Sunday, 30 May 2010

Steep path at Hall Reserve, Capital City Trail

Location: Merri Creek Trail/Capital City Trail, under Heidelberg Rd, Clifton Hill, Melbourne
Local Council: Yarra Council; Melbourne Water must be consulted about any works under the bridge.
Responsibility: Yarra Council. Try Mark Kulyk was the contact person for the Bike Strategy of the council, 2010, but has moved on. You might try MD who works on bike paths
Description: Merri Creek has a cycle path, installed over the last two decades. This section forms part of the Capital City Trail, which takes you to the CBD. Heading city-bound, you go under the Heidelberg Road bridge, round a blind corner, and are faced with a crap cycle lane of huge proportions - a steep incline often covered with debris, up to Hall Reserve, a nice bit of parkland between houses and Creek.
Only the fit and those with gears can make it up. For everybody else it is get off and walk. For those with toddlers or prams  it is a nightmare. Wheelchair, no chance. Coming down, you need very good brakes.
If this has not been enough, in early 2010 Yarra Council  made things considerably worse by re-routing the paths at the top of the hill in Halls Reserve, adding another half a meter to the distance you have to climb at the top of the hill (see last photo below). We understand what they were doing but this was tackling the wrong issue first. They were carrying out path realignments suggested in the the Merri Creek Trail Review of 2007 but have made things worse for cyclists going up and down the hill. That earlier document, by the way, makes no suggestions about fixing the steep slope, other than to suggest cyclists dismount going down, with signs to that effect (we all ignore them). It also recommended a barrier at the top to slow downward cyclists. That would be really great if you were struggling uphill, wouldn't it? (there used to be one-it was removed).
With Spensley Street Primary School kids and parents using this path as the major route from the northern part of their school catchment, the hill is an accident waiting to happen, as well as just intensely annoying. Every morning you will meet 6 year old kids pushing their bikes up, angry parents, and a range of other faster commuters. Near misses every week.
Solution: Simply telling people to dismount is sloppy bike planning. Regrade the path. No barriers. A switchback is one solution. Simply flattening the slope a bit, at the top, would do. Is this prioritised in the Yarra Bicycle Strategy 2010-2015? No. I am not convinced the author of that document ever rode this path, which is an essential city trail - hence its name.  There are vague statements in the Strategy about the difficulties of fixing paths that are not up to code, but no plans to actually spend any money.  
View Larger Map
Update, 1 June 2010. It gets worse. See photo. Council workmen came today to stop peds and cyclists taking a shortcut across the grass at the top of the slope, to reduce the uphill distance they travel. Incomprehensible wooden barriers have been installed (now tan barked as well). This builds on their spectacular effort to protect grass from being walked on, with a fence, April 2010. None of this is of any benefit to park users, whether pedestrians, dogs, cyclists, or anybody else. The workmen would not talk to me.  Meanwhile the slope isn't getting any less steep. The photo shows it's base and the new, higher top. This would definitely make it into my top 50 Crap Cycles Lanes of Melbourne.  Publishers for a book out there?


  1. An earlier bit of correspondence. Acknowledged but that was all.

    Sent: Thursday, 22 October 2009 5:15 PM
    To: Kulyk, Mark
    Subject: yarra cycling strategy

    An announcement about this was circulated in our Spensley Street primary school newletter yesterday, hence the short notice and I haven't examined the whole document, but I would like to comment on the steep gradient hill under the Heidelberg Road on the Merri Ck path.

    I use this path all the time, but since my son (aged 6) has started school at Spensley St Primary School, we are using this twice daily on our bikes. I find it hard to believe that a hill of this gradient was designed in the first place, especially given the location (about 100m from a primary school). Most adults struggle up this hill on bikes, many get off and walk. Children have real difficulty. My son tries to pedal as high as he can which causes him to veer from left to right and to get off at some stage. It is off-putting for children (and adults!) and is impossible to manage with a child in a bike seat - the front wheel literally rears off the ground at a certain point. My friend with a school-aged child and a toddler cannot even attempt to come this way on bikes.

    Returning down this path can be dangerous, especially in the wet. Soil slides down from the banks above and covers part of the higher side of the path making skidding a strong possibility. Smaller children are at greater risk as they don't have the level of control on their bikes. My son is a confident and reasonably good rider at 6, but even he has a level of nervousness about the gradient, quite rightly.

    Why not a less steep gradient, bring the path out onto the reserve at a different point (but not making the school too inaccessible). I've heard that a switchback path has been discussed in the past. PLEASE can we get onto this and find a workable solution as soon as possible. I feel sure that it would increase the numbers of children and adults riding along this trail.

  2. Still no action! Jul '12

  3. I broke my arm yesterday coming down the slope under heidelburg rd. I thought I was going to die. I don't even recall any signs and had no clue because it was my first time on the trail. Something should be done, so dangerous that at the bottom there's such a sharp turn (where I ended up on rocks).

  4. Bad. Sorry about your accident. We will step up the campaign.

  5. In jan 2012, my wife's cousins were visiting and their two daughters wheeled their bikes down the hill. The youngest, aged 6, lost control of her bike and fell over, resulting in nasty grazes. I'm not posting the photos obviously, but she was upset and her parents angry.

  6. In 2013, the Parks people at the top of the slope have made things worse by deliberately stopping walkers and cyclists from taking short cuts across the park to access the bike path to continue southwards. The sign, which was still there recently, is objectionable - it intimates that they chose to ignore the 'wear line' (where people actually want to go).


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