are available on the NCM website, the applicable one for hamilton is the Newcastle map …

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