Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Looping Circuits: 65km Eastern Suburbs Creek Loop

I'm introducing a new type of blog post called "Looping Circuits". I will post up a review of a cycling circuit I have completed and commenting on it's pros and cons to give riders some ideas for some good trail circuits to complete if they are wanting something different in terms of riding environments.

This first circuit uses the EastLink Trail, a Jells Park un-named path, Scotchmans Creek Trail, Gardiners Creek Trail, Main Yarra Trail, Koonung Creek Trail and the Mullum Mullum Creek Trail (short section). All up it is very roughly 65km long. I managed to complete it about 4 hours 30 minutes, but that time includes strong winds, the use of a MTB, a on-road detour as a large section of the Gardiners Creek Trail was closed due to the M1 Upgrade and a rest at Dights Falls.

One fact to note is that I have never been on the Gardiners Creek Trail or the Scotchmans Creek Trail west of Blackburn Road. This ride was primarily a way of riding these trails for the first time. I also wanted to ride the trail around East Malvern before January 12, as that is when the bridge over the Monash Freeway (M1) will be demolished and a new cycle/pedestrian bridge will be built.

Here is a map of my route, with the base map coming from the brilliant OpenCycleMap, which is based off the OpenStreetMap site:
Mostly off-road (excluding temporary Gardiners Creek Trail detour).
Many underpasses and bridges. There are not too many intersections to deal with and most are either local roads or traffic lights.
Mostly runs along creeks and through linear parks.
Virtually all sealed.
Links to many other trails along the way.
The on-road sections of the Scotchmans Creek Trail, but there is nothing that can really be done about this, unless you pay the residents to hand over a small slice of their land (2-4 metres from their back fence) to create room to run a shared path through it. If this unlikely concept went ahead, a shared path from Jells Park to the Watsons Road / Whites Lane roundabout is possible, which bypasses all the local roads through Wheelers Hill. On-road lanes would be applied to the rest of the on-road sections.
Gardiners Creek Trail detour (although it is temporary, it is still a negative, but at least a higher quality path will be built).
Not many directional signs. There are very good fingerboard signs to direct you along the on-road sections of the Scotchmans Creek Trail, but directional signage was lacking on the Gardiners Creek and Main Yarra Trails.
A few steep hills, mainly around Wheelers Hill and the Eastern Freeway area.
The Gipps Street and Chandler Highway steps. Both of these annoy me so damn much!
Some narrow sections which require you to take extra care and SLOW DOWN!!! I'm talking about the pipe bridge near the Fairfield Boathouse which needs the remaining pipeline removed and that side converted to a path as well.
The section of the Main Yarra Trail between the underpass to the Outer Circle Rail Trail and Bellford Road is quite dangerous as the path is narrow, unnecessarily windy and plainly quite dangerous considering it is on a quite steep slope. Tight almost right angle turns do not help.

The extremely long pedestrian underpass under the Monash Freeway in Mount Waverley. This was awesome to ride through and has to be Melbourne's longest shared path tunnel. A measurement on Google Earth told me it is an astounding 150 metres long!
The different types of surfaces and varying qualities of the trail, simply because there was so much variety. Some good, some bad. The section of the Gardiners Creek Trail where the pedestrians and cyclists are given their own space was very interesting. I wouldn't mind seeing this form of path in more places where there are a large amount of pedestrians using a shared path, such as in places like Jells Park and along the Capital City Trail where space permits.
The suspended footbridge under the Monash Freeway between the Main Yarra / Capital City Trail and Glenferrie Road was a totally different cycling experience. The unique red surface made it seem I was going quite fast up hill!
There is a short divided section of the Main Yarra / Capital City Trail next to the Yarra Boulevard which was quite different, all to save one large tree!

On a scale of 10, I give this looping circuit a 7. It loses points for lack of signage, poor standard of some sections of the trail and the two flights of steps.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Blind Creek Trail signage improvements made thanks to MBR?

You are probably getting abit tired of Blind Creek Trail directional signage posts but this should be the last one unless major improvement works are taken out.
Over a month ago I emailed Melissa Sparrow, Sustainable Transport Minister for Knox Council with suggestions for improvements they could make to the directional signage they are currently installing around the minicipality. I have had no reply so after the new year begins, I will send a follow-up email to the generic general equiries department of the council to find out if she has at least acknowledged my opinion.

Since all the signage was installed in early November, there have been two improvements made to the signage, but another error is made which adds to the lack of planning.

I present to you audience, the life of the installation of a bicycle trail directional sign:

The final product is shown above! It only took abit over 1 month to cook up. As you can see, we now have another reference to the Stud Road Trail, this time in the form of "Dandenong Creek Trail (Via Stud Road)", which is more in keeping with the sign at the Stud Road traffic lights, but is still slightly confusing with the other sign listed below...
At the intersection of the southern Burwood Highway Trail and the Blind Creek Trail, the sign was initally placed off the actual path where users will never see it. Since I posted the photo and my diagnosis on this blog, the sign has since been relocated along with the planks being swapped around for some reason, probably by workers re-assembling the sign and simply placing them in the wrong order. There has also been some minor tagging by vandals, but that is naturally expected in these areas and the signs look like they have been made to be vandal-resistant like the Metlink signage used around Melbourne.
Now I need to e-mail Parks Victoria to voice my opinion on the current state of the sub-standard signage of the area around the intersection of Dandenong Creek Trail and the Blind Creek Trail as well as Jells Park, again all after the new year.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Poll Results: Which trail(s) do you ride on most frequently?

Alright folks, my second poll has now closed. I give a big thanks to the 12 people that took their time to submit their votes. Here are the results:
As you can clearly gather from the results, 58% of voters use the Main Yarra Trail most frequently, which is no surprise at all, considering it is a direct route until you get to Yarra Bend Park, then from there on, people tend to go their own ways to their destinations, either taking the popular Yarra Boulevard, Capital City Trail or using inner-city streets. This is followed by 33% of voters using the Koonung Creek Trail, which directly follows the Eastern Freeway. It is well known that the Koonung Creek/Main Yarra combination is popular from the Doncaster/Nunawading area to Yarra Bend Park due to the few road crossings, fairly flat terrain (the major exception is along the Eastern Freeway between Yarra Bend Park and Bulleen Road where there are a couple of short, sharp inclines, depending on your direction of travel) and direct route. Coming in third is the Dandenong Creek Trail/EastLink Trail combination (I combined both since they basically run the same route and overlap a couple of times) and any other trail in Melbourne. The EastLink Trail has proved to be a fairly decent success, with it's superior wide concrete surface, good sight lines and gradient (Mullum Mullum section excluded) and decent, but not perfect directional and warning signage. The fact that 2 footbridges are also currently being built helps things, as well as when you compare it to the sub-standard Dandenong Creek Trail it has somewhat superseeded (that is, the sections around Jells Park / Bushy Park Wetlands and around Dandenong).
The conclusion is simply that off-road paths which are fairly direct, usually running beside a creek or freeway, which run for a fair distance come out on top for popularity with riders.
A new poll will be up shortly, so please participate. It would be nice to see 13 or more people voting this time around.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

All trail intersection signage should be like this...

If there is one thing I love with our bicycle network, it is the feeling I get when I reach an intersection where two or more trails meet and seeing high quality accurate directional signage! Here is a fantastic example of planning gone right with the intersection of the Dandenong Creek Trail and the EastLink Trail in Jells Park South. It makes me wonder how they managed to stuff up the signage at all the other intersections along the EastLink Trail while this intersection gets the royal treatment!

I am just happy that the signs also have correct grammar as well as arrows that point in the right direction. Does anyone else know of any other perfectly signed intersections around Melbourne besides my example and the one near Dights Falls?
(Thanks to the Bicycle Victoria website for these two images.)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sorry guys, I'm here!

Sorry for the delay readers. My holiday and lack of internet access kept me from adding entries to this blog, but all is now well.

Thanks to the 9 people who have so far participated in my latest poll. So far, the Main Yarra Trail is the most popular, which backs up my review of the Main Yarra Trail quite well.

New posts will be added this week, including a bicycle network improvement which could have resulted from posting the problem on this blog!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gallery: More new Blind Creek Trail directional signage

When you ride a trail, and notice only some of it has new signage? Unwillingly wait a month and ride it again! It looks like signage installation by Knox Council is complete for the trail now with the exception of at Manuka Drive east of Scoresby Road. Let's get on with it:

This was the sign which was under construction earlier. Looks odd because the destination plank is in the wrong spot.

New signage at Stud Road on the eastern side where the trail changes to the dodgy footpath. Only improvement here would be to have installed the sign on abit of an angle to be perpendicular with the path.
Sign near the Knox Council Depot and the Skate Park.

 Sign where the Lewis Park shared path meets the Blind Creek Trail near Lewis Road. The position of the sign is not great but line markings help to ensure users stay on the right trail.
Sign on the eastern side of Lewis Road. Again, line marking saves the rider from heading the wrong way, as the left arrows are pointing towards Lewis Road instead of the underpass under Lewis Road.
Sign on the west side of Scoresby Road. As I expected, no mention of the Scoresby Road Trail.
Sign on the east side of Scoresby Road.

Signs at Rankin Road in Ferntree Gully. An improvement here would be to remove the metal fence and place the sign in its place as a barrier. Serves the same purpose of slowing down cyclists before the road.

Signs at Wattleview Road in Ferntree Gully. Perfect installation of the signs here.
Sign west of Dorset Road.

Sign east of Dorset Road.

Sign at the turn-off of the short shared path to Francis Crescent at the Tim Neville Arboretum.
Bind Creek Trail sign at the intersection of the Ringwood - Belgrave Rail Trail. No problem with this sign.
THIS sign I do have a problem with. For some unknown reason, this sign has incorrectly been given the "Blind Creek Trail" sign when it should say "Ringwood - Belgrave Rail Trail".

In conclusion to this review of the signage, I am going to be voicing my concerns to the Knox City Council sustainable transport minister in the hope the signs will be rectified to meet signage guidelines set by Bicycle Victoria and Parks Victoria.

Poll Results: What annoys you most about the new EastLink Trail?

Okay, my first poll has now closed. Let's check the results: 
  • Steep route through the Mullum Mullum Valley
  • The missing footbridges
  • Inconsistent signage
  • Lack of upgrades to connecting trails
  • Use of the existing railway station footbridge at Yarraman
  • Lack of drinking fountains
  • Not enough user/visitor information about the trail
  • Not upgrading the section between Carrum and Dandenong South
It is clearly evident that the issue bugging most riders are the missing footbridges. At the present moment, cyclists have to crossing using traffic lights at busy major roads including Maroondah Highway, Canterbury Road, Burwood Highway, High Street Road, Railway Parade and Cheltenham Road. Maroondah and Burwood are the worst as pedestrian lights are installed on the slip lanes, instead of zebra crossings.
The good news is that the Burwood Highway footbridge is currently being constructed and should be completed by early 2009. The Maroondah Highway footbridge project began about a month ago and should be completed by mid 2009. There is also talks of a High Street Road footbridge but no official announcements have been made.
The steep route through Mullum Mullum and the use of the existing footbridge at Yarraman Station are the next biggest grudges. I believe some of the trail could have been better graded to make riding abit easier, as it does put off some amateur riders. The situation at Yarraman Station is a shocking effort. A footbridge could have easily been attatched to the EastLink Bridge with an extra section connecting the bridge to the railway station footbridge for train access. In the end it is all about cost-cutting and lack of proper thought.
A new poll has now been posted. Go and vote for the good of the cycling community!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

News: Proposed Frankston Bypass Trail route is released

It was quietly put through on the SEITA website on November 10, the Environmental Effects Statement for the Frankston Bypass, which includes detailed plans for the route of the Frankston Bypass as well as an associated trail I am calling the Frankston Bypass Trail. I have created a Google Map with the trail and it's features, which the final alignment is still under consideration following input from the public, Bicycle Victoria and local councils.

My first positive thoughts are as follows:
  •  There is ONLY ONE level road crossing at Robinsons Road which is fantastic! It looks like the planners have learnt a lesson from EastLink and considering the government is copping it for not building all the required footbridges for EastLink, they do not want to make the same mistake. A range of footbridges and underpasses are provided.
  • The trail will be built to the same standard as the EastLink Trail which is a 3 metre wide concrete path, again another plus.
  • There will be provision made for a future Mornington Rail Trail which is excellent forward planning, which will enable a link from the Frankston Bypass Trail right down to Mornington. (Melway 106 J7)
  • The trail will begin at the Patterson River on the Dandenong Creek Trail which is an ideal and logical choice
  • Links to other trails are somewhat provided such as links to the Carrum Downs Trail, Skye Road Trail, the path along Cranbourne - Frankston Road and the Frankston - Stony Point Rail Trail.
Now my negative thoughts:
  • Missing links to local trails should be taken into account. There should be a link to the Eel Race Drain Trail under the Mornington Peninsula Freeway (Melway 97 J10). There should also be a defined link between the Bay Trail between the Seaford Wetlands (Melway 99 G4) along Austin Road, the footbridge over the Frankston Freeway, along Brunel Road until Peterson Street, which links to the existing Carrum Downs Trail (Melway 99 H3).
  • Will the Dandenong Creek Trail be upgraded as well? This will be I question I am to submit as part of the public comment on the plan. The EastLink upgrade failed to upgrade the Dandenong Creek Trail between Greens Road in Dandenong South (Melway 94 J2) to the Bay Trail in Patterson Lakes (Melway 97 D6) as well as upgrading trails along BOTH sides of the Patterson River between the Mornington Peninsula Freeway and the Nepean Highway.
  • WHY does the trail abruptly end at Bungower Road? Why construct a trail to the middle of nowhere (Melway 147 D2) and simply dump the rider on a country road away from anything of notice? I propose to continue the trail along the Frankston Bypass then the existing Mornington Peninsula Freeway right down to Nepean Highway in Dromana (Melway 160 D5) then run the trail westward along the Nepean Highway to the intersection with Marine Parade (Melway 159 K4) with a link to the Mornington Peninsula section of the Bay Trail. It makes sense and provide a different opportunity for tourism for the peninsula and provides a fully off-road sealed link between the city and the peninsula.
Now that you have seen the plans and my analysis, what are your thoughts? Also take a look at the full Frankston Bypass plan than make a comment on the plan if you wish at the SEITA website.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My improvement view: Ringwood - Belgrave Rail Trail through H.E. Parker Reserve

This is my first post in a category of posts known as "My improvement view" where I will show an area of the bicycle network which can be improved significantly, and propose my solution to improve it. Simple as that! For my first post, I will will be putting into the focus the section of the Ringwood - Belgrave Rail Trail through H.E. Parker Reserve.
Network map:

Note the maps I use are from the Wikipedia style mapping site "OpenStreetMap" which means the maps are correct, but in some areas are incomplete.
Area overview map: 

Current situation:
First of all, there is no signage on this part of the trail except for one unhelpful fingerboard sign which incorrectly says "Heathmont Rail Trail" near the railway crossing, and one incorrectly placed Dandenong Creek Trail official directional sign but does however have correct directions for heading towards Ringwood.
As you can tell from the fingerboard sign photo, the pavement is in shocking condition and there is no clear route marked. Currently you have to turn right at the direction sign in the photo above, then ride along the reserve access road towards the railway than find the shared path which runs along the railway towards Heathmont. Very confusing for the casual rider, although regular users will know it off by heart. These six photos show different views of the area.
My proposed solution:
Because there is currently no defined route and the current access is a simple reserve access road with hardly any traffic, it would be wasteful to build a completely new shared use path., I propose the ultimate solution to consist of three parts:
1: New surfacing
New asphalt will be placed in the following locations:
Near the railway crossing, the new pavement will create a link between the median strip as well as a high quality surface between the reserve access road, existing shared path and the railway crossing.
Near the footbridge, the new pavement will be laid on the southern side of the single carriageway of the existing reserve service road to accommodate the new lanes while still letting vehicles pass with ease. This includes resurfacing the short section of path between the footbridge and the service road.
2 and 3: New road markings and signage
New official directional signage will be installed at all suitable locations and regulatory (shared path/bike lane/give way) as well as warning (bicycles in this area) signs will be installed. Bike lanes in either direction will be marked out clearly and will be fully green for the whole length, to empathise clearly that this is an official cycle route. Here are some photoshopped examples of what the improved section could look like (the images alterations are not to scale)
More improvement views of the area will be posted very soon so stay tuned!