LIFE, we’re told, is about the journey rather than the destination. But everyday life can seem so much better if the journey can lead to the destination more quickly.
With that in mind, Newcastle Cycleways and Metro Cycles owner Bernard Hockings devised a way to answer not exactly one of life’s big questions, but one that thousands of the city’s university students have asked, particularly since the uni’s NeW Space complex has opened in Hunter Street:
What is the quickest and cheapest way to travel from the main campus at Callaghan to the CBD?
With the help of volunteers, the bicycle users’ organisation decided to compare the travel time and cost of four transport modes: public bus; the university’s shuttle bus; car, and; cycle.
“It’s a brilliant way of directly addressing how students get from one campus to another,” Newcastle Cycleways’ Sam Reich said of the time trial.
So on Tuesday morning, the volunteers met in front of the university’s Auchmuty Library, in readiness to depart at the same time.
Candy Garraway, a fifth year architecture student from Merewether, was to catch the public bus.
“I think I’m going to come third,” she predicted.
Her friend and fellow architecture student, Kalyna Sparks, from Hamilton South, was to take the university’s shuttle bus to NeW Space.
“I think I’ll come first,” Ms Sparks said. “The shuttle bus is here on time, it’s efficient and doesn’t stop.”
Newcastle Cycleways’ Sam Reich was swapping two wheels for four; he was in the car.
“I’ll probably beat everyone else there, but I’ve got to pay a lot more than everybody else,” he said. “I’ve already paid $4.50 in parking here [at the uni], and then I’ve got to park in town.”
Architecture students Janai Lemar and Gus Potts, who live in Cooks Hill, were on bicycles. They knew the 11 or so kilometre journey well, as they often rode to and from university.
“It’s pretty easy and low stress, and I usually allow 30 to 35 minutes,” Mr Potts said. “I think we’ll be second; I reckon the shuttle bus might win.”
Janai Lemar was just grateful she wasn’t relying on public transport. She predicted her friend Candy would be last to NeW Space.
“Public buses take a lot longer, and they go through the suburbs,” Ms Lemar explained.
Believing that a journey can be just as enjoyable as the destination, this Herald reporter decided to accompany the cycling pair.
Just before 8.40am, we tapped on our stopwatches. Then we were off, embarking on different journeys, all destined for the same place.
We three cyclists rode along the campus’ shared paths, before we passed Candy Garraway sitting at the bus stop.
“We should definitely beat Candy,” declared Ms Lemar.
We were following Bike Route 6, which would take us through Waratah, Mayfield, Tighes Hill and Maryville into the city. For a cyclist, one of the worst challenges is crossing a busy road, and Maud Street at Waratah posed that. We lost a couple of minutes waiting for a break in the traffic. Otherwise, it was mostly clear, flat pedalling on quiet streets and shared pathways.
Near Honeysuckle, we could see the striking geometric assemblage of NeW Space a few hundred metres away. We crossed at the old Civic railway station, riding over the grave of a departed CBD transport option.
And there it was in front of us. Our destination. And there they were in front of us. The two bus riders.
“I can’t believe Candy beat us!,” exclaimed Ms Lemar.
Actually, Candy Garraway beat everyone. She said the 100 public bus service, which made only a couple of stops between the uni and the city, had arrived at Callaghan just a few minutes after we had passed her. She completed the journey in 35 minutes, 12 seconds. And using her Opal card, it had cost her $1.80.
“I’m pretty surprised actually,” said Ms Garraway of being first.
Kalyna Sparks, who had taken the shuttle bus, arrived soon after, clocking in at 36.41. By showing her student identification, she had ridden the shuttle for free.
By the time we had parked in NeW Space’s bicycle hub and reached the entrance, our time was 44.50. It had cost us nothing but the kilojoules burnt in pedalling at an average speed of 15.9 km/h.
Sam Reich arrived just over a minute later. His time was 46.04.
“It took me more than 10 minutes to find a park,” said Mr Reich. He had finally found a space on Honeysuckle Drive, then it took him five minutes to walk 720 metres to NeW Space. What’s more, he said, the parking spot cost him $8.06, “and that’s on top of the $4.50 at the university, and the petrol to get here”.
In no small part due to Bob Hudson’s 1970s hit, The Newcastle Song, the city once had a reputation for hotted-up cars along Hunter Street. Yet finding a spot to park a car is becoming more difficult, as the CBD grows.
“I don’t think there should be more car parks in the city; there should be more awareness of public transport,” said Ms Garraway.
“Public transport won this race, but if you’re travelling from Dudley, for instance, you might have trouble and have to wait maybe an hour and a half,” Sam Reich said. “We can’t expect everyone to jump on a bike, but we do need public transport to be improved.”