Sometimes you look on the cycle maps and see a big long stretch of green, which denotes a dedicated cycle path, and think – I have to do this! What can possibly go wrong!
The M5 Linear Park Cycleway was one such section green. 12kms of dedicated path is fairly rare in Sydney. So I finally got around to doing the ride last week. It took longer to ride to the path than to actually do the thing.
One of the things I love about cycling over walk is that it gives you the speed to explore places in detail. If you’re in an industrial area with lots of little places to check out, laneways, abandoned buildings and other infrastructure it just takes too long to check out these places, especially if some of the side-trips don’t prove to be particularly fruitful. Cars on the other hand are just too damn quick and take up too much room. You can’t just stop a car in the middle of a one way laneway or throw it over a fence to get a closer look at something shiny. So on the way to the M5 cycleway I took a bit of time to check out some backstreets in Marrickville. Marrickville is one of my favourite suburbs in Sydney. It has a strong working class history combined with an ever evolving multicultural demographic especially Anglo, Greek and Italian and in the last 15 years or so Vietnamese, Sudanese. It is also home to a very distinctly Australian aesthetic named Fedeterranea, which combines Anglo Australian home architecture with the cultural aesthetics of Euro-Mediterraean migrant families. It also covers a large warehousing and industrial part of the city (the white areas on the map).
Stuck between a bunch of warehouses on a path inaccessible to cars is what is basically an open air art gallery. I’m sure this place has some history about it, because these works are quite substantial.
Just around the corner down a dead end alley I found a burnt out car! This was really exciting [though the owner probably doesn’t feel the same, unless it was insurance fraud]. It was kind of weird though, the wreck seemed almost inhabited, with art, magazines and a blanket stashed inside. Seems like a bad place to set up.
In another dead end alley I found about 36 drums of olive oil just sitting outside a warehouse, a pile of dead fish, and across the road series of murals in rememberance of Portugal (as part of the Portugese Community centre). After twisting may way through the backstreets of Marrickville, I made it down to the Cooks River, and then up the other side of the valley towards Clemton Park. It was about at this location that I got lost. The Local Councils like to mark bike paths with a little cycling chap on the road. But they often don’t put any signage up, so the only way to know you’re heading in the right direction is to follow the trail of painted people… which would be fine execpt for some reason at intersections they don’t put any indication of whether to turn left or right. Fortunately, I’m well trained in intuitive pathfinding. It was my preferred method for travel while exploring overseas. When in Edinburgh I’d just set off on a urban hike and kind of feel my way to interesting places (though this isn’t hard to do in Edinburgh). For my first two roadtrips across the USA I coped largely without maps (last trip I had GPS! Which was useful!). All you really need for intuitive pathfinding is: A general sense of where your destination is and an appreciation that more often than not human designers make reasonable decisions. Because of this, you can make assumptions about the kinds of opportunities for movement that a given location will represent, for example, that certain roads will eventually intersect because of their relative geography. For example, in Sydney railways will often have a parallel road called “Railway Street” “Railway Avenue” or “Railway Parade”, which will inevitably intersect with a bridge over the line, so to get across the railway you just follow “Railway Parade”. Minor roads inevitably intersect with major roads, major roads with highways, so just head in the approximate direction and you’ll get to the right place.
After a couple of turns I got back on track and found my way to the start of the cycleway.
The cycleway itself is quite good. The path is smooth, it has some small hills to keep things interesting, and has a couple of very short sections of well maintained greenery. But apart from these short sections (a couple of hundred metres) the cycleway is terribly, terribly boring. Given that I like exploring urban landscapes, it really takes a lot to make me bored. But I was bored. The northern side of the loop has a concrete wall on one side and the ends of suburban streets on the other. The southern side is a little more interesting because it follows the concreted upper end of Wolli Creek. But this soon gets boring when you find that after a while this kind of track gets dull:
How on earth they managed to call this a “Linear Park” and not having their heads explode with fuck I’ll never know. I suspect that as part of the private/public partnership the government said “you need to build some parkland if you want this contract” and so they built a path along the side of the M5 freeway and called it a “Linear Park”. Which just means unusable bits of land on the side of a freeway. There is also some terrible pieces of cost-saving infrastructure. Instead of building a pedestrian bridge over an intersection and exit ramp, they just make you cross at five crossings to get across a single road. In the picture below I wanted to get from under the green side in the middle to the place I took the picture. It took about 15 minutes.
The road home was largely uneventful. I went through Bexley and Arncliffe, which were surprisingly nice places to cycle with some good hills to climb. Oddly in the space of about 2km I got yelled at by three different men in cars. Some people just can’t cope for some reason and feel the need to express their fragility. Randomly found myself on the road that my first internet crush lived on. It is weird now knowing these city places that my BBS and early Internet friends lived in. Growing up outside of the city it was all kind of weird and distant and mysterious and frightening. I remember going to parties in Miranda, Peakhurst etc. God those people were fucking freaks. At this one party some really ugly bogan fuckers had sex in the bedroom of the one bedroom apartment the party was in. One of those two people was married to some equally ugly person, who just sat on the couch while this happened. It was all gross as fuck.