In Brugge

Backdated. Posted 15/9/2017.

We headed back to our Brussels Zuid/Midi Station, wary again of infestations of pickpockets, but again seeing none. Seriously, I was doubting the numerous reports of this — either they’re invisible to me or they simply aren’t there since the military and police have moved in following recent terrorist attacks.

I bought tickets from the ticket machine, and this time it worked first go. Weekend fares are cheap in Belgium by the way; half the usual weekday price, and during summer they define the weekend as being from Thursday 7pm to Monday evening.

Belgian rail ticket: Brussels to Brugge

Our destination was the historic city of Brugge (Flemish)/Bruges (French), in the north of Belgium. It seems odd that the most common spelling is Bruges. If it’s a Flemish town, why not use the Flemish spelling?

Despite it being a long train, the cheap weekend fares probably contributed to the carriages being very crowded – no seats to be had in Economy, and we couldn’t figure out if it was possible to upgrade to First Class (with the benefit of hindsight, it appears yes, you can), so we stood as far as Ghent, when lots of people hopped off.

Brugge station, Belgium

After about an hour on the train we got to Brugge. The station was busy, but an upgrade in 2009 has left it handling the crowds quite well, apart from queues for the escalators. Ten platforms (five islands) are connected via a subway to a concourse in a grand 1939 building, and out the front is a huge plaza with bus interchange.

Brugge station, Belgium

Bus outside the station in Brugge, Belgium

Bicycle parking at Brugge station, Belgium

Off to one side is the biggest undercover bike parking facility I think I’ve ever seen – certainly bigger than the (not insubstantial) bike parking at Singapore MRT stations.

The historic centre of Brugge is a few hundred metres away from the station, and it was a pleasant walk down cobblestone streets to get there. Much of the crowd from the train was headed in the same direction, and it quickly became clear that this tourist town would indeed be bustling with tourists on a sunny Sunday.

Brugge, Belgium

Brugge, Belgium

Brugge, Belgium

Brugge really is a gorgeous town. No wonder (like Bath) it’s got UNESCO world heritage status.

The city centre is mostly free of cars, though there were a few, as well as buses, taxis, cyclists and horse-drawn carriages.

Brugge, Belgium

Cyclist on the phone in Brugge, Belgium

Brugge, Belgium

Cat in Brugge, Belgium

Much of the architecture is medieval, though every so often we’d see some new-fangled building built as recently as only the early 1800s.

Some of the older buildings have been re-purposed along the way. This one is now a Mcdonalds.

McDonalds in Brugge, Belgium

Lunch was in a small cafe, with waffles for dessert.

It took us quite some exploring before we finally got to the area where the main square/s are located. We considered climbing the bell tower (I did so back in 1998) but there was quite a long queue, so we kept exploring.

Laneway, Brugge, Belgium

Main square, Brugge, Belgium

Main square in Brugge, Belgium

Brugge, Belgium

Excuse me gentlemen, are you aware that you have Daleks on your heads?

Brugge, Belgium

Brugge, Belgium

One highlight was Michaelangelo’s Madonna And Child (1504), apparently the only Michaelangelo sculpture that left Italy during his lifetime. We looked in a few other churches and museums which had some stunning renaissance works of art.

Michaelangelo's Madonna And Child, Brugge, Belgium

Church of Our Lady, Brugge, Belgium

Selfie looking over canal in Brugge, Belgium

Boats, bus and bicycle in Brugge, Belgium

Canal boat tour in Brugge, Belgium

Lots of canals around the town. We did Canal boat tour, in part to have a chance to sit down for a while. There was a plethora of selfie sticks on the boat, held by tourists from all over Europe and beyond.

The guide was multilingual (as you’d pretty much have to be) and pretty jocular, telling historic anecdotes that may or may not have been true, and pointing out notable buildings. “That’s my house, that’s my brother’s house, there’s my sister’s house…”

More walking around after that. So we basically spent the day exploring, before heading back to the station.

Tower in Brugge, Belgium

On the platform as we waited for the train, I was watching Twitter for the Doctor Who announcement… and the thirteenth Doctor is… oh, cool! I+J wanted not to be told; they wanted to wait until we were back at the flat on WiFi and could watch the proper trailer.

A shiny newish looking double-deck train rolled up, heading for Brussels. Unlike the train that morning, there was plenty of space on board, and the view from the top deck was great.

Back in Brussels, we headed to the flat for a little while, then back out to dinner.

Cartoon murals in Brussels, Belgium

Brussels metro station poster showing Tintin-related museum ad

We’d been told about a good restaurant near The Grand Place called Nuetnigenough, and headed to Metro Line 3 to get there — this is actually an underground tram line, aka a pre-metro line; built as light rail ahead of a possible later conversion to fully-fledged metro. (More about this in this post.)

The restaurant was small but busy, and after a 10ish minute wait for a table, we sat down to a thoroughly delicious dinner, alongside some fine Belgian beers, before catching the tram/pre-metro/whatever back again.

One more full day in Brussels.

The CBD bus ride that #Myki thought was in Brighton

So apparently the installation of GPS equipment to track buses stop-by-stop in realtime hasn’t helped Myki zone detection at all.

On Tuesday at lunchtime I caught a bus from Queensbridge Street (aka Casino East, the brand new tram/bus platform stop) to Queen Street.

Tram/bus stop, Queensbridge Street, Casino East

It’s all within 1 kilometre of the city centre — about as far from zone 2 as you can get. And it’s on a route with realtime information, so at least some of the equipment in the bus knows almost precisely where it is.

So, what happened? Myki charged me for a zone 2 fare.

It thought I was in Brighton, in the zone overlap area.

Myki charging: I was in the City, but it thought I was at Brighton

It seems to have got the route number right. “out” indicates it thought it was an outbound trip, though given it’s a crosstown route, I have no idea that’s correct or not. Perhaps they should have different indicators for crosstown routes, such as “se”/”nw”?

The silver lining is that the zone 1 fare cap meant I was charged the correct amount for the day’s travel: a total of $7.52.

(I normally use a Yearly Pass, but it’s run out, so I’m using Myki Money for a while.)

Zone detection on buses (and trams) has been a problem for years, and it’s only the zone changes in January that have hidden the issue for Melbourne users, but it remains a problem on regional town buses — there are regular reports of overcharging.

Clearly it’s is something they still need to work on.

Oh, and the new platform stop? Nice, though some of the bus drivers seem a little uncertain about how close to the platform edge they should stop. The bus/tram lanes seem quite effective at helping them get past the traffic.

And I wonder if, when commissioned, the realtime screens there will show bus as well as tram?

Why is Metro allowing this advertising in its stations? – part 2 – Kia #comfortisethis

A couple of years ago I wrote about Nissan Micra ads at Flinders Street Station directly criticising public transport.

This time, it’s Kia’s turn, though it’s a little less overt. Spotted at Malvern (as well as other locations, such as South Yarra):

Kia advertising at Malvern station

You know, I’ve been using public transport for decades. I’ve seen people asleep, but I’ve never, ever had someone fall asleep on my shoulder. Does it really happen, or is it just a clichรฉ?

Kia advertising at Malvern station

I suppose this is not necessarily poking fun at walking as a form of transport, but it could be read that way.

It does strike me that getting a plastic bag caught on your heel may be an “uncomfortable moment”, but on the other hand, research indicates that driving in unsuitable shoes such as these is just plain dangerous:

Adrienne Savoy, a driving instructor for DriversEd.com, said the higher the heel, the more a person is in danger.

“When youโ€™re wearing high heels, itโ€™s nearly impossible for the heel to stay steady on top of the mat, which would delay the reaction time between the accelerator and the brake. Sometimes you only have a second to react, so that could be a split second you have to prevent a crash,” she said.

Even for those of us who never wear heels, we know that travelling by public transport is an order of magnitude safer than driving.

I think I’d rather be uncomfortable than unsafe.

Perth day 2: touring Fremantle’s prison tunnels, fish’n’chips, red/blue CATs and central Perth

Friday 6th July

Fremantle prison
Fremantle Prison

We were dropped off in Fremantle at the Prison, where we’d booked for the Tunnels Tour. The Tunnels Tour, perhaps unlike more conventional prison tours, involved getting a safety briefing and an alcohol test, and then we donned gumboots, coveralls, helmets and safety harnesses and headed down a 20 metre shaft to tunnels underneath the prison.

Tristan, our somewhat sardonic tour guide, with a mix of informative history and bad jokes, led us through the tunnels, including wading through a fair bit of water. We were lucky enough to be in a group of just 5, which I think made for a more enjoyable tour.

Shaft inside Fremantle prison (and my very handsome safety gear)
Shaft inside Fremantle prison (and my very handsome safety gear)

Then came the boats. 1-2 to a boat, we paddled around the more water-flooded tunnels of the prison, ducking under supports, hearing more about the history.

Altogether it was an amazing experience, and although we were able to get a photo at the top in our gear, alas no cameras were allowed to be taken down. I can’t recommend this tour enough.

Afterwards we plodded around Fremantle, looking through the market and making a stop at Timezone — an establishment that’s a little hard to find in Melbourne nowadays. Despite it not yet being WA school holidays, central Freo was pretty busy, with plenty of tourists. Every so often a CAT bus (Central Area Transit, the free loop buses, operating two routes, the blue and the red) would come through. Notable on the day was that the “Blue CAT” was very clearly red.

Fremantle "blue" CAT bus
Fremantle “blue” CAT bus

Old Fremantle Tramways building
Old Fremantle Tramways building

View from Cicerrelos restaurant, Fremantle
View from Cicerrelos restaurant, Fremantle

After a stop at the post office for some stamps, we headed down to Cicerello’s on the water for fish and chips. Well, they claim to have the best fish and chips in the state, so we thought we’d better try it. While the restaurant is almost the antithesis of a local fish and chips shop — it quite obviously set up to handle huge crowds — the food was pretty good, though I suspect Flaked Out back home in Bentleigh would give them a run for their money.

We took a turn on the ferris wheel nearby, checking out the views over the ocean and over the town.

View from ferris wheel, Fremantle
View from ferris wheel, Fremantle

A familiar sight from the ferris wheel, Fremantle
A familiar sight from the ferris wheel, Fremantle

Then we caught a CAT bus back to Freo railway station, sorted out train tickets (more about this later) and caught a train into Perth.

The train got quite crowded thanks in part to after-school loads, but we’d got seats since we’d boarded at the start of the line. Perth station was pretty busy — they were obviously doing some major works on and around some of the platforms, and a sign proclaimed it was part of Perth City Link — involving putting the inner section of the Fremantle line underground.

Fremantle railway station
Fremantle railway station

Perth railway station
Perth railway station

It was raining, so we only had a short walk around, mostly undercover in the shopping centres adjoining the station.

We did look inside the Perth ABC Shop, where I found a discounted $5 copy of The Plank (the 1967 version) on DVD — it caught my eye because Eric Sykes had passed-away a couple of days before, and I bought it for us to watch when we got home. (Much of it hasn’t dated very much — the glaring exception being the scene with the girl hitch-hiking with two men in a van.)

Then we headed down into “Perth Underground”, the underground section of the station to catch a Mandurah line train to where we were getting picked-up. Due to the aforementioned station works, it was quite a long way from the main part of the station to the underground bit — in fact we discovered the next day it may have been quicker to go in via the other entrance, in the Murray Street mall.

It was rush hour by this time, and the trains to Mandurah and Joondalup seemed to be departing every few minutes, many of them quite crowded. Great to see a railway line completed only in 2007 so busy. We zoomed past the cars on the freeway and quickly got to Murdoch.

Mandurah line train departs Murdoch station
Mandurah line train departs Murdoch station

Due in part to the multiple car parks at Murdoch station, and thus the multiple pickup areas, there was some confusion about precisely where to meet my aunt, which resulted in a delay getting back — it probably would have been quicker just to catch a bus — if we’d known which one to catch. But no matter — eventually we got there, put our feet up, had dinner, watched Micallef and headed to bed for a good night’s sleep.

Bike share – is it working?

Bike share station outside Southern Cross Stn and Media House

A commenter challenged me to learn a bit more about bike sharing before writing about it again (previous post), but didn’t point me to a specific URL. So I did a little digging.

As it happens the Melbourne Leader had an article on it this week:

The State Government-funded scheme has attracted just 185 subscribers and 1350 trips since its launch in May, with BYO helmets and high deposit costs appearing to discourage would-be users.

Assuming those figures were from 11th July (the date before the article), that means 1350 trips since 31st May, or 42 days, which means about 32 trips per day.

The rate of trips per day does not appear to be growing. An RACV media release from 22nd June said at the time they’d clocked up 700 rides. That’s also 32 trips per day. Which is not to say it won’t grow in the future of course, as university restarts, and more bikes get rolled-out.

The Leader article mentions there are currently 100 bikes, so each bike has been used, on average, once every three days.

The other week I watched ABC2’s e2 programme on the Paris bike share system Vรฉlib’, which seems to have been a big success. According to Wikipedia (and from memory the programme said similar things), it has 20,000 bicycles and 1,639 stations, and it’s apparently spread well beyond central Paris. It has a similar pricing scheme to Melbourne, geared at short trips, with free hire for the first half-hour.

(You can watch e2 online on their web site — click on webcasts — some later episodes are on ABC iView.)

Paris’s system has about 120,000 trips per day, so on average each bike is used 6 times per day. Clearly we’ve got a long way to go in Melbourne. I’m just not sure if it’s going to take off.

I haven’t seen people using the bikes, but I’m told those that are seem to be grabbing them and riding around without helmets, suggesting they’re tourists unaware of the helmet rules, or locals willing to risk the fine. Presumably at least some are rocking up with their own helmet to use.

Now, I don’t mind the concept of bike share. Cycling, particularly in the CBD and inner-suburbs, has matured over the last few years. In fact if there are any public main streets I’d feel safe cycling on, it would be in the CBD, where with some exceptions, there’s very little traffic.

But I still struggle to see where the market for Melbourne Bike Share is, given most Melburnians arrive in the CBD with an all-day ticket they can use on trams for short trips, and tram services along most CBD corridors are very frequent (though admittedly slow and overcrowded much of the time).

And it’s the helmet requirement that is really going to prevent a lot of people using it. Even proponents seem to accept that this casts doubt on whether it’ll work.

Update 23/7/2010: While the Leader article says there are currently 100 bikes, today’s Age article and the official web site both say there are 600 bikes. However, I attempted to count the total number of bikes using the station map, and came up with 314.