Slings and Arrows: City Cyclists Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

Scores of southern and eastern city edge cyclists ain’t seen nothin’ yet. They’re the ones who ride any section of the Frome Street to North Terrace run, or beyond — coasting down Frome Road, crossing North Terrace, zooming past the zoo, squeezing across the Albert Bridge and puffing uphill to North Adelaide’s Lefevre Terrace.

Pedalling the risk

There’s a $5.5m build coming soon, including part reconstruction of the existing bikeway. The plan envisages a whole new bikeway from North Terrace to North Adelaide. Costs will be split 50/50: state government/council. A June 2017 report* revealed that the city council faces 78 risks about the project, three of which are labelled ‘extreme’.

They are ‘Inflated expectations of project outcomes’, ‘Changes in scope’ and ‘Hitting underground and overhead services’.

Public support doubtful

“…it is highly unlikely that the community will have consistent views on the treatment of the Frome Street section … particularly with regard to the impact on traffic flow (two or four lanes),” the report read, surprising noone. In relation to the ‘design direction’, it said that “public support … has been identified as a key risk”. True.

The project has caused nothing but sound and fury ever since former Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood initiated a sudden Carrington to Pirie Street bikeway demonstration project to please an international cycling junket visiting Adelaide in 2013. Since then well north of $500,000 has been spent trying to please multiple communities, including the car lobby that wants it junked.

Yes, Minister

There’s allusion to another risk, but it’s been deftly dodged by the state government and Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan. It’s the risk that he and his cabinet colleagues might be seen to be financially endorsing a return to the works on the notorious Carrington to Pirie Street section, fuelling it with fresh dollars and fresh energy.

“As a term of the Funding Deed, the minister’s funding contribution cannot be expended on the existing section of bikeway between Carrington Street and Pirie Street,” the report notes. On that point, the report later says: “[This] leads us to conclude that the risk of adverse media … will actually be ‘almost certain’. This would result in the risk of ‘adverse media in relation to the project’ being re-rated as an ‘Extreme risk’.”

This firmly places the risk and the potential for fresh uproar into Lord Mayor Martin Haese’s inbox, with no excuse when the next uproar breaks out. There’s no truth in the rumour that his strategic advisor has ordered a steel-reinforced concrete bunker for the Office of the Lord Mayor.

Lock the doors!

There may be a lot more to come for the good Lord Mayor, and that bunker would represent money well spent. That’s because in the fine- print figure of the scope of works there sit numerous land mines, all with the potential to explode over the next year. They include the “demolition of the existing bikeway” from Wakefield Street to Pirie Street (which will fuel outrage by cyclists and prompt another revolution by street traders there), as well as construction-prompted traffic gridlock along the Rundle Street to North Terrace section (already as tight as could be, with no safe space for cyclists).

Ash wonders when the council will be telling local traders that 49 on-street car parks during peak hours will be lost, permanently.

Farther along (crossing North Terrace and down-to-Victoria-Drive slope, a very dangerous ride at the best of times) there’s only three construction hazards looming – the new North Terrace tram build (early work now under way), the old RAH rebuild (the report’s fine print reads: “…two to three years of demo at least, then construction”) and the new high school build, reaching peak, street-edge, concrete-pour activity by about November 2017. Looks like three recipes for 24/7 cycling and driving gridlock.

Finally, there’s the state-heritage-listed Albert Bridge, where the cycle track narrows to seriously hazardous dimensions, as rush-hour cars pass with centimetres to spare. One can imagine the hazards as construction workers struggle to work on what is, effectively, one of the tightest city river crossings, hedged in by heritage bridge walls, and heavy safety barriers intended to last a century. This bridge only carries 15,300 vehicles daily.

Bravery award

If the project gets completed, Lord Mayor Haese might be in line for a Civic Bravery Award. But there’s still time to pull out. This North South Bikeways project is not listed in the long-term financial plan. It’s not listed in council’s asset management plan schedule. More politically, it’s not one of Jay Weatherill’s Capital City Committee’s seven ‘major infrastructure projects’.

It begs the question — if there’s a council election in late 2018, why walk the pedal plank now, when another lucky winning candidate might get to walk it in 2019? Most of the Frome Road infrastructure gridlocks/time bombs would have been defused, too. Unless… unless… perhaps the good Lord Mayor is lining up for a second term in the big chair and wants this achievement to tick the ‘green’ box as polling day looms.

Ash has contributed a box of sticking plaster and a bottle of disinfectant to the campaign fund. It’s the least he can do.

* Prudential Issues Report – Bikeways Project. Attachment to Corporation of the City of Adelaide council minutes, 27 June 2017, Item 12.16 (54 pages).

Ash Whitefly is Executive Director of the Adelaide Whitefly Institute of Diplomatic Studies.

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