Shortest bike path in Perth? The envelope please...

There has been some serious head scratching in the western suburbs recently after a rogue bicycle path floated to the surface in downtown Cottesloe.

Social commentators and psychopaths have been struggling with the sudden and unprovoked appearance while scientists from as far away as Success have been working nights devising a method fo measuring the vanishingly small bike path. Best estimates to date are in the vicinity of 120 metres.

Sited some distance to the east of popular and busy Curtin Avenue the path has no apparent connection to real needs, not to mention roads or other paths, and has been dubbed by locals "the road to nowhere".

Old timers interviewed by your correspondent vowed to steer clear of the path early and late in the day and in cloudy conditions. However many remain unconcerned by the path citing the low chance of a cyclist actually finding it as it's best safety feature.

Narrows Bridge to Mosman Bay - Cities of Perth, Subiaco, Nedlands etc.

Cities of Perth, Subiaco and Nedlands, Town of Claremont, Shire of Peppermint Grove, Department of Environment and Conservation

The stretch of river from the Perth CBD to UWA is a tremendously popular commuter and recreation route.

Matilda Bay, with its lawns, trees, gazebos and views to the city over Royal Perth Yacht Club is a beautiful spot to while away a few hours in or out of the sun. The journey down to Tawarri Reception Centre through sporting fields and into suburban Nedlands and Dalkeith is interesting enough.

What lets this ride down is lousy paths through what are so often gushingly described as "Perth's premier suburbs". The Premier may live one of them but he evidently doesn't ride a bike. If you're planning to take your kids for a ride you can forget the northern Riverside Drive section, it simply comes too close for comfort to four lanes of fast moving traffic. Once you enter the City of Subiaco, DEC managed Matilda Bay Reserve the path standard takes a bit of a dive. The rest of the facilities are fantastic though; along with the usual free barbecues, there are the Matilda Bay Tearooms for casual meals, coffees and ice-creams as well as the high end Matilda Bay Restaurant. The once infamous Crawley toilets are now supplemented by a second set of toilets housed in a building that parades it's architectural street cred in an obvious position - you'll be forgiven for imagining that you're looking at the tearooms as you approach!

Once across Australia II Drive the paths head south, literally and metaphorically. They're awkwardly narrow and meandering and determinedly free of any directional signage. If you're prepared to ride on the road you can avoid this whole catastrophe by using the on-road lane that follows busy Hackett Drive from Mounts Bay Road round to The Avenue. Things will be faster smoother and less confusing, but also further from the river.

Either way, unless you're on a training mission you'll want to aim for The Esplanade which means taking your first left once you're on The Avenue. Turn right onto The Esplanade or gothrough the carpark and turn right on the narrow riverside path. Follow The Esplanade to one of two paths that lead up to Birdwood Parade. The first is just at the north corner of Flying Squadron Yacht Club, the second is off the Tawarri car park. These two can be ridden up, the first is less steep than the second. You can stick to the river for another very pleasant kilometer but you'll have to lug your bike up about 30 steps to Iris Avenue which takes you onto Jutland Parade.

Birdwood Parade is quiet and wide. Elevated views across Melville Water to the south are paired with views of exclusive real estate to the north. The point at which Birdwood turns into Jutland Pde is marked by Sunset Hospital heritage site which, aside from its recent use as the set for the filming of the Tim Winton's story Cloudstreet, has stood empty since 1995.

At the western end of Jutland Pde is Point Resolution Reserve, a fine a place as any to watch an afternoon yacht race. Facilities are limited here. As in there's a car park. And some steps to the river.

This section of Perth's main round the river ride is marked by an almost total absence of cycling infrastructure. It's all fine if you're an experienced rider used to mixing it with traffic, the following advice is for casual recreation riders.

The on-road painted cycle lane that follows Victoria Ave as it winds it's way around the north side of Freshwater Bay is as good as it gets. And even that ain't real good; it only operates as a cycle lane for a couple of hours a day on weekdays. The rest of the time it's primary purpose is car park. The signage governing this Clayton's bike path is thin on the ground and inconsistent between Claremont and Dalkeith. Enforcement seems limited to the narrow stretch west of Bayview Terrace.

Footpaths through this area are narrow and can be bumpy and gappy.

The on-road bike lane conks out just where you need it; the road becomes busier as you approach Stirling Highway on Queenslea Drive. An option here is to cross just after the Claremont Yacht Club driveway and get to the highway on the very quiet Freshwater Parade.

Having said that, weekend traffic on this section is generally pretty light. Of course it's a different story once you hit Stirling Highway. There's a good section of footpath up past Christ Church Grammar and Methodist Ladies College. Then you'll be negotiating the pavers again, only for a couple of blocks though; you should take a left up Richardson Avenue. Following Richardson will take you round "Devils Elbow" and on to The Esplanade. Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club is at the bottom of the hill. The nice people at the bar there will sell you a beer, which when consumed overlooking the bay from the RFBYC hilltop will conspire to give you a feeling of wellbeing. If you don't fancy imbibing the nice people at the nearby Kiosk will sell you an ice-cream or any manner of basic café fare. There are also free barbecues, a playground and public toilets here.   

Getting there by bike is easy and there are plenty of options; from points north the cycle path that runs through the city adjacent to Parliament House drops you at the Narrows. From points east you'll want to get yourself onto the Riverside Drive path west of Barrack St Jetty. If you're starting at Mosman Bay the best access is via the riverside roads and paths from North Freo. The alternative is to come in from the coast or Curtin Avenue, just aim for Mosman Park Station and follow the directions below.

By car from the northern end is a bit trickier. Parking at Barrack St Jetty is hard to jag and time limited. Access from The Old Swan Brewery carpark across Mounts Bay Road involves using two lifts. Matilda Bay parking is again time limited and its popularity and proximity to the University of WA mean it's often very busy. You may fare better starting this ride from street parking in Claremont, one of the river reserves between there and Resolution, or if you're contemplating a cycle path only ride, park at Tawarri and head back toward the city. 

Train access from the Perth end is good, just organise yourself to get off at Esplanade Station, the river is a hop skip and a jump away to the south. At the western end, Claremont Station is the closest to the river; Bayview Terrace is is on the south side of the station and runs straight down to the River and Victoria Avenue. Mosman Park Station is the closest to this ride's end at Keanes Point. Cross Stirling Highway at the Glyde St lights and head one block head north up the footpath to Stuart St, turn right onto Stuart, 1st left on Monument, 1st right on Willis, left on Harvey, right on Swan, go to the end of Swan and then left on Palmerston and right on Johnstone St. It's the flattest, quietest route to or from the end point.

Sunset Coast - Port Beach to North Mole - City of Fremantle

Brave.

It's what you need to be to cross Port Beach Road and head south to the lighthouse at North Mole. The cycle path south of the Tyrdeman Road intersection has recently been extended by about a kilometre but it still ends well shy of the harbour heads and its primary function is not to allow safe passage of cyclists and pedestrians but as overflow parking for surfers, fisherfolk and live export shiploaders keen to wash themselves of guilt. 

Ride here and you will find yourself in the domain of the double B. It's all about inbound containers and outbound sheep down here. Diesel smoke, Coke bottles, cyclone fences, dust and urgency inhabit the spaces left between the bright stacks of containers.

The lighthouse at North Mole is the logical end to a ride down the the so called Sunset Coast. Getting there under pedal power is no mean feat though. Fremantle Port Authority have done their utmost to claim the last couple of the last couple of k's as private property. Get through that and you face a few hundred metres of single lane road to carry all the motorised sightseers out to the lighthouse. And back. The delicate patina of rubber coloured circles in the hardstand east of the lighthouse welcome the traveller to North Mole. All that remains to do is check out the lighthouse and passing marine traffic, and maybe throw a line in. 

For the brave and determined;

The closest train station is North Fremantle. Hop off and head to the sea (you can't miss it), turn left.

By bike either come down Tydeman Road or Curtin Avenue, both through North Fremantle, both have bike paths adjacent to them.

There's a car park associated with Salt on the Beach Restaurant, as well as beach amenities like showers and toilets. There's no need to go hungry in this neck of the woods; aside from Salt on the Beach who operate a classic beach kiosk as well as the restaurant and bar, you can mix it with the truckies down at the Rous Head Café or chow down on more deep fried fare at Northport Ferry Terminal.

Rous Head is home to one of the ferry terminals servicing the biking paradise that is Rottnest Island. If you're planning on riding to the ferry you'd be better advised to depart from C Shed on the south side of the harbour.

Karrakatta PSP - High Art or High Desert? - City of Nedlands

High art

Public art is a contentious issue for local government authorities at the best of times. The City of Nedlands has has managed the design and commissioning of its most recent installation very carefully and the result is a powerful piece laced with meaning. It is at once massive and expensive and yet it recedes in the urban landscape revealing itself to only the most rigorous scrutiny.

 

The work is the largest and most expensive public artwork in Western Australia brought to fruition in some years. That it was not without it problems should not be overlooked, however the City of Nedlands are to be congratulated for their singleminded pursuit of what is surely destined to become a cultural icon.

 

The piece itself masquerades as infrastructure, 360 metres of shared pedestrian and cycle path, flanked by, and floating above, the a pair of unusually curvaceous roundabouts. From the air they could be hips or breasts, the railway line forming a backbone. The path viewed from this Godly angle can only represent a severe inflammation of the spineless. And that is not where the Godliness of this magnificent piece ends. Its proximity to the dead centre of Perth, its altar-like aspect aloof from traffic, its inaccessibility underline a deeper message. 

At street level it is surprisingly understated. It is rare that its pristine tarmac is sullied by the foot or cycle traffic that it pretends to serve. The secret is not in securing the work by ordinary means such as fences but simply by making the course too short and isolated for it to be of any use or interest to the public.

 

The depth of the artwork is stunning. The artists have stopped at nothing to ensure that its incorporation into the day to day life of the city is complete. It is a rare public art installation that is not neatly encapsulated within its own tidy world, be it a public lawn, the centre of a roundabout, the pea gravel forecourt of the council offices. Karrakatta PSP unashamedly explodes these polite social mores. Work is seemingly never complete around the piece; the on-road cycle lane is removed one month, cycle lane ends signs are posted another. Curious diversions are set up round the Irwin Barracks entrance. Most intriguing is a pile of mullock and rubble left by a storm drain for months on end. While other works have ceased for the interim this pile of crud creates a ghostly air of expectancy and serves to remind the viewer nothing is ever complete.

 

The illusion extends from the infrastructure, if you will, to verbal and written exchanges with the council. Any enquiry made to the Artists at the City of Nedlands is met with Kafka-esque responses in writing on the City’s letterhead. Denial of simple measurable facts and mysterious “replies” to what appear to be unrelated correspondence rapidly create a maddenly delicious and elaborate tangle of bureaucratic irony. There is poetry in witnessing a master of their craft at work. To involve and engage and, even frustrate, the interested viewer in the (ongoing) creation of a significant work is nothing short of genius.

High desert

 

The high desert is an environment of extremes: it is the driest and hottest place on earth. Strong winds of incompetence drive all but the bravest of souls back. On the rare occasions that they subside the careful listener may hear the periodic sigh characteristic of an expiring political career.

Few animal species are found in Nedland’s high desert environment. While the Karrakatta PSP Notional Park has a good profile of extinct individuals, evidence of life up here is confined to snakes in the grass. Occasionally lost council workers or cyclists are found in wandering some parts of the high desert. No sightings of whitus collari staffenati or councilloramus have ever been made in the area.

This area, once a safe corridor for the cyclist is now dominated by urgent motor traffic.