Old Cleveland Rd and Gateway on-ramp

We first wrote to Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) raising concerns about their project to “upgrade” the connection from Old Cleveland Rd to the Gateway Motorway at Belmont back in October last year. It was good to finally talk through the issues in detail with technical staff last week.

The project—which is already well advanced—will significantly impact people cycling west along Old Cleveland Rd, and those turning left from Old Cleveland Rd into Mt Petrie Rd to access the underpass at Greendale Way (which is one of the few alternative crossing points for the Gateway Motorway). We don’t believe the current plan complies with the Queensland Government Cycling Infrastructure Policy which specifies that TMR funded projects on principal cycle routes—such as Old Cleveland Rd—must explicitly provide cycling facilities within the project’s scope, and that these will be “typically high quality solutions”.

We are petitioning Queensland Parliament, asking TMR to do better.

The area in question only 11km from CBD, which is a comfortable commuting distance for a reasonably fit cyclist, or anyone with an electric bike (and of course, not everyone is heading to the CBD). Old Cleveland Road generally has a wide, high quality shoulder, making it quite good for on-road cycling (for those prepared to ride on an 80kph road at all), but the Gateway Motorway interchange is the most intimidating stretch between Capalaba and Carindale.

Location: 11km from the CBD, and the primary connection between Brisbane and the Redlands

Although the immediately surrounding land is semi-rural, Old Cleveland Rd is the major connector between Brisbane and the commercial centres of Capalaba and Cleveland as well as growing residential suburbs like Alexandra Hills. Like other transport corridors, it’s under increasing pressure, and new developments – such as that approved at Toondah Harbour (a whole other issue) will only add to that.

Most commuting cyclists want to take the most direct route and to minimise delays to their journey—especially having to stop and start which has an energy penalty for someone on a bike. So the best outcome would allow for cyclists to safely continue on Old Cleveland Rd, but to address the danger at the cross-over points; in this case with drivers turning left at high speed across the path of someone on a bike. A cyclist in this situation has no control of the danger—they are forced to rely on the vigilance and competence of any driver approaching from behind to notice them, judge their speed, and turn left safely. At busy times, traffic is often slowing in the left lane while continuing at 80kph in the right lane, so drivers must consider a number of factors. Unfortunately this is exactly the situation where a cyclist is in most danger of being hit and badly injured.

The optimal treatment for the cross-over point would involve grade-separation, with cyclists taking an underpass beneath the off-ramp before rejoining Old Cleveland Rd. This would be possible with a box-culvert such as that under Depot Rd, Deagon, or Bicentennial Rd, Boondall, or (unused) Logan Rd, Eight Mile Plains or more recently on the Racecourse Rd pathway at Deagon. That would be a non-trivial engineering exercise given the road levels and the potential for storm-water to collect. However a safe-systems approach encouraging active transport would have planned for underpasses at the off-ramp and again at the on-ramp to Old Cleveland Rd further west. (Unfortunately, cycling safety was not considered a priority by Brisbane City Council in their recent work on that location either).

If TMR are not prepared to build an underpass, the next best solution would be to provide the option for cyclists to keep riding in the road shoulder to the left of traffic, until they can cross perpendicular to the traffic, and re-join the shoulder on the main carriageway of Old Cleveland Rd. This was the situation before the current works removed the short cycle path and crossing.

Such a crossing is difficult to achieve if cyclists need to cross two lanes of traffic, so this solution would either require the road widening point to be shifted further west, or a splitter island and refuge area created.

For reference, there is a similar crossing with a centre refuge on the northern side of Old Cleveland Rd just east of Holbrook St.

Also nearby, just west of Wright St, cyclists travelling east on Old Cleveland Rd are provided with a crossing point where they must cross two lanes of traffic to re-join the main road. It’s far from ideal, but it does give people an option beyond just riding and praying.

We understand that the desire by TMR is for cyclists to turn left with motor vehicle traffic into the “service road”, where a painted bike lane is planned for a short stretch. The major failing with this plan is that the drawings indicate the bike lane terminating just before the Gateway overpass. Cyclists would then be squeezed back into the main traffic lane as they proceed under the motorway and to the next intersection. Cycling west from there, riders are then exposed to vehicles merging across their path at high speed from their left. These drivers have just turned off the motorway, and are taking a sweeping turn into another high-speed lane. It feels totally unsafe for cycling. To compound the problem, the left edge of the road is regularly covered in dirt and gravel, and drivers often use the shoulder as a pull-over zone.

Imagine if we designed roads like bike lanes…

You might think of this as equivalent to building a new road which abruptly merges onto a railway track.
Expecting cyclists to turn off Old Cleveland Rd into the service road, but not continuing the on-road lane all the way through until it rejoins the main road again is a completely unsatisfactory solution. It’s difficult to imagine anyone choosing to ride that way more than once.

At the very minimum the current project should continue the on-road cycle lane under the Gateway Motorway, through the next signalised intersection, and along the ramp to re-join the on-road lane on Old Cleveland Rd. The left turn for vehicles turning from the Gateway Motorway into Old Cleveland Rd to head west should be signalised.

Another major problem with cyclists taking the service road occurs at the Mt Petrie Rd intersection. Vehicles turning right into Mt Petrie Rd from the north will be turning across two lanes of traffic plus the bike lane. (Previously they only turned across a single lane at this intersection). At busy times, one or both lanes can be expected to queue back through the intersection, so drivers may have to judge turning across two lanes of traffic moving at different speeds. Under these conditions, the chances of a right-turning driver failing to notice or correctly judge the speed of a person on a bicycle is unacceptably high.

Overall, it’s regrettable that people wanting to cycle on a principal cycle route should be expected to turn off the main road and proceed through 3 intersections, two of which will have signal delays. But the additional dangers of the disappearing bike lane, the high-speed merge, and the dangerous right turn make it extremely precarious, Most people—assuming they are bold enough to ride there at all—are likely to take their chances riding straight ahead.

We believe the current plan does not make reasonable provision for people travelling by bike. If you agree, please sign our petition to Queensland Parliament, asking that TMR to do better. They should comply with their own policy!