Bicycle trip: southern loop via Rosstown Rail Trail

The perfect weather forecast yesterday was a good excuse to go for a ride. I worked out a route that took me on a 60 kilometre loop along several trails through the inner and middle suburbs of Melbourne. I had been meaning to ride the Rosstown Rail Trail for some time but never got around to it. So this trip was planned around the little-known bicycle route through the inner south-eastern suburbs from Hughesdale to Elsternwick.

Unfortunately, about halfway through the trip, the previously minor issue with air escaping from my bicycle’s rear tyre became a serious one. It got to the point where I had to pump the tyre every kilometre or so (more if the surface involved a lot of bumps). It seems that my bike wasn’t built for the awful surfaces of many road shoulders and trails in Melbourne.

North Balwyn to Hughesdale

I have covered the Anniversary Trail before so I won’t dwell on this part too much.

The main thing to note is the regular illegal parking in Riversdale Park. When this came up for discussion at Boroondara Council last year, I was one of two councillors who voted in favour of removing the carpark entirely on account of the dangerous driveway and the safety/amenity issues that it causes. Unfortunately we were outvoted, but at least the carpark is being moved off Spencer Road instead of cutting through the middle of the park and the shared path. Some at the time doubted the wisdom of (re)moving the carpark but this is one example of one reason in support of its removal.

Illegal parking in Riversdale Park, Camberwell

One area that needs some work is the junction of shared paths around East Malvern. At the moment, path users coming over the Monash Freeway from the Gardiners Creek or Anniversary Trails are met with a confusing mess of paths lacking any directional signage at all. Even with my map it was a confusing spot trying to work out how to get to the Station Trail. In the end I foolishly followed the shared path signs and ended up in the wrong place.

Map of wrong bicycle path at East Malvern Station

No wayfinding at East Malvern Station

A few hundred metres further down Malvern Road, I found the ‘real’ start of the Station Trail. Here it goes through the Urban Forest, a very nice and secluded area of revegetated bushland with some wetlands and walking tracks. This is also where the Outer Circle Line ran to connect at Oakleigh until it was closed in 1895.

Urban Forest, East Malvern

Unfortunately, once again, the wayfinding here was horrendous. The complex network of paths within the Urban Forest is very confusing, especially to a first time user. Even just finding my way to the Princes Highway required multiple map checks.

No wayfinding on Station Trail, East Malvern

This also took me to the worst crossing of any trail in Melbourne that I have witnessed. I half-expected a pedestrian crossing or something in this location when I looked at the map before leaving home. But, alas, somebody in power thinks it’s ok for pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate seven lanes of 80 km/h traffic, plus two service lanes, with no crossing facilities whatsoever. Bear in mind that this disconnects two sections of path on the same trail.

Crossing of Princes Highway for Station Trail, Murrumbeena

Rosstown Rail Trail (Hughesdale to Elwood)

As alluded to by its name, the Rosstown Rail Trail roughly follows the route of the short-lived Rosstown Railway from the late 19th century. Unfortunately, the tracks have been almost entirely replaced by private property and roads. To my mind, it is very misleading to call it a ‘trail’. Most of the route is on-road with precious little wayfinding, traffic calming or other facilities for bikes. Even on this beautiful summer’s day on a weekend, I did not see any other cyclists using the route; not really surprising when the route is barely visible.

Signage along the Rosstown Rail Trail is patchy at best. There are some old brown signs from when the Trail was first implemented a few decades ago, but these were often absent, badly placed or plain wrong. I would have been utterly lost were it not for my map.

The other main issue, as with many other trails around Melbourne, is crossing main roads. There was absolutely nothing to help cross Koornang Road, Grange Road, Bambra Road, Hawthorn Road or Kooyong Road. Lots of fun, even with relatively light Sunday traffic.

After some tiresome and unintended detours down random side streets, I came to Elster Creek and the path that follows Elwood Canal to the Bay; a very pleasant ride onto the busy Bay Trail.

Elwood Canal, Elwood

Elwood to North Balwyn

I followed the Bay Trail up to Port Melbourne and Fisherman’s Bend. At some point it turns into the Yarra Trail but, once again, a lack of good wayfinding signage had me accidentally cycle down Todd Road instead of the trail along the western side of Westgate Park.

Abandoned Webb Dock Railway level crossing, Fisherman's Bend

The ride home was uneventful other than my issues with air pressure in the back tyre and watching the huge queue of cars trying to enter Costco at Docklands.

Queue of cars waiting to drive into Costco, Docklands

I also came across a ghost pedestrian crossing that I had not noticed before. At the slip lane onto Citylink (southbound) from Footscray Road some old zebra crossing stripes were visible on the road surface. I subsequently checked on Nearmap and it seems that this pedestrian priority crossing was replaced by a very infrequent and short phased traffic signal between October and November in 2014. A step backwards, in other words.

Ghost pedestrian crossing, Citylink on-ramp in Docklands

Summary

The Rosstown Rail Trail is probably the worst that I have ridden on in Melbourne. It is almost entirely on road with very little supporting infrastructure. Furthermore, it does not connect to anything at its western terminus, ending at Elsternwick Railway Station and not connecting to any other bicycle paths, lanes or trails in the area. Some serious work needs to be done before it can be considered a useful route.

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