The many shades of ignorance

The word ‘ignorance’ has many shades of meaning in the English language, and today it seems that ‘ignorance’ is a good key word to describe the planned severing of the cycle path:

  • The ‘ignorance’ of the RMS, in the sense of deliberately not paying attention to or ignoring¬† the multiple submissions and complaints to them earlier in the year.
  • The ‘ignorance’ of the RMS, in the sense of foolishness or stupidity, for the ridiculous and dopey cycle path alternatives they put forward in the current EIS.
  • The ‘ignorance’ of the public, in the sense of not being aware of what the RMS is planning to do.

I have just come back from the path where I’ve been chalking up pointers to this website and talking to people as they passed. It was a pretty quiet mid afternoon on a hot summer weekday, but the dominant response I got from the few people I talked to is that they either had no idea that the bypass was coming, or that they assumed the cycle/foot path would be retained as an underpass, and they were shocked to see the multiple traffic light crossings being proposed.

In this fight, ignorance is not bliss. We need to get the word out and get our voices heard.

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The shadowy bogeyman of underpass safety

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Photo by Ochinko. Flickr.

In section 4.5.4 of the EIS, one of the reasons the RMS rejected the retention of the cycleway using an underpass is that an “underpass is undesirable from a personal safety perspective.” I have two problems with that.

Firstly, is this a real risk or an imagined risk? I was talking to somebody about this yesterday and they also voiced concerns about public safety, saying that people avoided using the underpasses at the university roundabout because of fears of being accosted by local hoodlums. This sounds serious, but is it real?

I lived within a few hundred metres of that intersection for 23 years and regularly used those underpasses, and not even once encountered an issue of public safety. For 6 years my cycle commute home from work took me along the path behind Jesmond Park, often after dark in the winter months, and I never saw even an inkling of threat. Now I’m not saying that there is no problem of public safety at these locations, but I’m definitely saying that if there is a problem, it is not a big one.

My second, and more fundamental issue with this supposed concern about the safety of an underpass is that it is merely transferring the problem. One of my pet hates is when someone deals with a problem, not by solving the problem, but by merely moving the problem. A classic, if somewhat trivial example, is at home where Person A can’t find their phone charger, so goes and ‘borrows’ the charger of Person B. They haven’t actually solved the problem of the missing charger, they’ve only transferred the problem to someone else.

The RMS are engaging in exactly this behaviour. If they fail to maintain the existing cycleway because of a perceived issue of public safety, and institute the three crossings across eight lanes of traffic instead, this will encourage cyclists onto the busy road, and encourage pedestrians to cross against the lights. They will have merely moved the problem of safety from the underpass to the road, and it will only be a matter of time before an accident occurs, and the folly of this penny-pinching decision based on shadowy ‘public safety’ concerns will be exposed in tragic circumstances.

Protest draws 25 people

img_4817About 25 cyclists and pedestrians met in Jesmond Park on Sunday morning for a photo to protest against the current plans to remove the cycleway when the Rankin Park to Jesmond bypass is built.

Some things I learned today…

  • There were a lot of people who submitted responses to the RMS earlier in the year, and who feel they’ve been ignored.
  • There are a lot of alternative solutions on how to maintain the cycleway, all of which are better than the two ridiculous ‘solutions’ investigated and dismissed by the RMS in the environmental impact statement (EIS).
  • The cycleway is an important part of the “Two City Circuit”, a 50km loop incorporating many off road cycle paths in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie.
  • Somebody who attended the drop-in information session at Silver Ridge Community Cottage yesterday heard from an RMS representative that this issue of the cycleway being cut is the biggest source of complaints in the evaluation process.
  • Other people besides me were frustrated with how the EIS document is split up into 82 separate PDF downloads! Is it too cynical to think they’re deliberately making it hard for people to see and respond to the EIS??
  • There is one more drop-in information session to be held Thursday 1 December 2016 between 3pm-6pm at Silver Ridge Community Cottage, 13 Iranda Grove, Wallsend.

Probably the most important thing I learned this morning is that the submissions made earlier this year were to the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), which they evaluated and then produced the current environmental impact statement (EIS). Submissions to this current EIS will be evaluated by the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE). i.e. it is a different department evaluating the EIS responses.

So it is vital that submissions be made again, in greater number, with greater detail, and with greater urgency.

Whereas the RMS seems to be only interested in roads, lets hope the DPE is actually interested in the environment.

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Ridiculous and Dopey

In Section 4.5.4 of the November 2016 EIS for the Rankin Park to Jesmond bypass, the planners ‘investigated’ and ‘costed’ two alternatives for maintaining the cycleway between Jesmond Park and Jesmond. I just get the feeling that both these options were put forward simply as ‘straw men’ in order to be dismissed, and avert objections that had been submitted.

The first option is for a ridiculous, towering and twisting overhead bridge, like something out of a Dr Seuss book1, that would cost $30 million!!!! That’s surely a joke solution, like the obviously wrong answer examiners often put in a multiple choice question.

overThe second option investigated while less ridiculous is on closer inspection just plain dopey. Its for a subway that would cost $3 million, but is dismissed because (among other things) it would be subject to flooding.

underBut seriously, if you’re going to propose a subway route (purple dotted line) that is along the lowest point in the landscape and right next to a stormwater drain – of course its going to flood!

Why not route the subway 100m further south (red dotted line in the diagram below) where the land is 8 to 10 metres higher and not subject to flooding? I get the impression they’re not really trying hard enough to find a solution, and that they don’t really want to try.

tryagainThere are plenty of other ideas – but are the RMS interested?


  1. Refer to the Bunglebung Bridge, in “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are”, by Dr Seuss, 1973.

Cycle snub on Jesmond bypass

Despite numerous people (myself included) submitting concerns about this to the planning authorities earlier this year, the ‘revised’ plan for the Rankin Park to Jesmond bypass still shows that the shared pedestrian/cycle path from Jesmond Park to Jesmond is going to be obliterated and replaced with not one, not two, but three separate traffic light crossings across eight lanes of traffic. (See section 4.5.4 of the EIS.)

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The government is about to spend 280 million dollars to facilitate the easy movement of environmentally unfriendly cars and trucks, but is giving a middle finger to cyclists and pedestrians in the process.

If this madness of the triple crossings is persisted with, can I suggest a more equitable situation would be for every other day to have the crossings default to green for the pedestrians/cyclists, and any car driver wishing to proceed must stop at the lights; hop out of their car; press a button; wait in the rain, hail or shine for 2 minutes; repeat this 3 times; and only then be allowed to proceed.