Mt White Paddlepop

IF YOU WANT TO HAVE a discussion about automobility, the way we live in our urban environment, the nature of the State and sustainability, I recommend not trying to do it on a platform like twitter, where big pointy-headed words like that tend to chew up your character limit. You end up trying to make your points like builders shouting at each other into crackly CB radios, in separate noisy corridors, in a building being demolished. This—old fashioned, finite but relatively unconstrained—blog entry arises from just such an exercise in ill communication.

A motorcycle parked by the side of the road on the Old Pacific Highway, Sydney

It’s a truism that the way we structure transport in our cities in the developed world is unsustainable. Even if you’re one of those folk who’re skeptical about the effect carbon dioxide has on climate, you can’t get away from the fact that the suburbs we’ve built in Australia since the end of the Second World War, fixed out to the periphery by a ribcage of roads, don’t scale well with the fact of growth. Measure the length of a car, divide by the number of occupants, multiply by population, then compare it to the available space. The arithmetic isn’t pretty, and it gets uglier once you allow for increasing populations with increasing expectations.

We drive, and are driven, as a central fact of the way we live. Sydney and other Australian cities are dominated by private, individual transport. It makes for a spatially large, dispersed urban area in which roads use is concentrated in specific time periods—before and after work, and before and after school. “Peak hour” has entered the language as a reference to transport-space usage.

But every now and then, if you go around the city, you find fossil roads. Fossil roads are those ones which show their past utility but which have been bypassed, or which lead to industries that don’t exist any more, or are just far too much road for the present-day use. Take Hickson Road in the CBD, for instance, the Lonely Hungry Mile. Keep going towards the water down Sussex Street, follow it to the Patricks dock where the picket was in ’98, and there’s a very long, very wide, very straight piece of road with a bend at the end towards the Rocks. The Council has put speed bumps in it, not to protect the pedestrians who don’t exist there, but to stop drivers and riders from making the obvious choice to risk their own necks driving down it at speed.

It’s a fossil road open to the gleeful enjoyment of anyone who wants to use it—and it’s an interaction with the city that a political economy of car- and truck-dependence prevents. When we, as a city and as an economy, transfer more and more of our necessary transport movements into public transport, what other fossil roads might be created for discretionary interaction?

The Old Pacific Highway is my favourite fossil road in Greater Sydney. Start at Mount Colah north of Hornsby, and whatever you do, don’t get on the F3. That’s about all you have to know. It’s a curvy, twisty, two-lane treasure, going through some simply sparklingly beautiful pieces of remnant bushland. Without the Sydney-Gosford-Newcastle vehicle movement, it’s more or less local traffic, cyclists day-riding, motorcyclists, and anyone else who wants a quiet enjoyable drive. Keep going down the hill to the older bridge over the Hawkesbury River, then go up the hill towards Calga, Mount White and Gosford.

Recipe: Mount White Paddlepop

At Mount White, buy a chocolate paddlepop at the very old-school coffee shop/roadhouse. Turn around, go back the same way you came.

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FDB · 13 September 2011, 23:04 · #

Nice bike.

Be a shame if something was to… happen to it.

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Liam · 14 September 2011, 08:05 · #

What do you mean? Do you mean, like mixture enrichener, two priming kicks one starting kick, a minute or three’s warming, quarter throttle, first gear, take off in a straight line to 4000rpm? Like that?
Because that’s quite pleasant.

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FDB · 14 September 2011, 20:21 · #

4000rpm at quarter throttle? This thing’s even better than I thought!

Clearly though, I must brush up on my standover man patois. Can’t leave a smartarse an easy way out.

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