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!