No 51, March 2007

Gladesville Bridge

Photos & Article: Alistair Sharp

Few Sydney people cycled back in the 1960s when the Gladesville Bridge was built. The designers included wide footpaths on each side, but, so as to give priority to motor traffic, after leaving the bridge proper the footpaths meander their way to stairs and an underpass directly beneath the main bridge before continuing on to Gladesville or Hunters Hill.

In the 1980s the RTA added an extra traffic lane by narrowing the footpath on the Western side and later sign-posted the path on the Eastern side as a shared way for pedestrians and cyclists, but they didn't improve the approaches for cyclists and pedestrians using the bridge. For the past 25 years there has been a quiet stand-off between cyclists and the RTA in the form of missing panels from the weldmesh fencing, and an unofficial 'goat track' running between the slip lane and the bridge footpath.

Visibility on the slip lane is good here, and vehicle speeds moderate, so experienced cyclists accept the risks of crossing the slip lane ďat gradeŇ. This unofficial route saves a detour of 300m involving two flights of stairs and a spooky tunnel, several dismounts and a steep descent and ascent.

Recently the RTA welded this section of fence closed. Some cyclists still use the goat track route, lifting their bikes around or over the fence, but most now take a more dangerous route down to the end of the fence, and then back along the slip road. Few use the 'official' route. The RTA is aware of the lack of a satisfactory link to the bridge for cyclists from Hunters Hill and Lane Cove. Late in the 1990s, perhaps spurred by the NSW Government's 'Action for Bikes: BikePlan 2010' or the coming Sydney Olympics, the RTA engaged Hassell consultants to prepare a design for a pedestrian / cyclist flyover to provide a direct link over the slip-lane, and Environmental Planning Pty Ltd to investigate the environmental impact.

The design mimicked the aesthetics of the main Gladesville Bridge, with a light concrete structure and gentle, sweeping curves. There was consultation with the local community over both the flyover and its environmental implications.

Two years later, in 2002, the RTA commissioned Taylor and Herbert Associates Pty Ltd to prepare a full engineering design (with a different design solution), and again there was consultation with the local community. Towards the end of 2004 Jamieson Foley was engaged by the RTA to design a cycle route joining Chatswood Station to Gladesville Bridge. Again the consultant consulted the local communities along the route.

So it is now 'a bit rich' for the RTA to state that 'the facility in the area is considered appropriate at this stage' (letter from RTA CEO dated 7 July 2006). Surely the RTA wouldn't have engaged a series of consultants over 5 years to design a flyover if they really believe that 'the facility in the area is appropriate'? Come on, RTA, its time to bite the bullet! This is a busy route, as shown by the consultant's counts of the amount of bike traffic over Gladesville Bridge. You have an obligation to provide for cyclists and pedestrians as well as for motorists. You know that people will continue to make and use shortcuts if the alternative is an inconvenient 300m detour. It is time to build the slip-lane flyover to make Gladesville Bridge as accessible to pedestrians and cyclists as it is to cars and trucks.

To support the call for the flyover write to the RTA at: P.O. Box K198, Haymarket 1240 or Fax: (02) 9218 6286

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