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.
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:
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.
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.
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?