Sunday, 8 August 2010

Rushall Station underpass, Rushall Bridge, Koonda Lat Bridge

Local Council: City of Yarra, and Darebin Council on north side of Creek
The Rushall Bridge and station. My image, no copyright
Responsibility: VicTrack and Yarra Council. Possibly Vic Parks?
Contact: try MD at City of Yarra for update on progress, or

The Rushall Bridge looking north (BV image).
Northern suburbs residents will doubtless be familiar with the multi-decade old campaign to get decent cycle access under,  and around, Rushall Station (see linked BV map). There is a lovely narrow bridge the crosses the Merri Creek from Westgarth to the north (postcode 3070) (see right), to Rushall Station, which is in North Fitzroy, after which you have multiple options to get the Melbourne City Centre - I tend to go straight on, on Falconer St. See Nearmap below for stunning images.
View Large Map

As hundreds of you will also be aware, this is a major commuter route with a bike passing every few seconds in the rush-hours (300 or so in the morning, BV says - in March 2010 the 2 hr morning peak had a count of 390).
The historic problems have been:
  1. Convoluted narrow underpass under Rushall Station, shared with pedestrians. Lots of no-cycling signs, that are rightfully ignored because they are an excuse for planner inaction on cycle infrastructure. Occasional clashes with pedestrians, lots of 'excuse-me' in the underpass, and too much slowing down.
  2. Rushall Station path showing lack of access to
    T Kidney Reserve, over the fence (BV image)
  3. No access (see right) to Thomas Kidney Reserve, to the north west side of the railway tracks, from the Station. People, their dogs, and children have to climb a steel fence to gain access from Rushall Station, and then walk along the top of a Creek-side cliff, to attain the grassland Reserve and the bike path through it (a path that looks old, and was never completed up to the Station-currently it ends in the Creek!).
There was some cause for hope in early 2010 that, finally, Rushall Station would be 'fixed' with a wider, or better, cycle access to cross the railway tracks (somehow). The Yarra Bicycle Strategy 2010-15 mentions on page 44 that money has now been allocated to improve access. It says:

3.2 Merri Creek Trail at Rushall Station. Construction of new path on the east of Rushall Station to ensure the Merri Creek Trail bypasses the station underpass. Project will link existing trail south of the station to Rushall Reserve and eventually, the new crossing identified in 3.1 above. Project is consistent with the Merri Creek Trail Review. Yarra City Council with funding support of Parks Victoria. 2010 $375k (split 50/50)

However in Dec 2010, there was still no sign of any works commencing (but I did see someone who might have been an engineer there in August), and things actually got worse. In addition, a sign went up on the Rushall Bridge saying 'cyclists dismount, narrow bridge'. This is new - you could always cycle over this bridge in the past and it is a great crossing away from cars - there aren't other crossing points close by. We all ignore the sign - it appears to have no statutory authority, and anyway this bridge is not narrow - two bikes or prams can pass easily, there is zero history of accidents, and the bridge is the same width as all the older sections of the Capital City Trail, which has no such 'dismount' signs along its length!
Koonda Lat Bridge, N Fitzroy/Merri (BV image)
In addition, temporary alert signs have been added around the local area, reminding cyclists that they could use an alternative route. This is the new Koonda Lat Bridge a few hundred meters to the west. The new bridge was announced by John Brumby a couple of years ago with a brief fanfare, and then built, with a combination of State and local funds, using an existing pipe bridge and in conjunction with Melbourne Water relaying the pipe.
The bridge is welcome, but if anybody thinks this new Bridge will get good cycle traffic they are dreaming:
  1. The Koonda Lat Bridge is not easily accessed, and cyclists like to take a direct route, unless they are out for a weekend meander. If you live where I live, it takes you 500m out of your way, every day, day-in, day-out on the commute.
  2. The Koonda Lat Bridge does not head towards the city - it is strongly angled away from it - if you are heading southbound, it angles east.
  3. A major screwup is that if you approach the Koonda Lat Bridge from the east on Westgarth Street, you find yourself having to go cross-country to access it - there is no cycle path approaching it from the east! Bike planners in Darebin Council could have thought of this.From Darebin Council, Aug '10 - this is because of underground service cables etc.
  4. Also the Bridge could be useful for the many St George's Rd cycle commuters coming from the north west and heading south, but only if they exit the obvious route into the city that they are on, to go out of their way to get to the Bridge in a big loop they takes an extra 5 minutes. 
I conclude that the two recent signs on the Merri Bridge at Rushall Station exacerbate what is already a crap cycle lane as it goes under the Station. But this is an absolutely vital route. It has in no way be replaced by Koonda Lat - if you live in Darebin or beyond, this is an obvious crossing point. I worry that Councils are trying to pass the buck - to suggest to riders that it would be easier to cycle off 400 m to the west, and use another bridge, even if that one is poorly located. And to say that you should dismount on the Rushall Bridge is just cheeky. Nobody has dismounted to cross that one in decades (unless they have stopped to throw shopping trolleys in the Creek or feed the ducks!). Meanwhile, the 2 major constraints in and around Rushall Station remain unresolved.

Inaction on Rushall Station is already legendary. It is a classic case of Strategy Planning not resulting in anything for years at a time, because "complex partnerships" would be involved. Improvements have been mentioned in almost every transport plan and cycle strategy for years, in Yarra and sometimes in Merri Creek Management and City of Darebin documents. Bicycle Victoria have a whole web page on it. But nobody can actually get themselves to start work on the problem. If this was a road, it would have been fixed long ago. Let us see if the latest funding allocation mentioned in the Yarra Bicycle Strategy 2010-15 actually comes to anything, while I am still alive..... Watch this space. Update 20 Aug '10 - Darebin Sustainable Transport say they have no plans to do anything about the Bridge right now - and the sign stays up because the Bridge is 500mm too narrow to meet new codes. Strange how we (nearly 400 people a day) have been cycling over it all these years without problems then, and it still has a cyclist painted on it....

6 comments:

  1. I'm glad I found this blog. I was starting to wonder if anyone else had noticed this sly campaign to get cyclists out of Rushall station. I can't decide whether it is the usual clueless approach to managing cycling infrastructure or whether someone in the council has been tasked with getting cyclists to use the Koonda Lat Bridge to nowhere that they just spent a fortune on. I look forward to seeing the traffic figures if they ever get released. Meanwhile I have switched to St Georges road - If I have to go out of my way at least don't have to back track.

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  2. I live just south of there so have never had to commute over it. I jog over it sometimes. I would describe it as very narrow. A high bridge with rails on both sides feels a lot narrower than the capital city trail.
    I liked the new bridge, but that's a somewhat theoretical like as I never have to use it. I have heard enough complaints now to realise it is no good.

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  3. I don't intend to divert to the new bridge either. I cycle across Rushall Bridge all the time and never have any problems with pedestrians. The underpass is ridiculous though. So what will it take to get them to actually deal with this problem?

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  4. I have corresponded with Darebin only, who are the Council on the north side. New comments above in the text. Apparently some peds want barriers on the Bridge but they are not on the planning horizon right now. For Rushall Station: need to bombard Yarra and VicParks with requests for information, see top of posting.
    It always amazes me how quickly the rail guys deal with graffiti on and under the station, and put in handrails and also fix the fence into the Reserve every time local citizens cut it so they can get access - but if you ask about creating a decent crossing it is always in the 'needs complex partnerships' basket.

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  5. Great blog. It is good to see other people talking about cycling issues in our 'own backyard.' From what I read of the Yarra Bicycle strategy, they are going to extend the Merri Creek trail into T.Kidney/Rushall Reserve to link up with the Koonda Lat bridge. When they do this, perhaps they could add a level railway crossing wide enough for peds/cyclists just north of the Rushall Stn platform. That would help you blokes heading east/west to avoid the existing Rushall Stn underpass. I commute from Fairfield to Brunswick and use Westgarth St and the Merri Creek trail at the St Georges Rd underpass,and the trail north of there. I've written to Yarra/Moreland Council to ask what their future plans are for this section of path. It is old and way too narrow. I couldn't get through there this morning because of the flooding of the creek.

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  6. Nifty to hear about the Merri Creek Trail extending to Koonda Lat through the reserve - hope it happens. I'm keen to see a very old and neglected bike route down along the Epping Line through Darebin reinstated (you can still see the battered little blue bike signs here and there), culminating in a bike/pedestrian bridge tacked on to the side of the rail bridge over Merri Parade, Merri Creek and joining up with the Capital City Trail directly. This would provide a solid north-south route with fewer crossovers than St George's Rd. "Who pays" is always the problem of course. Maybe a new Council will look on bike routes more favourably in Darebin - it's a difficult municipality to traverse by bike from east to west in particular.

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