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Published March 22nd 2016
Pedalling for Pleasure and Pain
Fast cars and bicycles on the same road are typically an accident waiting to happen. In the cities and suburbs we have seen the emergence of bike lanes, but what about the regional areas where speed limits are typically higher. The answer is dedicated bikeways.
Nestled alongside the newly named Max Fatchen Expressway (formerly Northern Expressway) is a bikeway that has been named after South Australia's greatest cyclist, the Stuart O'Grady Bikeway. Stretching from the outskirts of Gawler to Waterloo Corner, the Bikeway is a bitumenised cycle and walking track that follows the alignment of the Expressway while maintaining a safe distance away from the traffic.
The bikeway starts near the intersection of the Angle Vale Road and Main North Road in Gawler West, and traverses predominantly southwest, initially past the Gawler Gliding Club and some horse stables before coming to the Gawler River Bridges where a series of wetlands have been built to capture stormwater from the Expressway and the surrounds, and to floodproof the area.
Continuing south the Bikeway passes a series of olive farms and the occasional grape vine as it bypasses the township of Angle Vale. Before long a strange set of buildings appear on the south and the information board informs us that these were part of the Smithfield Munitions Depot, an establishment built in the 1940's to develop and test ammunition, and all part of the original Weapons Research Establishment at Edinburgh.
Continuing with the military theme, the Max Fatchen Expressway is adorned with bridges named after famous military battles involving Australians and the Bikeway continues that theme. Just before each bridge are further information board that provide additional background on the battles and the significance of these battles to Australians. Distance markers and innovative sculptured 'quote' signs provide further attractions for cyclists and walkers.
The bikeway continues to head southwest and crosses numerous feeder roads into the Expressway, all with at-grade crossings that are clearly marked and visible for both cars and bikes. The only climb on the whole route is at the final bridge where the bikeway and the Expressway both travel across the bridge that takes them over the northern rail line.
The Stuart O'Grady bikeway is 23km long, and can be started at numerous points along the route. Shelters and seats provide some relief from riding or walking should that be required. It is anticipated that with the building of the Northern Connector over the next few years that the bikeway will be extended from Waterloo Corner to Gillman, which when linked with the Jack Bobridge Track through the Barossa will provide a safe cycle trail from Angaston to the Adelaide Beaches.
The bikeway is lit up in parts and can be traversed at any time. And although it is nowhere near as difficult as the cobblestones between Paris and Roubaix or the trenches in France, there are days when the headwind causes one to think like Stuart O'Grady and our servicemen in those courageous battles by asking "when will it end?".