Ferry, new paths to spark eastern shore cycle revolution?

The Tasmanian Government has announced a one-year ferry trial between Bellerive and Hobart that will provide free travel to people with a bicycle or Metro Greencard.

Providing people with a safer alternative to the Tasman Bridge path opens up the possibility of riding for transport for people who would never have considered riding the narrow bridge paths.

Some 21,000 people live on the eastern shore within a 10 km ride of the Hobart GPO and some 35,000 live within a 10 km ride of Bellerive. The ferry ride is estimated to be about 20–25 minutes.

New paths, cycleways needed

Once you factor in e-bikes and their capability to speed up some journeys, riding could become a more widespread transport option if Clarence Council and the Tasmanian Government step up and provide the “all ages and abilities” infrastructure needed to appeal to all people capable of riding.

The foreshore trail is good in parts but is not a suitable transport corridor for its entire length, especially the section around Rosny. Clarence Street is an obvious route to provide a separated cycleway to connect with the Rokeby shared path and Kangaroo Bay where the ferry terminal is likely to be. 

People riding from Lindisfarne and Geilston Bay need clear connections from the foreshore trail to the shared path that joins with the Rosny Hill Road shared path and the new shared path that ends at Montagu Bay Road. A new pedestrian and cycling bridge over the East Tasman Highway may also help more people to ride as the current walkway has steep stairs that bikes have to be carried over, which is no good for bikes loaded with work clothes and effects, or e-bikes.

For people coming from Mornington and Warrane, a path or traffic-calmed quiet street route is needed to get to Kangaroo Bay. There is space for a shared path along the Tasman Highway and to a lesser extent along Bligh Street.

Ferry designs important

As it’s likely that the vessels used for the ferry trial will be existing stock it will be interesting to see how many bicycles the operators will be able to comfortably accommodate.

The ideal design would allow people to easily ride or roll their bikes on without having to lift them. Using a vessel design that involves lifting to board and/or store bikes would deter some e-bike riders, people with loaded panniers and some trike/cargo bike riders.

Awkward design that delays loading and unloading of people will also diminish the appeal of taking a ferry as it would increase the trip duration.

Being able to roll on to a vessel, store the bike without having to lock it and then sitting on a fold-down or leaning seat near it would be the type of design that could work.

Peak hour only

With the rise in the number of people working from home the number of commuters may fall, however, the city centre is still a major attractor for people wanting to access shops, professional services and social activities.

The ferry trial will only run in peak hour times, Monday to Friday, aiming to reduce commuter traffic on the Tasman Bridge and there will be an option to extend the trial for another year.

The limit of the service to peak travel hours will mean only a portion of daily journeys will be captured but strong demand for trial service may see a full service implemented in the long run.

The government says it got a strong response from boating operators when it opened an expression of interest process this year and so went ahead with the tender process which closes in January 2021, with a service due to start in the first half of that year.

Tasman Bridge paths

The government has announced funding to install new wider paths on the Tasman Bridge with a potential start to construction in 2022–23.

It the ferry proves popular, keeping it going through the construction of the paths could give regular commuters an alternative to the bridge which may see disruption to journeys on the existing paths and traffic lanes.


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