Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mystery Photo IX - Farm Door

Hot on the heels of the revelation of the last Mystery Photo; uncovering the Festival balloon - and a new community garden - in Oxford Street, Newtown; comes this week's challenge.

Where, in very urban Newtown, is this distinctly rural looking door ?

Cycling to and from Newtown I - Going West

In the previous post; I made some general observations about the state of cycle paths in Sydney and some of the issues with the current approach to planning and building cycleways. In the next few posts I'm going to focus on current and planned cycleways in and around Newtown, starting with the route from Newtown to Stanmore and further west.

View Larger Map

The route from Newtown to Stanmore is at least fairly well marked; known as L2 in the Marrickville council labelling scheme; this path flows up Mary Street, through the park then down Albermarle Street before turning at Baltic Street, past the Scientology School then down to the Liberty Road roundabout.

Sign on the return leg at the entry to the park

The Albermarle Street leg of this route is particularly problematic; a theoretically two way road not wide enough for even a car and bike to pass; it's also crossed with stop signs every second block; with limited visibility at intersections this is not conducive to smooth or safe cycling.

The alternative Bedford Street route is more spacious and has fewer stops; however it is more trafficked; and getting to it involves negotiating King Street at the dangerous Newtown Bridge. The solution for me is to make Albermarle Street one way with contra-flows and remove parking from one side of the road. To avoid it turning into a car rat-run; the one way system should change direction half way (say at Chelmsford Street) i.e. one way west from Australia Street to Chelmsford Street then one way West from Bedford Street.

Going further west (with an ultimate destination of Homebush for example) is another story. The marked 'L2' cycle path peters out after the railway line hugging laneway parallel to Douglas St - and for good reason, as the options are not much chop. Some guides recommend a complicated set of zig-zags all the way back to Parramatta Road; twice. This would also appear to be what the OpenStreetMap path is recommending; although it's noteworthy that L5 apparently just disappears somewhere in the vicinity of the Cockatoo Hotel.

View Larger Map

More seasoned riders (such as the Mayor) bite the bullet and take their chances on the narrow and busy Trafalgar Street and Railway Parade rather than the 10 minute detour, but it's not for everyone. The Sydney University guide, reproducing the Bike It map, suggests a split between that way going east; and a slight detour via Brighton Street cycling west.

This gap in the network really needs to be addressed if the government are serious in their commuting targets; if you agree please take the time to comment on the 'Missing Links' link below !

The next post will address cycling north towards the city; in the mean time here are a few more links for you:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mystery Photo VIII Revealed - Lost Balloon

The most recent Mystery Photo asked you to identify the location of the Sydney Festival yellow balloon. It wasn't too long until 'anonymous' (please leave a name; even a made up on - it's much more fun !) picked it as the empty block of land next to the Scientology School on Oxford St Newtown.

View Larger Map

Since the photo was taken last year, the long abandoned site has undergone quite a change, and it looks like some sort of community garden is coming to life here; a quick google check reveals that's the case (via an Athena newsletter). Does anyone have any more information ?

Although the area where the ball was is still looking pretty crappy.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mystery Bar I - Chesterfield

The Mystery Photo series, popular with visitors (albeit shy ones, very few of you leave comments), continues to struggle to last more than a day without being identified. However I will persist and one day create a Mystery Photo that lasts more than 48 hours !

In the meantime, it's time to introduce the first of the Mystery Bar series. There still aren't so many bars in Newtown; sadly more people in Darlinghurst and Surry Hills seem to be taking advantage of the new small bar laws than here in Newtown. Still, things are slowly improving here; and hopefully as this series progresses there will be more and more candidates.

I won't be giving too many hints; especially at this stage. The photo above is taken in a Newtown Bar. Where is it ? And what is the bar's name ? And for a bonus point; what did it used to be called (yes, a hint of sorts).

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cycling and Newtown - Part I

Newtown has a well earned reputation as the heart of Sydney cycling. Cyclists abound on and around King St, and the 'cyclists highway' of Wilson Street was the site of Sydney's first (I think) contra-flow cycle lane. According the NSW government's statistics web page; Newtown ranks second in NSW (really first, as O'Connor is in the A.C.T - strange that the website claims it as part of NSW) for the number of commuting cyclists.

The City of Sydney Council and Marrickville Council (joint custodians of Newtown) both have excellent cycling strategies online (Sydney and Marrickville). One key difference though is that Marrickville council have recently cut their cycling budget - despite the best intentions of the Greens - whereas Sydney Council are spending millions on implementing theirs.

The above dichotomy reveals are more general problem with cycle paths in Sydney. Given the state government's complete lack of interest in cycling, it's left in the hands of local councils. As a result, cycle paths (where they exists) typically stop at council boundaries (or anywhere else where the money happns to run out). The classic example of this in Newtown is the way the Stanmore - Newtown cycleway peters out at the corner of King Street and Mary Street, with an unfriendly one way street between it and the aforementioned Wilson Street cycle highway.

Amazingly there is a detailed plan to fix this intersection and unify these paths (on page 101 of Marrickville's cycle strategy) although no details on timing or funding (nor even whether the RTA would agree to losing one lane of one of the few East - West routes in inner-Sydney).

Sydney Council has recently announced plans for a Cycle Hub at Taylor Square. The planned hub will include showers and a bike repair centre. There are doubts about whether this is the right location for the hub; on the positive side it's on the intersection of three major cycle routes; on the other hand it's not clear it's close enough to offices to be really useful for commuters.

Newtown's Hub would seem like an obvious site for a similar facility (we can't let Surry Hills get one up on us) - perhaps associated with the community centre in my old office (a.k.a the Town Hall) - situated as it is at the intersection of several bike routes. It could act as a de facto bike parking facility for Newtown Station, given that Railcorp will not commit to decent bike facilities. What do you think ?

In Part 2 I'll discuss in more detail some of the local routes in and around Newtown and planned upgrades; in the meantime here are some (hopefully) useful links - let me know if I've missed any !
  • Bike Sydney
    BIKESydney was formed in 2000 to help look after the Sydney City Council Area (Australia) and is affiliated with Bicycle NSW.
  • Massbug
    Local bicycle group covering Marrickville and former South Sydney Council areas. The group meets on the first Wednesday of the month at the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre at 7:30pm.
  • Bicycle NSW
    Peak cycling body providing advice, insurance, ride events bike shop discounts and Australian Cyclist magazine to members
  • RTA Cycleways
    The RTA has produced Cycleway maps for Newcastle, Central Coast, Illawarra and Sydney regions.
  • Sydney Community College
    Offers short affordable cycling courses to improve your skills and confidence in riding a bike.

Mystery Photo VIII - Lost Balloon

The Narrow Lane didn't take too long to identify - again ! Before I resort to really obscure photos; here's one more 'street level' mystery photo to test your knowledge of Newtown. Can you help the Sydney Festival folk relocate their lost yellow balloon ? It's come to rest somewhere in Newtown ...