My submission to the EIS

After several weeks of focusing on getting as many people as possible to submit a response to the EIS, I submitted my own response this morning. You can read it below or download it as a PDF document..

In regard to the construction of the Rankin Park to Jesmond link of the Inner City Bypass, I strongly object to the plans as presented in the November EIS to sever the off-road shared path that runs between Jesmond Park and Jesmond, and to replace it with three signalized crossings over multiple lanes of traffic of the bypass on and off-ramps.

I object to this on a number of grounds:

  1. It is unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists.

Having to traverse three sets of signalized crossings will result in pedestrians becoming impatient, and crossing against the lights, with a heightened risk of being hit by traffic coming from multiple directions. Also the design will encourage cyclists off the path onto Newcastle Road, again with heightened risk of serious accident and injury due to the highly complex nature of this interchange.

  1. It is detrimental to motorists.

The current plan to replace the off-road path with signalized crossings is detrimental to the interests of motorists in two ways. Firstly traffic heading west on Newcastle Rd wanting to turn south onto the bypass will have to face delays as pedestrians cross at the lights. Secondly with no continuous off road shared path cyclists travelling east or west will choose to travel on Newcastle Rd instead, thus impeding motorists.

  1. It is bad for the community.

I spent a number of hours at the site where the path is to be closed, talking to pedestrians and cyclists as they passed by. There are a huge range of people who use that path regularly – a dad walking with his young children to the park, local residents walking their dogs, elderly residents of the nearby Jenny MacLeod Retirement Village walking to the park, workers cycling to their place of employment, avid cyclists riding the Two City Circuit, teenagers from Lambton riding to the Brickworks Park in Wallsend. The severance of the shared path represents a significant degradation in community amenity.

  1. It is bad for health.

I took up cycling to work eight years ago, and that decision is the principal reason I am now 20kg lighter and a much healthier person. The health benefits of cycling and walking is no mere statistic, but a living reality. Removing the Jesmond shared path provides a disincentive to people walking and cycling, and will have net negative effect on the health of the community.

  1. It is in opposition to what the overwhelming majority of the community wants.

As creator of the website I had numerous conversations with people on this issue.  With just one exception[1] every person I spoke to, when I showed them the plan to replace the path with three crossings, were opposed to that plan, accompanied with varying degrees of outrage, dissatisfaction and dismay. The current design of three crossings might be an easy solution for the RMS – but no one wants it!

  1. It is financially imprudent.

The failure to retain the east-west off road connection when the bypass is constructed means that it will cost much, much more to retrofit the connection at a later date.

  1. It is a denial of natural justice

The Jesmond shared path runs along the line of the former Newcastle to Wallsend tram line. Tram operations ceased in November 1949 and the rails were removed in December 1949. For 68 years the people of this area have been using this path to traverse between suburbs, and now the State Government wants to take this away without any just recompense. While the plans do contain a much needed shared path overhead bridge on Newcastle Rd that will benefit people travelling north-south, this is no excuse for significantly degrading the path for pedestrians and cyclists travelling east-west. It is perverse that a government that is meant to serve the people should act in a way that marginalises those who desire to move themselves about by the power of their own two feet.

In making this submission to the November 2016 EIS, I would also like to highlight the gross failure of the Roads and Maritime Services to engage in genuine community consultation in the earlier phases of this project. In the past two years, as the concept design, strategic design, and refined strategic design have been exhibited, the RMS have been told numerous times, in no uncertain terms, by a multitude of cycling and community organisations, councils, local parliamentarians, and individual citizens, that the plan to replace the shared path with three signalized crossings was unacceptable.

Opposition to the plan was repeated and overwhelming – and yet the RMS changed nothing!  What sort of consultation is that?  I must draw special attention to section 4.5.4 of the EIS where the RMS supposedly addressed concerns about the removal of the shared path by ‘investigating’ and ‘costing’, and then dismissing two alternatives. The first alternative was a ridiculous and fanciful $30 million overhead bridge.  The second alternative was a $3 million underpass that was dismissed as a possibility because it would be subject to flooding. This second option was just plain dopey, as the underpass proposed was routed along the lowest part of the landscape and adjacent to a major storm water drain – a design blunder astonishing in its naivety.

At best these investigations in section 4.5.4 reveal an embarrassing incompetence, at worst they demonstrate a devious intent to dismiss the concerns of the public in an act of token consultation. The RMS needs to strive towards a higher degree of professionalism, imagination, and public interest in their investigations.

In conclusion, I reiterate my opposition to the severance of the Jesmond Park shared path and call on the RMS to alter their plans as displayed in the EIS to retain the east-west off-road path, by means of an over-pass, under-pass, or combination thereof.

[1] The one exception was a man suffering the delusion that only people who drive cars pay taxes, and that therefore cyclists should pay for cycleways out of their own pocket.

The myth of the mad motorist

I deliberately haven’t been looking at the user comments posted on the Newcastle Herald story on their website. I’ve never found those discussion forums to be a source of polite or rational conversation, and the second hand reports I’m getting of the vitriol being fired at cyclists in response to that story merely confirms that opinion. One of the things that strikes me though, is that the raging rift between motorists and cyclists that the media likes to play up, is in my experience a myth.

For the past two years my cycle commute to work has taken me through the Clyde St railway crossing into Islington where I have to move from the left hand side of Clyde St, to merge in with the traffic so that I can turn right into Chinchen St. I always find that motorists exhibit politeness, patience and courtesy in allowing myself and other cyclists to make that right hand turn.

Clyde and Chinchen Streets, Islington.

Thinking back on my last eight years of cycle commuting, while I have experienced a few occasions of inattentive or careless motorists, I have only been subjected to one incident of abuse and impatience from a motorist in that time. So the idea that motorists and cyclists are somehow in opposition to one another is largely a myth in my view.

So the next time someone tries to whip up a frenzy of outrage over cyclists, its worth remembering that this is a fringe opinion, and that the vast majority of people who drive cars recognise that the provision of off-road cycling facilities is beneficial to motorists and cyclists alike.

Save our Path protest rally

More than 60 people attended the “Save Jesmond Path” protest rally on Sunday morning 10am 11/12/2016. This was a fabulous turnout given how short a notice was given for calling the protest.

The crowd listened to addresses from Mr Lachlan Wetherall (creator of the website), Dr Ben Ewald (a member of Newcastle Cycleways Movement) and from Cr Declan Clausen (Newcastle City Council).

Everyone present was urged to submit a response to the EIS (closes 16th December) to register their objection to the closure of the path.

The path, and the people who want to save it.

Mr Wetherall spoke of how in the space of three weeks he had become a citizen activist in response to the anger at seeing the RMS yet again ignore the community.  He summarised the three aims of the protest.

 Number one, we want the Jesmond shared path retained as continuous off-road path using a combination of overpass and underpass, instead of the current unacceptable and unsafe plan that will force pedestrians and cyclists onto the road.


Secondly, we want the Roads and Maritime Services to stop practicing their token consultation process, where they merely call for submissions and then change nothing – we want genuine consultation, where the RMS actually listens to the overwhelming concerns of the community, and actually changes their plans in response to those concerns.


Thirdly, although the principal aim of this protest is the retention of the off road shared path, there are many other aspects of the bypass plan that are detrimental to cyclists and pedestrians – and they are detrimental because the culture of the RMS and this State government is that they consider pedestrian and cycling infrastructure as an afterthought, an optional add-on, something token to be done for marketing purposes. We want planning of infrastructure in this state, in this city, in this suburb to be done in a way that doesn’t marginalise people who choose to move around under the power of their own two feet.

Lachlan Wetherall addressing the meeting.

Dr Ben Ewald spoke of the many benefits of providing and maintaining good cycling infrastructure, including the fact that on a given space of road, it is possible to move about 6 times as many people per hour on cycles as compared to people driving cars. He spoke of some of the other deficiencies of the bypass plan, and how retaining the Jesmond path as an off-road path would also be beneficial to motorists, as cars travelling west on Newcastle Rd and turning south onto the bypass would not need to stop at a traffic light.

Dr Ewald spoke of the need for everyone to submit objections to the current plans by submitting a response to EIS.

Ben Ewald addressing the meeting.

Councillor Declan Clausen spoke of how Newcastle Council has always been opposed to the flawed plan of the RMS to remove the shared path and replace it with traffic crossings. He indicated that he and Mayor Nuatali Nelmes would be tabling a Mayoral Minute at the last council meeting for the year on Tuesday night, to once again voice their strong support for the retention of the path. He also spoke of a meeting that RMS had last Wednesday with some cycling organisation representatives where the RMS expressed that they are investigating the possibility of retaining the path by a bridge of the onramp/offramp lanes and an tunnel under the bypass lanes. The preliminary costing of this option was said to be 4 to 6 million dollars.

Councillor Declan Clausen addressing the meeting.

In discussions amongst the crowd after the meeting there was a lot of skepticism about the RMS’s investigation of this new option. People have often heard before that the RMS is “addressing concerns” but then seen them change nothing. Secondly there was a fair measure of disbelief at the supposed costings of up to $6 million! If the 450metre Anzac Walk bridge could be constructed for $4.5 million, then there was incredulity that a much shorter bridge and tunnel would cost more. People feared that the RMS is already setting the scene to say that retaining the path can’t be done.

The crowd showing their support for the retention of the Jesmond shared path.

Lachlan Wetherall addressing the meeting.


I’m all in favour of great works of fiction (I quite like Tolkien and Dickens), but I’m not so keen to see great works of fiction appearing in the planning documents for a major road project. As I look at the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), I see a lot of, shall we say, Bewildering Statements (BS).

When you look at the project and summarise the impact on cyclists, it is very clear that there is an overall degradation in cyclist and pedestrian facilities.

New pedestrian and cycleway bridge over Newcastle Road
Jesmond shared path removed and replaced with three sets of traffic crossings.
New shared path along Lookout Rd from Blackbutt Reserve to Ridgeway Rd
On the bypass cyclists get to use the breakdown lane to cycle alongside cars and trucks travelling at 100km/h, and navigate past the on and off ramps with no special provision.

But how does the EIS present it? Here’s all the references to cycling up to section 3 of the EIS …

Page 6 of overview document
page xii Pedestrian and cycling facilities, including a shared path bridge over Newcastle Road
page xv The project would include additional connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists by providing both onroad cycleways and shared paths, including a shared path bridge over Newcastle Road.
page xvii Additional off-road provisions for pedestrians and cyclists including a shared path bridge over Newcastle Road at Jesmond Park
page xviii What are the main beneficial outcomes expected?
Additional connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists by providing both on-road cycleways and shared paths, including a shared path bridge over Newcastle Road.
page xviii How will the likely impacts be managed?
Additional connectivity for pedestrians, cyclists and recreational users of the bushland area.
Page 1 Pedestrian and cycling facilities, including a shared path bridge over Newcastle Road
page 15 The project would also provide additional facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, improve safety through the provision of traffic light controlled pedestrian crossings, new pedestrian footpaths, shared path bridges, and shared paths for pedestrians and cyclists.
page 18 The project would also contribute towards creating a
connected network of off-road paths in Newcastle for use by pedestrians and cyclists.
page 19 The project would also support other directions in the plan by reducing congestion, improving road safety and providing additional pedestrian and cyclist facilities.
page 19 The project would facilitate cycling by providing additional pedestrian and cyclist facilities as outlined in Section 5.3.14.
Page 20 The project would include additional off-road facilities, the on-road route on the bypass, as well as cater for the potential
future routes in planned by Newcastle City Council (Section 5.3.14).
Page 20 The project also includes provision of on-road and off-road cyclist and pedestrian routes.
Page 20 The project would support the strategy by providing a safer and more efficient route for private, commercial and freight transport, and ensuring connectivity of cycle and pedestrian networks.

That last reference is particularly galling … they plan to sever the main east west cycleway and yet claim they are “ensuring connectivity of cycle and pedestrian networks”!

It doesn’t matter how many times you cut and paste the small bit of good news, it doesn’t cancel out the bad news, or alter the reality that this project as it currently stands is a bad outcome for cyclists and pedestrians.

Don’t let history repeat

I’ve been perusing some other sections of the EIS this week, and on pages 28-29 found a salutary reminder that the determination of the RMS to remove the shared off road path in Jesmond is simply a continuation of a pattern of behaviour that they (as the Department of Main Roads) have been engaged in before.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s the DMR planned to ruin Blackbutt Reserve by building State Highway 23 through the middle of it.  It was only sustained and vociferous opposition by local activists, including Tom Farrell that foiled the madness of the DMR.

While I freely admit that the retention of a shared path in Jesmond in 2016 is on a different scale to the salvation of Blackbutt Reserve in 1974, the exact same principle is at work. Unimaginative engineers working for a Sydney based government department draw lines on a page (or computer screen), and unless the local community objects and fights, those plans come to fruition and take away the amenity, beauty and livability of this city.

Map of proposed route of State Highway 23 through Blackbutt Reserve in 1974.

Not so vital

I got a flash brochure in my letter box this week from the State Government with glowing reports about how they are “revitalising” the inner city. Without going into whether this is a good or bad idea, the disparity did strike me – while the inner city gets $500 million for “revitalisation”, the outer suburbs get a stonking $280 million spent on a swathe of concrete and tarmac through the bushland that takes away our our cycle and pedestrian paths.

Revitalising Newcastle.

Tarmaccing Jesmond.

Interchange shortchange

This website is primarily protesting against the proposed closure of the Jesmond cycleway at the northern interchange, because this is the issue that is the most egregious, obvious, and easily communicated.

Its worth noting however that the other major interchanges on this bypass link do little or nothing in regards to cyclist and pedestrian welfare.

Southern interchange

At the southern interchange (where McCaffrey Drive joins Lookout Rd) there is no consideration of cyclists who are travelling north or south along the bypass. Cyclists are expected to ride in the breakdown lane alongside cars and trucks travelling at 90 to 100 kmh, while crossing the busy dual lane entry and exit roads for Lookout Road.

Proposed southern interchange.

Hospital interchange

At the middle interchange, connecting to the John Hunter hospital, the pedestrian/cycle path from the hospital westwards down to Elermore Vale is retained, and people will be able to cross the bypass over a bridge, BUT just prior to the bridge they will have to cross the southbound exit ramp where there will be no traffic signals, and where motor traffic will be approaching them on a rise, on a curve, and transitioning from a 90kmh speed zone.

One minor redeeming point of this plan, is that when an accident does eventually occur, at least there will be a hospital nearby.

Hospital Interchange.

Every little bit helps

crossingsignRiding to work this morning I had few spare moments to paste some flyers at the cycle crossing at Turton Rd. In my haste to get to work on time I had taped the flyer directly above the button.

Riding home this afternoon I was quite pleased to see that someone had carefully adjusted the position of the sign so that it was in a more visible position, at eye level facing towards where a person would naturally stand to press the button.

Every little bit helps. Thanks to whoever did this.

One step forward, three steps back

Although the RMS plans for the Rankin Park to Jesmond bypass are almost universally bad news for cyclists and pedestrians, there is one good thing , which is the intention to replace the pedestrian/cycle crossing on Newcastle Road with an overhead bridge. I personally witnessed an accident that injured a cyclist at this crossing a few years ago (fortunately not too serious) so an overhead bridge here will be a much needed and great improvement in safety.

But to remove one crossing here, while adding three crossings at the southern interchange, really is a case of one step forward and three steps backwards.

Artists impression of shared path bridge over Newcastle Roda looking wer. Page 15 of the EIS.

Artist’s impression of shared path bridge over Newcastle Road looking west. Page 15 of the EIS.

Pedestrian justice

Daniel Bowen, a long time public transport advocate in Melbourne writes in his latest blog post about how the police are currently targeting and fining pedestrians for jaywalking, while at the same time ignoring the blatant illegalities of car drivers who block pedestrian crossings. Daniel is writing about a different issue in a different city, but his closing words are equally applicable to the attitude of the NSW Roads and Maritime Services in their pursuit of removing pedestrian and cycle paths in the name of ‘progress’.

Pedestrian space is being constantly encroached upon, and almost nobody cares. And how is it that the excesses of people in their metal boxes are condoned, while those walking around on their own two feet are marginalised?

I couldn’t agree more.

Melbourne police fining pedestrians while turning a blind eye to motorists. Photo by Daniel Bowen, used with permission.

Melbourne police fining pedestrians while turning a blind eye to motorists. Photo by Daniel Bowen, used with permission.