Adelaide transport…

Posted on October 16th, 2007 in Driving Emotion by Julian Edgar

adelaide.jpgAs I write this I am back in my home town of Adelaide. I lived here, and also in various parts of country South Australia, until seven years ago when I moved to the Gold Coast hinterland.

Adelaide is a strange place to drive in. Long ago, in the Sixties, it was decided that the city would better prosper without a freeway network. The MATS plan, which laid out freeways across the suburbs, was abandoned with the smugness with which only Adelaideans can reject change and progress. For many years it didn’t matter: the grid-like network of secondary roads sufficed, and the clever sequencing of traffic lights improved arterial flows considerably.

But now, especially with the widespread introduction of 50 km/h speed limits, car travel in Adelaide is mind-bogglingly slow. It’s a fact that a city trip that in Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane non-peak-hour might take half an hour, takes in Adelaide a full 60 minutes. Every time I come back, I am late for appointments because I simply miscalculate how long it takes to travel even a short cross-city distance. It’s not even any use looking at public transport: the bus service is as slow as the traffic (except for one dedicated route, there are no bus lanes) and the suburban train and tram services are awesomely inadequate.

However, I have found a solution.

It doesn’t help those who really need to drive a car, but it relieved a lot of my travelling frustration. And I discovered it almost by accident.

On this trip I brought with me a Brompton folding bike – my wife is a dealer in the machines. These bikes use small wheels but still have a full-size riding position and, in the model I ride, six gears. The folded package is so tiny that it cost literally nothing to fly it with me as checked-in baggage. I like the bike but I had previously seldom ridden it – as regular readers will know, I am a recumbent trike enthusiast.

But here I was in Adelaide with the Brompton. I was staying at Glengowrie and decided to jump on the bike to ride into the city centre. I had a map that showed cycle trails and one appeared to lead into the city along the old Glenelg steam train route. The trail proved excellent and I soon found myself in Thebarton. (An aside: I could have ridden the Brompton bike to the suburb of Brompton; a good photo opportunity but I didn’t think of it at the time.) Anyway, when I got to Thebarton, I thought: why not ride down Port Road a little way? The road was wide (the canal that was to flow down the middle of the road was never built; just as well considering the relative elevations of the CBD and the port…) and, being Adelaide, the traffic just crept along.

I kept on pedalling, the flat terrain making it easy. I stopped for lunch – Adelaide bakeries are wonderful and Farmers Union iced coffee is simply the best in Australia – and then got back on the Brompton. I reached West lakes, then thought I may as well thread along to Port Adelaide, and then to Semaphore. From there I rode along the coast, back to Glenelg and then to Glengowrie.

Now of course for those who don’t know the city, this geography lesson is pretty impenetrable. But the distance I rode in the three hours was a bit over 40 kilometres, and the slow traffic, provision of on-road and off-road bike lanes, and absolutely flat terrain, made it all so easy.

With a 20 degree C day and not a cloud in the sky, I enjoyed myself hugely.

In fact, when the next day I needed to pick up a press car from Holden in the city, I cancelled my lift and rode the Brompton into the city instead. (And then, after picking up the car, folded the bike and tucked it into a corner of the boot!)

This is not to excuse the inadequacies of Adelaide’s road network, nor the shortsightedness that has led to a near complete absence of freeways. And as for the speed limits imposed on drivers, in many cases they are simply ludicrous.

But with fair amount of design and a dashing of serendipity, the city has become a wonderful place in which to pedal. I’ll certainly bring my Brompton back with me, and if I can manage to do so, my full suspension, 81-gear, disc-braked recumbent trike. If it’s not raining, I reckon I’d take the trike over almost any car you care to name for an Adelaide commute up to 30 kilometres – at least I won’t spend all my time feeling frustrated! I also think that point-to-point over that distance, the trike may well be quicker than a car…

10 Responses to 'Adelaide transport…'

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  1. OttoAu said,

    on October 16th, 2007 at 10:08 am

    I love Adelaide, [change that to like] the *traffic* is no-brainer!
    Best thing is get a moped, esp since in foward-thinking SA you can use a moped on your car license

  2. OttoAu said,

    on October 16th, 2007 at 10:32 am

  3. Oosh said,

    on October 16th, 2007 at 11:13 am

    The roads in Adelaide have been the bane of my existence ever since moving here from Melbourne, all jokes aside I do love the place, but the roads! The network itself stuffed as you outline, esp. with no city bypass, plus pot holes and man hole covers galore (that effective become engineered-in pot holes when they resurface the road but don’t raise the covers), spoon drains (in the driest state?), road signage AFTER the intersection, 6 lane roads with 60kph limits, 5 lanes suddenly turning in 3 turn lanes with no warning or escape, the list goes on and on and on…

  4. OttoAu said,

    on October 16th, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    The roads are ok, as is the “traffic” [What traffic, Ed.?]
    Anyway, the worst thing are the speed-camera hidden in wheelie-bins up @ TheHills, and of corse the Stubbie Poles, hit that in your car and your toast

  5. Paul said,

    on October 17th, 2007 at 11:33 pm

    I travel from the southern side of town to Port Adelaide every day approx 120 k round trip. It takes me 50min in the morning (6.00am) and 1.15 in the evening (6.30ish) The roads are a discrase and should be fully upgraded. South Rd needs to have a full lane built over the top for its complete length. ps enjoy the articles.

  6. Ned Needs said,

    on October 18th, 2007 at 8:04 am

    Adelaide is the only capital city in Australia with no urban ring roads and/or freeways; and none have been planned! The Brittania roundabout and Gepps Cross (both 5 ways intersections) are still a total shambles with no plan to remedy the situation. We are slowly sliding into oblivion here and is it any wonder?

  7. Paul said,

    on October 21st, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Mate, we can only blame the local and national goverment. Hopfully Mike Rann will be showen the door when the time comes. I do agree all roads in the state need to be up graded, including most of the country roads that I travel. All the beast and be safe on them.

  8. Darin said,

    on April 24th, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Yeah I agree with the comments re. Adelaide’s roads. I live in a suburb very close to the city but it’s still a pain to travel around unless it’s late evening or early weekends. It’s just as well I work in the hills where the roads are so much more fun eh!! (50km/h limits notwithstanding!)

  9. Peter the commuter said,

    on March 17th, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    I have only just come across this blog site, but yes, Adelaide roads are clogged up with bad drivers (‘I’ll drive at 45 kmh just in case it’s a 50 zone’ and ‘I have to turn right somewhere on my journey, so I’ll stick to the right hand lane all the way’) but it is exacerbated by traffic lights and bad lane designations. I catch the bus to work. I used to catch the tram but now they go past the plympton stop because they are full. Thanks Pat. I also cycle to work and that topic is another can of worms (‘the bike lane has just disappeared’ etc). My current bee in my bonnet are the man hole covers that countersunk by up to 3cm below th level of the road. That is hell on a bike. Anyone know how these came about or how to get them to use the flat profile types?

  10. on August 16th, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Talking of driving in Adelaide I wish they’d get the F1 race back again from Melbourne. Saw some great races back in the late 80s/early 90s.