Rail line truncation a boon for bike transport.

My old home town of Newcastle has always been good to the press, with stories about shipwrecks, riots, earthquakes, beauty queens and 13 year old rock stars. Their latest contribution has been the wilful destruction of a perfectly good rail line delivering people right to the heart of the city, and an unusual city at that, having a nineteenth-century grid contained on three sides by water.

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My own knee-jerk, politically biased, but ultimately irrational response has been to join my fellow left-leaning graduate types in decrying the move. After all, the decision to remove the train line was made by a right-wing local government sympathising with wealthy apartment buyers who never did like the hooligans who came on the train, and a right wing state government who, frankly, would sell the whole country to a third-world dictator. Until I stopped and thought matters through, I sided with the guys pictured below, protesting about not being able to take their bikes on the buses replacing the trains:

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But come on boys! If you lived in the Netherlands, the world’s bike transport standard, you would not normally be able to take a full sized bike on the train. Also, the line has only been cut by 5 kilometres, 3 of which are to be reinstated when work is complete remodelling the second last station as the new terminus. Judging by the lycra shorts and race mitts, the guy on the bus has ridden 10km just for this photo.

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What cyclists aught to be lobbying for, is secure bike parking at the train stations, so they can use trains for trips to other cities, not for short trips around town. People living elsewhere wanting to visit, need to be lobbying for a bike-share scheme, like the Dutch OV-fiets, so they can collect a bike at the station when they arrive and ride the short distance to the beaches.

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Newcastle is in the process of shifting commercial space to the city’s geographical epicentre, which happens to be on the inter-state train route, while office space on the peninsular will increasingly be converted into apartments. The prohibitive cost of serving all those new apartments in the old part of town with private garages, will, over time, give rise to a preponderance of people living car free in the city, where their three main transport options will be walking, cycling, and taking a bus. In a flat city, with a permeable street grid, waterfront promenades, many available easements along rivulets, and now a whopping great rail easement available for a greenway right through the heart of the old CBD, which of those three do you think will take off?

11 Comments

  1. Vicki says:

    Agreed. no point in getting on the bus with your bike for such a short flat ride. Let’s hope this change gets more bikes around the place and that some of the land freed up is used for cycleways.

    • Deb turvey says:

      You won’t be allowed on that land or see the harbour because it’s for the big developers to build high rise.

  2. Deb turvey says:

    What about people who are disabled, have little kids, the elderly, tourists with baggage, anyone with baggage. You spoilt nasty privileged lot to think it is ever a good idea to take away major public infrastructure. Heaven help you ever stub your idiot toe and can’t ride your precious bike. idiot.

    • Steven says:

      First, the elderly: they cycle too, and are happier and healthier for it. More cycling will also mean more bike infrastructure which can be shared by users of mobility scooters. When did you stop? Second, little kids: mine grew up in our bakfiets. We lived in Newcastle East and routinely travelled further than Newcastle West — for example Club Phoenix where I rode them for swimming lessons a few times a week. It took 30 minutes, from memory.
      As for the other groups you have mentioned, I fail to see a great disadvantage with buses. Helsinki has a fleet of minibus/taxi hybrids that take people door-to-door or demand for not much more than a bus fare.
      I assure you, I have stubbed my toe and far worse on many occasions, and either struggled through on the bike or else stooped to use public transport, all of which pretty well sucks, no matter what city you live in, or whether it’s a bus or a train.
      Deb, thanks for bringing a bit of passion back to my comments threads! A nice change from the sycophantic praise of my rusted on fans:)

    • Deb turvey says:

      Like I said before you’re obviously a very healthy privileged man who wouldn’t have a clue. Take away our major transport infrastructure for your flaky spoilt crap. You’re obviously too spoilt to understand so I’m ceasing correspondence with you.

    • Steven says:

      Can we chat via phone?

  3. Luis G says:

    Isn’t the NSW Gov planning to replace the trains with trams?

  4. Jimm Pratt says:

    I almost jumped on the troll (Deb turvey) who appears to have never ridden a bike beyond childhood, but will leave that for another day. I will comment on this, though: “If you lived in the Netherlands, the world’s bike transport standard, you would not normally be able to take a full sized bike on the train. ” Actually, from my experience in the Netherlands, there is room for full sized bikes – albeit limited. With the exception of perhaps the smaller city-surface trams, there tends to be room available for 3-5 full sized bikes. Heck I even crammed my velomobile in one during a ride from Ameersfort to points west. I think *not* having bike slots on trains is the exception, not the rule, in Dutch land. But as always, “your mileage may vary”.

    • Steven says:

      I think if you really sat down and did a cost benefit analysis, you would gladly run as many extra intercity trains as you had to, in order to let anyone take their bike with them for free. Check out this Cuban bus: https://www.flickr.com/photos/autobuses/9607350840/ Since Deb has cut me out of her sphere, I can speak freely: the conservatives who were actually responsible for shortening the rail service aren’t the kind to make themselves available for attack with blogs or even public debate. Deb’s indignation needed a target, and there I was, a save-our-rail doubter.

  5. Is there no possible future in which all these nefarious governments decide to double down on motoring infrastructure instead of letting the foot-bike-bus triad have a shot?

    If anything like this rail line closure occurred in Auckland — where there are parts of town with a similar urban form — I might justifiably fear it either being coverted into a new or wider road, or entrenching auto dependence via private garages etc (no such cost has proved prohibitive yet).

    • Steven says:

      We’re doing our best to make that future 🙂 The rail corridor will undoubtedly be turned into a surface car park. Undoubtedly. There are too many idiots living, working and voting in Newcastle to expect anything else.

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