Dan Sobkowski is a young father who bikes for transport with his family in and around Blacktown. Dan’s observations on how difficult it can be to get around outside a car are compiled on his excellent Instagram account Copenhagenize Blacktown
Bicycle NSW is delighted to meet a new ally for Better Streets and human-friendly infrastructure in Blacktown.
In this article, Dan shares some insights into Blacktown’s existing active transport infrastructure and shines a light on a perennial problem – the overuse of bollards! Thanks Dan.
There are some great shared paths in the Blacktown area but they don’t connect useful, everyday destinations. And there are way too many bollards… Junction of Western Sydney Parkland Trail and Power St, Doonside.
(Source: Google Maps)
Blacktown’s good bones for bike riding
The area has some really good off-road routes such as the Western Sydney Parkland Trail, the M7 Cycleway and the Breakfast Creek Cycleway. There is definitely some thought placed into offering safe and separated space for bicycle riding. However, the focus seems to be on recreational riding. The existing bicycle paths on offer in Blacktown don’t lead anywhere of significance - such as stations, schools, shopping centres or sports facilities. They are designed primarily for recreation. They are the destination – and great for a leisure ride, or some serious exercise.
However, what I’m more interested in is using bicycle infrastructure for transport. It should be a simple construction that promotes accessibility to and from various points of interest. Although the M7 Cycleway does accommodate travelling over vast areas, it is built to the scale of motor vehicle transport. It is not ideal for bicycle commuter trips. The Western Sydney Parkland Trail is in and of itself a landmark attraction. It’s not a useful bit of bicycle infrastructure that I can ride on to pop out and get some milk from the local corner store.
The Breakfast Creek Cycleway is different
The Breakfast Creek Cycleway is a valuable asset to the community as it provides a safe and efficient way for bike riders to travel through several suburbs of Blacktown. Breakfast Creek connects everyday destinations and third places between Quakers Hill, Marayong and Blacktown.
The Breakfast Creek Cycleway could run all the way to the Blacktown CBD via interlinking with the Richmond ‘Stroad’ shared path. That would allow bike riders to join public transport services at the bus interchange and Blacktown train station
The cycleway has the potential to become a de-facto bicycle highway.
However, to achieve this, existing barriers need to be removed.
The Breakfast Creek shared path is currently interrupted by barriers and bollards along alleyways from adjacent cul-de-sacs and where it intersects with streets.
Bollards and chicanes are vertical or U-shaped elements placed on the bikeway or footpath. Such elements are intended by engineers to regulate traffic flow and slow bike riders at junctions. In practice, they pose a significant hazard for pedestrians, bike riders and micromobility users. They often make it difficult to manoeuvre through the pathway, particularly for cargo bikes, double prams and mobility devices used by the elderly and people with a disability. And when bike riders crash into a bollard, barrier or chicane, serious injuries are a common outcome.
A selection of bike barriers along the Breakfast Creek route. Blacktown City Council claims these prevent bicycle riders from recklessly hitting pedestrians. (Images: Dan Sobkowski)
Bicycle NSW advocates for a more thoughtful use of bollards. Bollards and chicanes are not advised for cycleways under Austroads Guide to Road Design Part 6A: Paths for Walking and Cycling. This is due to the serious risks to bicycle riders and reduced access to personal mobility devices. Bollards should be limited to protecting sensitive infrastructure and, at times, people from traffic intrusion. The Austroads document suggests numerous safer alternatives.
Blacktown City Council needs to rethink its business-as-usual engineering approach.
The pathway should be more accessible from surrounding streets.
Satellite imagery of the Quakers Hill and Marayong areas reveal eighteen potential access points that currently do not accessibly connect to the Breakfast Creek Cycleway, including existing alleyways from cul-de-sacs. By making these streets and cul-de-sacs accessible to bicycles, Blacktown City Council can dramatically improve the interconnectivity of their constituents via the Breakfast Creek Cycleway and make it easier for people of all ages and abilities to navigate the area on two (or three!) wheels.
A map showing additional access points from neighbouring streets and key points of interest along the Breakfast Creek Cycleway (Image: Dan Sobkowski/Google Maps)
Much better wayfinding would help attract more riders
Another significant challenge faced by bike riders on the Breakfast Creek Cycleway is the lack of wayfinding and signage. Once on the shared path, how would a rider know where they are or what’s around them? Wayfinding signs are a set of navigational tools that help users know where they are and where they are going. Those large green signs on motorways are perfect examples. The implementation of clear wayfinding along the Breakfast Creek Cycleway would help riders feel more confident in navigating the area and promote increased usage of the cycleway. In fact, better wayfinding should be rolled out all across Blacktown!
Copenhagenize Blacktown has proposed new standards for wayfinding that Blacktown City Council could adopt (Image: Dan Sobkowski)
A step change in bicycle planning in Blacktown
I do thank Blacktown for their support of bike riding, even though progress has been somewhat minimal to date.
The Breakfast Creek Cycleway is a valuable resource that can be made even more accessible and efficient for bike riders in Blacktown. By removing barriers, improving connectivity, and implementing wayfinding, the cycleway can become safer and more convenient, promoting alternative transportation options and reducing the reliance on cars. But first, the Council planning guidelines need to be brought into the 21st Century!
Let us work together to create a bike-friendly environment that benefits everyone in the community.
I hope that one day, bike riding in Blacktown will be as normal, easy and carefree as it is in many parts of northern Europe! (Image: copenhagencyclechic.com)
Help Bicycle NSW advocate for better streets in your area
If you are not already a Bicycle NSW Member, we would love you to consider joining us. Not only would you support our advocacy for better infrastructure. You will ride with peace of mind knowing that you are covered by our comprehensive insurance and enjoy many other Member-only benefits.