What am I legally supposed to do at this intersection?
August 11, 2015 12:38 AM   Subscribe

I am a cyclist in NSW, Australia. At the intersection in this image, I am not sure what I am legally supposed to do (or what my best option is if the legal one is not safe, which I think might be the case). The red line represents off-road cycle paths separate from the pedestrian footpath. I am trying to get from where the first red line (left) ends to where the second one starts (right). Can anyone tell me what I should do? Or who do I contact to find out (or to lobby to improve the intersection for cyclists) - the local council?

The road that connects the two off-road cycle paths (Queen's Road) is also marked as a cycle route (large bicycle stencils painted on the road, plus signs with bicycle images and "Parramatta" printed on them pointing down that road). Hawkesbury Road has no indication of any cycle path or route, except that there is signpost looking like this pointing left along Hawkesbury Road at the top of Mons Road.

When you get to the top of Mons Road, where my first red line ends, you are facing the intersection, which has a separate light for cycles and pedestrians, so it seems like you should just cross with the cycle light to the opposite footpath on Hawkesbury Road, cycle along there, cross the pedestrian crossing again to the left side of Queens Road, and continue down there until you meet the other red line/off-road path. This is the option I have marked with red here.

The problem with that option is that the opposite footpath you would cross to on Hawkesbury Road is not actually cycleable. There are trees growing up the middle of it, it's usually packed with pedestrians, and there are cafes with tables and chairs on it. I'm pretty sure you aren't legally allowed to cycle on footpaths in NSW anyway, unless they are marked as cycle paths. But then again, there is a cycle light at the crossing here, so what are they expecting bikes to do? Am I supposed to cross here and then walk my bicycle until I get to Queens Road? Or maybe that crossing light is just for cyclists who are turning right into Hawkesbury Road? (But look slightly left of the light in the google street view and you can see there's one of those cycle signs pointing left too).

The alternatives I can see are marked in green and blue respectively. Blue is clearly the safest. The footpath on the left of Hawkesbury road is wide and rarely has pedestrians. When you get to the crossing just past the intersection with Queens Road, I think you are technically supposed to dismount, as it is marked for pedestrians only. Cars there always seem to be watching for cyclists, though, and they noticeably get frustrated if I slow them down by getting off and walking across. Also, as mentioned, I think cycling on the footpath on Hawkesbury Road there might not be legal, as it is not a marked cycle path.

The other option, marked in green, is to come off the cycle path at the Mons/Hawkesbury intersection onto the road, turning left into Hawkesbury on the road, and staying on the road, turning right into Queens' Road from the right-hand lane. I'm pretty sure this is legal, but it is extremely dangerous because it is almost impossible to cross the flow of traffic into the right lane for turning. At rush hour when I am commuting, it is bumper-to-bumper traffic there and no one lets a cyclist turn. Also getting from the cycle path onto the road seems difficult because the only time the cars aren't coming too close to the curb to let you even lift your bicycle onto the road and mount it safely is when the crossing light changes to green, and pedestrians are trying to cross there. It seems me trying to get from the cycle path to the road would be quite disruptive to the pedestrians.

I've tried all three options, and I definitely feel safest with the blue route, but that's the one I'm least certain of the legality of. I feel unsafe with the green route, which is the most likely to be legal, and I have not actually successfully managed a right-hand turn from that route anyway. I've always had to give up, walk back onto the footpath, and walk my bike across a pedestrian crossing instead.

What I want to understand is (a) what is legal, and (b) what the planners who put the bicycle crossing light and bicycle paths most likely INTENDED for cyclists to do at this intersection.
posted by lollusc to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
a) you're very definitely not allowed to ride on the footpaths in NSW unless you're under 12 or supervising someone who is. In practice, as everyone knows, adults ride on the footpath routinely.
b) cycle paths are in a highly political planner's limbo at the moment, so there's no easy answer to what they 'intended'. Most councils are getting proactive about adding cycle paths to local streets, and the RMS has a very detailed set of design guidelines (PDF) for best practice in designing the networks themselves. It includes things like signalling and marking as you've pointed out. But! They tend to conflict with the already existing handbooks for road and traffic design that traffic engineers and designers use for road design (which emphasise segregating car/truck traffic from everything else, with safety barriers, etc.) There's a Part 6A of the Austroads guidelines for 'Pedestrian & Cyclist Paths' which might square some of these circles, but it's 'under review'. And! the same councils which have some traffic planners enthusiastic about cycling infrastructure also have to deal with other traffic and network engineers who are under pressure to prioritise roads for vehicle traffic.
In short nothing is 'intended' here---what I read in the street layout is compromises between pro-cycling planners drawing cycle path maps, pro-business planners letting businesses put tables on the street, and traffic engineers abiding by the design manuals for heavily trafficked urban streets.

In your position, I'd ride your blue line.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 1:13 AM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Further to that comment, two things:

First, it looks like the Part 6a of the Austroads manual is not actually under review but has been issued (though at a very steep price if you're not an Austroads member organisation).

Second, to answer your question above the fold, you should contact your council. Even better, if you're on good terms with your local State or Federal member of Parliament, get them to write a letter to your council on your behalf.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 1:27 AM on August 11, 2015

Response by poster: Thank you, that is very knowledgable and comprehensive. With regard to your last comment, though, a follow-up question: I always imagine that MPs have absolutely no interest in requests from non-citizens like me, as we don't get to vote for them anyway. Is that true? On the other hand, as a rates payer, I feel more likely to get listened to at least with a direct approach to the council.
posted by lollusc at 3:09 AM on August 11, 2015

My experience of road cycling in Sydney (cut short, due to nerves. I was, ironically, hit by a car walking across a pedestrian crossing when the little man was green not two weeks later, so feel quite justified in my decision!), would urge you to go blue and eschew green.

I've ridden past a few cops on the footpath, and none seemed to bat an eye. I always had a helmet on, and looked fairly amateurish, though.

But hell, dismount if you want and walk across. Fuck the cars, they can wait.

What you're meant to do there is an existential question perhaps lacking an answer. But please don't do green, that's super scary. I've been hit by cars in situations like that. Also, it makes you a great target for spitting at etc, which sad to say, has also happened to me. Stay off the road wherever you can; it would take a hard hearted cop to fine you, on that street especially.
posted by smoke at 4:26 AM on August 11, 2015

>I always imagine that MPs have absolutely no interest in requests from non-citizens like me, as we
>don't get to vote for them anyway. Is that true?

They don't know you're not a citizen unless you tell them. If you write to them about a matter in their electorate from an address in their electorate, they will reply to the letter and/or forward it to the responsible minister/department.
posted by girlgenius at 5:02 AM on August 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

Sydney is absolutely shit box about the start and end of cycle paths, and this is a pretty good example of that. They seem to get to the hard bits and just, leave them out!? We should all move to Germany where they know what they are doing. Argh.

Do the blue version. Ride across the pedestrian crossing slowly. Complain to the council. The SnapSendSolve app has worked quite well for me before for getting responses to council issues. Not always the response I've wanted, but it seems to go to the right people. Camwest seem to be the Bike advocacy group out that way. Hawkesbury Rd is on their dangerous roads list.

Other legal options you could try:
1) turn left into the road before Hawkesbury, and cut through the hospital. Then turn right into Hawkesbury, and immediately left into Queens. This might not be possible if the traffic is heavy and badly timed, but the traffic lights could create a nice gap for you to duck through. I always prefer to dogleg right then left when crossing busy roads (which seems to happen a stupidly often in Sydney). This is should work reasonably well in reverse too.
2) As 1), but turn left out of the hospital and then right at the roundabout into Caroline St. There seems to be a path through to the bike path at the bottom of Caroline St.
3) Stay on the cycle path to Hawkesbury, turn left onto Hawkesbury Rd, ride past Queens, merge to cross the pedestrian crossing (potentially hairy), and turn right at the roundabout onto Caroline St.
posted by kjs4 at 6:12 AM on August 11, 2015

Response by poster: Apparently I screwed up my links. There one with the coloured route options is here.
posted by lollusc at 6:12 AM on August 11, 2015

That IS confusing, especially the cyclist traffic light with no cycling path on the other side, but I'd guess that "...that crossing light is just for cyclists who are turning right into Hawkesbury Road" is probably right - gives you a bit of a head start on the cars doing the same, perhaps?

I'm in Victoria, but I'm pretty sure the laws are the same in NSW. Cyclists are SUPPOSED to dismount and walk their bike if they are on a footpath or crossing a pedestrian crossing. If you're on the road, without a bike lane, you follow the rules like cars.

If you're following the green line, stick to the left of Hawkesbury Road until you get close to Queens Road, check over your shoulder and when you're safe, indicate with your hand that you're turning right, move to the middle of the road, and wait there if you have to, with your hand still out, until there's no oncoming traffic, then cross and stick to the left of Queens Road. (yeah, how risky that is depends on how busy the road is, obviously).

The blue line would (legally) have you walking all the way along Hawkesbury Road, across the pedestrian crossing, then walking back to Queens Road and remounting there and acting like a fleshy car again.
posted by Diag at 4:37 AM on August 12, 2015

« Older How do smells pass through walls?   |   Staying positive while losing weight Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.