BT supports improvements to Hobart Rivulet Track
The City of Hobart is seeking the community’s views on a proposal to upgrade the Hobart Rivulet Track to a concrete, shared use path extending between the park entrance at Molle Street in the City and Tara Street in South Hobart.
The unsealed Hobart Rivulet Track has been prone to persistent erosion problems, causing trip hazards and requiring ongoing maintenance. It also becomes sticky and boggy when wet, which makes it very hard work for all sorts of wheeled vehicles, including prams and bike riders, and gets clothes muddy. The lowest section of the track is getting wider and wider as people move to the sides of the track to avoid the mud. In response to many complaints over many years, the Hobart City Council has proposed replacing the present clay-gravel treatment of the path with a concrete surface. The Council has tried to fix the mud problem at the southern most end of the track, but it proved too shaded to respond well to capping treatments.
The proposal to seal these lower sections has been met with several negative responses, citing loss of aesthetics and character, damage to joggers' knees, fear of an influx of kids on bikes and scooters, and walkers being mown down by speeding bikes.
Bicycle Tasmania acknowledges that it is pleasant to walk or jog on a gravel path when the weather has been fine, and that it would be preferable to have adequate, fully separated paths for people travelling at different speeds. In places this can be accommodated, with a separation of walkers on the existing gravel and a natural orangey-brown textured concrete alongside. In places the path is too narrow to fit two tracks. Council are working hard to try to come up with a solution that addresses the complaints about the mud and improving the track for walkers, prams and bicycles.
This proposal is an important part of the Council's Sustainable Transport Plan to give riders options to going along roads built for high volume, high speed motor vehicle traffic. We know that South Hobart Primary has a large proportion of kids riding to school already, and this proposal is designed to make it easier for small legs and small wheels to ride off road. If we want to make riding a transport option for those not confident on the road, we need to back this proposal.
You can have input by:
- Reviewing the details of the proposal and perhaps considering some alternatives (for example, widening the track where feasible to enable adequate and safe space for walkers and riders, etc)
- Supporting the HCC proposal via the online feedback form by 24 October
The personal consultation opportunities at the track are now complete. They occurred on Friday 10 October, Sunday 12 October, Wednesday 15 October. Bicycle Network Tasmania went to the Wednesday session, and talked with as many people as possible. The feedback was roughly as follows during our time there:
- Some mountain bike riders are opposed to sealing because they like the gravel track
- But many of the complaints from walkers were about mountain bike riders going too fast. Speed is ALREADY an issue on the track, and this needs to be addressed through education, signage and community pressure from users. This doesn't seem to be the top reason for not sealing the track.
- Walkers don't like bikes sneaking up on them. Please use your bell or sing out 'passing' instead.
- Walkers don't like bikes ringing their bells. Still, please use your bell. We need to move towards the ACT model and just get used to it. Ringing a bell is not rude. It's courteous.
- Bike riders don't like walkers who have earbuds in and music so loud that they can't hear either bell or voice. Please keep music at a level that you can hear outside sounds.
- Concern about the track looking like the Intercity Cycleway. The designers have gone to a lot of trouble to keep it natural. This included a trip to visit Bicycle Network in Melbourne and get a tour of best practice track and lighting from Jason den Hollander, who is one of Victoria's top consultants and experts on track design. Most of the lighting is existing, and only a few extras will be installed. The concrete will not be white/grey, but a textured orange/brown to match the existing colours.
We forgot to take a photo of the samples that the Council had, but here's an example from Canadian Rockies of a similar treatment where retaining a natural look was important. They had three samples, one of which looked like the path below, and the others looked more like the existing surface, without the aggregate and other colours.
To summarise, the grumbles were not about the sealing but shared use. There are existing issues that need to be tackled in an ongoing way, and these should not be confused with design of the shared path.
Some points to consider:
- The proposed concrete surface would not look like a stretch of the InterCity Cycleway, as it would be textured and coloured to fit the existing track.
- For this path to be truly an important part of Hobart's alternative transport infrastructure, it needs to be all-weather. The only current "safe" alternative for riders is to use the footpath on Macquarie St, but with all its driveways and cross streets this is not a safe or friendly alternative for the over 100 (and increasing) daily bike commuters and an increasing number of kids riding to school.
- Recreational and family bicycle users have apparently shown a preference for using the new concreted section near the C3 Church site - that is, this is a family friendly option.
- The present surface of the track does not currently limit riding to speeds suitable for passing pedestrians. But most riders show courtesy and ride slowly (or at least slow down to overtake pedestrians) because the community expects that. Education, signage and community pressure are the answers to poor behaviours, not retaining a muddy substandard surface.
- Yes, concreting the track might encourage more kids onto bikes, scooters and skateboards. Many of us would regard that as a good thing!
- Evidence for knee damage resulting from changing the track surface is mixed at best: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bodysphere/barefoot-or-cushioned-the-great-running-shoe-controversy/5780186. In any case, most sections of the path would still have grassy verges or alternate routes for jogging.
- The amenity of the track might be slightly compromised by the change. However, the amenity of the city will be improved through having fewer cars, less congestion and car parking, and more sustainable alternative transport routes.
- Tree removal is proposed in a couple of places for other reasons - this is essentially an unrelated issue.