I use to ride Linear Park a lot. At one time I lived in Brompton and worked in Glenelg, so it was part of my daily commute. Another time, I had a close friend in Fulham and I was in Magill, so the route was my cross-town ride. These days I use the route to ride from the eastern side of town into the University or the city.
Recently I rode on Linear Park a number of times in one day, both during the daylight hours, and at night, and was struck with several observations.
While sections of the track have been improved in recent years (thinking of what was a very narrow section just past Underdale), overall the condition and amenity of the path is still very poor. I was almost thrown off my bike where the path has been raised by tree root damage, and then allowed to erode. In addition, debris (sand, gravel, tree branches) and mud from recent flooding is still covering much of the path, several days after the heavy rain. My point is, if this was a major road – say Sir Donald Bradman Drive – and it had this level of core infrastructure damage and mess, then road crews would be out there immediately fixing it. Because Linear Park is a shared use path, this attention to detail and concern does not seem to exist.
I think that one issue with Linear Park (in fact with many paths that cross council jurisdictions) is that responsibility is diluted across councils. Perhaps what we need is a central authority capable of design, maintenance and construction of fundamentally important infrastructure projects such as bicycle paths. As State Government attempts to build Green Links along rail corridors then perhaps this concern needs to be paramount to actually make sure that the corridor gets built and maintained in a consistent and predictable manner.
In addition, while cycling into the city, and out to Hindmarsh on Saturday night, I might have expected to see a number of cyclists using the path to get into town. Guess how many I saw at 6.30 pm on what was a comparatively mild night? None. None at all. No other cyclists the whole trip. This is ridiculous; the route should be awash with people riding bikes. This particularly struck me as I came out under the bridge into Elder Park. It was deserted. What is a beautiful boulevard and riverfront promenade through the heart of Adelaide was completely desolate, not a soul in sight. This felt bizarre, where were all the people? One thing that struck me - if we want to get more people cycling into the city using Linear Park then it has to be safe, convenient, fun and amenable. Adelaide City Council has spent a lot of money on making Elder Park and the river front area of the city really attractive. But it is money wasted if people don’t go there. One reason I would think that most average cyclists wont ride a bike at night into the city via Linear park (and miss out on the safety and convenience of a quiet off-road cycling route) is that the approach to the city, both east and west is completely unlit. Pitch black it is from Hackney Bridge to the zoo, and once you go under the train line at Bonython Park and head out towards the brewery then you really want to make sure that you have eaten your carrots. This needs to change. The whole point of crime prevention through urban design
is that people feel safe and secure moving through an area.
Linear Park should
be a busy cycling through-fare, used 24/7 everyday of the year.
Within a 15km radius of the city, and using the corridor as a ‘spine’ and catchment, tens of thousands of cyclists and potential cyclists would have access to what could be a world-class commuter and recreation route.
So, after having all that go through my head mainly while cycling past the desolate Elder Park on a Saturday night, I thought ‘what could the Adelaide City Council do to encourage more people to ride on Linear Park and encourage a cycling culture in Adelaide?’
Here is a thought:
Elder Park is a destination. It is well known for community events, concerts and being centrally located, is an ideal destination to attract people into the city. It is also an area that needs to be busy, with an intensity and attractiveness that will bring people to the area. Every time I have been to a concert in Elder Park I have also noticed that many people cycle in, but that there is very limited bicycle parking.
So, lets build a semi-permanent sound shell in Elder Park. Lets also install bicycle parking (all along the water front on the edge of the park). Then every Saturday night, rain or shine, there will be a free outdoor concert in the park. Something different each week perhaps, jazz one week, a classic ensemble another, a blues band, bit of world music, rock music – what ever would work and draw the crowd. It is publicised as a car free event – people are encouraged to use public transport – imagine the train station so close by! Of course, riding a bicycle to the events would be really significant, and with the lighting vastly improved, and the surface repaired and attended to when it is needed, cyclists, both experienced and novice, will feel safe and be further attracted to using the path for transport. The point of it all is that it would create a critical mass based around an entertainment and community destination, carry on the feel of the Festival and Fringe through into the winter months, a time of year that some in Adelaide feel is a little boring because nothing is on – well this plan could change all that. Elder and Linear Park would become destinations, centres of significant activity, would create employment, city pride, amenity and create something that we could be proud of and celebrate!
My other Thought Bubble can be found here