Broader shoulders to improve Hornsby cycling

Is improvement coming at last to the old Pacific Highway’s shoulders north of Asquith ?

Bike North members and other regular cyclists are well acquainted with the risks of riding north or south along the old Pacific Highway cycle lane shoulders in the section of the Highway between Asquith and Brooklyn where they encounter dangerous fluctuations of shoulder widths, poorly cleaned/cleared surfaces and hazardous integrations and transitions across a number of busy intersections.

After several years of reporting such obstacles and hazards to the RMS, until recently there has been no discernable improvement in timely action after storms, with fallen trees blocking the shoulder for up to weeks and months at a time. Because of this cyclists are often at risk of having to choose between colliding with debris or riding, at short notice, in the active traffic lane in 80 k/h zones. But there may be light at the end of the tunnel…..

Bike North to meet with RMS maintenance contract liaison engineer

Bike North has lately pointed out to the RMS the road maintenance specification that RMS’ maintenance contractor, Downer, is supposed to be following in relation to these shoulders. It requires routine and storm event based inspections, with debris to be removed based on risk assessment at the time or warning signs put up and the debris moved asap. BN has arranged to meet with the RMS engineer who manages the Downer contract to discuss RMS’ lack of performance. Over the last few weeks you may have noticed the clearance of debris from the Pacific Highway shoulder north of Berowra including the fallen and cut coral tree approaching Cowan southbound, small cut trees approaching the old toll plaza northbound and overhanging wattle trees approaching the old toll plaza southbound.

Hopefully in the future debris and gravel banks will be removed in a more timely fashion before someone is injured or killed. An alarming example of the consequence of not undertaking this removal more expeditiously was the gravel bank that formed on a downhill corner on the Bobbin Head Rd eastbound after a January storm.  A cyclist skidded and fell on the gravel two days later early in the morning and slid across the road. Fortunately no traffic was approaching from the opposite direction. A cyclist died in similar circumstances on Bobbin Head east a few years ago. While it was commendable that sand was put on the oil spill on Bobbin Head Rd west recently, some signposting would have been appropriate because it was on the descending lane eastbound.

On another occasion this year a BN member witnessed a cyclist doing 50 k/h downhill on the Pacific Highway shoulder southbound approaching Mt Colah. The cyclist struck a rock the size of a half brick that was obscured by other riders. He went over the bars, slid head first down the concrete kerb, then rotated out into the path of following cyclists. Fortunately no one else was brought down by his ‘misfortune’ and the cyclist sustained only a fractured collar bone. Whether road maintenance would ever include sweeping at a frequency to remove such obstacles is debatable. So always ride with caution and don’t rely on RMS to protect you.

Other improvements possible ?

Apart from a possible improvement to the quality of highway shoulder hazard minimisation by the RMS :-

  • John Hunt has recently received a letter from RMS saying it is reviewing parking arrangements on the old Pacific Highway  (OPH) south of the lights regulating the intersection of Yirra Road with the old Pacific Highway at Mount Colah which also allow cyclists access to Ku-ring-gai Chase / Bobbin Head. The parking lane south of these lights is tapered in such a way that it eventually fully occupies the OPH shoulder forcing cyclists into the active traffic lane which is very dangerous in peak hour if, while travelling south, you are starting after a red light. RMS guidelines on traffic volume and speed indicate a requirement for a separate bike lane in this situation.
  • The photograph accompanying this article shows further work being done to upgrade the OPH shoulder outside a town house development northbound between Asquith and Mt Colah. It is the most recent of a number of such development-related OPH shoulder improvements that, over time, will link to form a complete section of OPH shoulder improvement in that area that has been problematic for a long time. These upgrades follow on from advice received in 2018 from Hornsby Council that “The Pacific Highway is a State Road and the RMS have required recent developments between Amor Street and Mills Avenue to widen the roadway to incorporate a cycle lane and parking lane following determination of the development applications.”

Lately, the Pacific Highway from the old Berowra toll plaza to Hornsby has never looked so clean. The true test will be next time there is a storm. And meanwhile, hope for the best but expect …. well ? … who knows ! ?

Justin Holmwood and John Hunt , 17 June 2020