Sir Samuel Griffith Drive

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Sir Samuel Griffith Drive is a short but enjoyable road loop around Mt Coot-tha, conveniently close to the Brisbane CBD.

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Most cyclists prefer to take the loop anticlockwise, which gives a twisty climb around the north side of the mountain up to the TV stations, then an easy cruise along the undulating road around the back of the mountain, and a fast descent from the lookout with a great view out over the city.

The following descriptions start from the top of Mt Coot-tha Road from Toowong, and divide the road into sections in an anticlockwise direction.

Lower flat

Once you've made it up the short slog of Mt Coot-tha Road, you get to coast down a short distance past the entrance to J.C. Slaughter Falls on the left and Birdwood Terrace on the right. Along this stretch is park on the left and private property on the right. After a bit over a kilometre of flat road you'll get to the entrance to Simpsons Falls on the left and Simpsons Road coming in from the right.

Northern climb

The winding road up to the TV stations.

From Simpsons Falls up to the Channel 10 and ABC sites around the northen side of the mountain is the climbing part of the ride. Going up and down this section rather than doing the whole loop is popular, particularly in repetitions. There's not too much to see from here, although you do get glimpses through the trees up to the TV towers ahead and a few out to the city behind you.

The road is quite windy, and of course attracts cars and motorbikes that may be driving a little too fast for the unexpected, so be alert.

Note: this section was recently under particular scrutiny by Council in the 2007 review and there were suggestions that it might even become one way, but the outcome indicated little or no change.

Back cruise

The gentle road around the back, not long after passing the first TV stations.

Once you make it up to the first two TV towers you're pretty much at the highest point of the ride and, unless you turn back to do the climb again, you have a much easier time around the rest of the loop. This stretch is mostly enclosed in trees, but you do get some partial views out to the west.

Keep following the road past Channel 7 and Channel 9 and eventually you will reach the lookout. At the roundabout you can either head down to the left to bypass the lookout and save yourself a few metres and a few possible interactions with pedestrians, cars and/or the odd bus, or you can head to the right (straightish) and go up past the car parking spots and the lookout, get a great view of the city, and then keep heading down to meet up with (and turn right onto) the other fork of the road.

Descent

The view over the city from just below the lookout.

Coming down the front (eastern side) of the mountain you can get some good speed up, although be aware that the speed limit is 50 km/h (and police are often there to enforce it). There are a few bends at the beginning, but it's not as windy as the ascent. Most road cyclists will have no problem keeping up with all but the most reckless motor traffic. There are more great views out over the city much of the way down, too.

The fork in the road.

Towards the bottom the road splits, with Sir Samuel Griffith Drive breaking off to the left and the main road continuing down as Scenic Drive. The former is probably better if you want to keep going around the mountain, and the latter if you want to have a better view and/or head back down to Toowong. At the bottom of Scenic Drive is a T intersection with a stop sign. It's a long, straight stretch so you can see it a fair way off, but you'll need to brake well in advance. Turn left to keep going around the mountain, or right to go to Toowong.

Access points

The only road access to the loop is on the northern and eastern sides of the mountain, via Simpsons Road from Bardon, Birdwood Terrace through Rainworth or Mt Coot-tha Road from Toowong.

Toowong

Ingress

Mt Coot-tha Road joins the roundabout at the western end of Milton Road to the roundabout at the eastern end the Western Freeway and then runs up past the botanical gardens up to meet Sir Samuel Griffith Drive at a T intersection.

The start of the Western Freeway, with the Mt Coot-tha Road turnoff to the second roundabout in the middle of the picture, after the traffic lighted intersection with Dean Street.

Getting to the second roundabout is not a pleasant (or particularly safe) experience when there's any traffic on the road. If you're travelling south on Frederick Street you can take the overpass to the right over the first roundabout, stick to the right, and get to the second roundabout while staying mostly out of the way of cars. The problem is that from any other direction you need to get across two lanes of traffic coming from the first roundabout and the third lane coming from the overpass, all of which are accelerating straight ahead to the freeway (bypassing the second roundabout). You need to get across to the right hand side to be able to turn onto the side lane to the second roundabout.

Looking across at the second roundabout turnoff from Dean Street.

Probably the most obvious method is to come from the bottom of Dean Street, which is easy if you've come from the bikepath along the freeway or from the end of Sylvan Road. Dean Street is almost directly opposite the second roundabout turnoff, so you need to wait there for a suitable gap across all three lanes of traffic (which can take a while) and make a break for it.

A safer option is to ignore the "No entry, buses excepted" sign at the bottom of Dean Street and, instead of taking the left turning lane, proceed straight ahead to the traffic lights. If you can trip the sensors here the lights will change and stop the traffic heading towards the freeway, giving you plenty of time to get across to the second roundabout. The signs make this illegal but given the danger of crossing the road without using the lights it's not such a bad idea. If you're lucky a bus will already be there and save you the need.

The Frederick Street overpass joins the road between the two roundabouts.

Another alternative is to enter the first roundabout on the road (from Milton Road or Miskin Street) and get across into the right hand lane before the traffic around you has a chance to start accelerating. The overpass lane then joins in from the right and you don't have much space to get across it as well before you miss the turn off and end up in the middle lane on the freeway (not where you want to be). The traffic coming off the overpass has already had a bit of distance (downhill) to start accelerating, so this is no easy task. This approach is not recommended unless you are really sure you know what you are doing.

In the future this should be avoided by the new Toowong roundabout crossing for pedestrians and cyclists.

Once you get to the second roundabout, turn right. You'll be turning across the two lanes of traffic coming off the freeway and there's potential for them to come barrelling through without seeing you, but generally they're observant enough.

Follow the road about five hundred metres past the botanical gardens on the left and the quarry entrance (watch out for trucks that may not be watching out for you), after which you have the first bit of climbing, a straight few hundred metres up to meet Scenic Drive (which comes in from the left) and then Sir Samuel Griffith Drive at the crest.

Egress

On the way back down you can get some good speed on the straight downhill stretch (but again, be aware that the speed limit is 60 km/h and it's another prime enforcement spot) and cruise the rest of the way down to the roundabout at the end of the Western Freeway. Your only real option is to turn left (on the lane that bypasses the roundabout), as turning right will take you on to the freeway proper, with no opportunity to get on to the bike path.

The left turn lane joins the two that come through the roundabout from the freeway, and becomes a left turn only lane onto Frederick Street at the next roundabout. If you're reasonably comfortable with cycling in multi-lane traffic and on multi-lane roundabouts you can move into the middle lane to go straight through the second roundabout towards Milton Road, or across to the right lane to turn right onto Miskin Street or after the roundabout onto Sylvan Road.

If you want to head back along the freeway, turn right onto Miskin St and then immediately right again before the bus depot. There's a right turn into Dean Street (with traffic lights) halfway between the two roundabouts that would be ideal and avoid having to negotiate the second roundabout, but unfortunately it's signed for buses only.

2007 review

In early 2007 Brisbane City Council conducted a review of Sir Samuel Griffith Drive [1] [2], particularly the northern climb, in an attempt to address safety concerns it has reported with motor vehicles dangerously overtaking pedestrians and cyclists on the section. There have been reports that part of the cause of the review is complaints from the TV stations on the mountain [3].

Council suggested that it:

  1. change the section to be one way (in either direction), with the extra space becoming either a second lane in the same direction or a pedestrian/cycle shared path,
  2. add passing bays along the section, or
  3. add warning signs along the section.

Public information sessions (also promoted as a forum in which to provide feedback) were held at Kuta Cafe (at the lookout) on 15 February between 5pm and 7pm, and 24 February between 10am and noon. Feedback could also be provided via an online survey form, phone, fax or email by 2 March.

Council reported that it received over 700 submissions of which the majority supported installation of additional signage and passing bays. Council says it will implement a combination of these, with four signs to be installed immediately and additional plans to be developed between July and September 2007 [4].

See also

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