AKA the OG Shore Girl
I have a secret. It’s deathly embarrassing. I’ve spent years hiding it. I didn’t want anyone to look at me differently. But now, it’s time. I’m sick of living in the shadows.
The rumours are true—I am a Shore Girl. And you know what that means… no, not Shore girl, Shore thing or whatever skeevy moustachioed dudes say when they corner you in the kitchen of a dingy house party. No, what I’m talking about is that, as a Shore Girl, I have to brave the most evil of all terrors: the Harbour Bridge during rush hour.
Some might say the Harbour Bridge is the OG Shore Girl. Before 1959, the most common way to get between the Shore and the City was by ferry. From Birkdale, the commute could take 40 minutes. After the bridge was built, it took 15. The Harbour Bridge is a fan of quickies. She can get you where you need to be, and fast, if you know what I mean.
When it was built, the Harbour Bridge only consisted of four lanes—the ones that are now in the middle. It was predicted that she would service ~8,500 cars a day by 1965, but the Harbour Bridge was wildly popular from its debut. Like the prettiest debutante at the ball, the Harbour Bridge danced with an average of 13,500 cars a day in its first year. Until 1984, there was a toll to cross the bridge, but that didn’t slow us down. We love a #GirlBoss. Hustle, baby.
Wikipedia tells me that in 2019, the average was about 170,000 vehicles crossing the Harbour Bridge each day. Of those, more than 1000 buses carried a third of people crossing. Now that’s one slutty bridge.
When it was clear that demand for the bridge outstripped capacity, the Harbour Bridge was graced with four extra lanes. These were manufactured in Japan, and brought over pre-fabricated. This has largely been forgotten now, but at the time, these extra lanes were referred to as the ‘Nippon Clip-Ons,’ which has to be the funniest name ever conceived. Additionally, the Harbour Bridge’s nipple clamps were completed in 1969—iconic.
But enough foreplay. Most of us will have visited the Harbour Bridge’s luscious curves many-a-time. It’s not always a fun experience. High wind-speeds, torrential rain, and soccer moms in their 4WDs all pose regular and significant challenges to driving on the Harbour Bridge. Additionally, the moveable concrete barrier that manages traffic flow during peak hours can make it feel like you’re driving through Hogwarts’ corridor maze. But after seven years of driving back and forth, and a lot of gas money, a gal gets to know the Harbour Bridge pretty well. Which lane is really the best? We’re about to find out.
Lane One: Trying to get on the first (leftmost) Southbound lane of the Harbour Bridge is like waving a bag of MDMA in the air at a DnB mosh. As soon as you try and make a move into this lane you will be crowded by a minimum of four other sweaty, rabid cars trying to secure their spot. Look, it’s a nice lane. You get an unimpeded view of the Skytower, and the expanse of ocean behind it. The lane is wide enough that the presence of trucks and buses isn’t that scary, and all you have to do is hold the wheel straight. However, getting into this lane is sometimes more trouble than it’s worth. Stacey with the blonde ponytail and activewear in the silver Jeep will clip your bumper to get into this lane. Exercise caution. Rating: 7.5/10
Lane Two: This is the ugly younger sister of the Southbound lanes. On a good day she can be just as stunning as Lane One. On a bad day, you’ll be hemmed in by the NX1. In traffic, it’s a good opportunity to make eyes at the passengers. Lane Two is also way easier to get on, while being just as wide as Lane One. Much like a long-term relationship, she can get boring, but she’s reliable. Rating: 8.5/10
Lane Three: Ah, our first middle lane. Honestly, I think this one is just… meh. It’s a single lane during the evening rush, but it’s not as scary as you’d think because you’re mostly driving at a crawl. It can be claustrophobic, but let’s be real—most people drive the single lane at, like, 50 km/hr, and it’s not that narrow. Stop being a little bitch and get over it. Except for when it’s windy. Studies of the bridge have shown that wind speeds pick up between its struts, making this lane one of the windiest. Not great when you drive a teeny 2011 Toyota Yaris. When it’s a double-lane outside of peak hours, cars on the right will speed past you with no regard for your wing mirrors. Just stop being a pussy and drive closer to the left-hand barrier, is my advice. You definitely have space. Rating: 4.5/10
Lane Four: Look, only get in this lane if you’re on cocaine, or prepared to drive like someone on cocaine. Everyone in this lane is either trying out for a NASCAR rally, or has no regard for human life. If this is your preferred lane you might be a sociopath. You’re hemmed in by the moving concrete barrier on the right, and cars on the left who are driving so far to the right they may as well have two wheels in your lane. It is, however, a semi-fun adrenaline rush, especially if you’re Goin-Thru-It, which I am. “Honk honk motherfuckers,” I scream as I tear down this lane at 110 km/hr. Rating: 10/10 if you’re manic, otherwise 4/10.
Lane One: This lane is pretty at sunset, but that’s it. Everyone in this lane drives so slowly that I have, at times, been brought to tears. Maybe it’s the retirement home energy permeating the air as you move from the City to the Shore. The saddest part is that the view on this side of the bridge is definitely not as good as driving into the city, so there’s not even that much to look at. Just that one tiny island in the middle of the harbour. How did you get there? Where did you come from? Rating: 6/10.
Lane Two: Even more boring and slow than the first Northbound lane, and way more depressing. Especially when double-decker NX buses cruise past you on the left during rush hour at 20 km/hr. Rating: 2/10
Lane Three: I don’t know why cars in this lane drive so much faster than in the equivalent Southbound lane. It’s probably an effort to escape the ever-present crawl on the Northbound Nippon Clip-on, but in this lane, I. Am. Speed. Specifically, 60 km/hr, which feels as fast as space travel during a traffic jam. Rating: 6/10.
Lane Four: This one is a bonus. I’m sure the Southbound side has a five-lane configuration sometimes, but I’ve only ever driven the elusive five-lane configuration on the Northbound route. A ‘five-lane configuration’ is when there are five lanes in one direction, meaning three lanes in the middle of the bridge. Take. The. Middle (Fourth). Lane. It feels like flying. The middle-most lane in the middle of the Harbour Bridge, slaps, especially if there’s less traffic. It’s so wide you could probably Tokyo-drift across the bridge using this one lane if you wanted. Once upon a time, as a wee Year 11, I got stuck in the City because I left my headlights on during a debating tournament (yes, you can make fun of me), and I had to drive back in torrential rain and wind at one a.m. on my restricted license. There was so much rain that I couldn’t see the lanes on the road, and I somehow managed to get onto the middle of the bridge. The wind was going so hard I had visions of being swept off of the side. Obviously I couldn’t stop, so I kept driving even though my knuckles were white and I might as well have been blindfolded. I had made peace with death when, at the apex of the bridge, a miracle happened: the rain eased and I could see that I had been in the loving embrace of the middle lane this whole time, which had held me tight even through the swerving. I don’t believe in God, but I believe in the middle lane of the Harbour Bridge. Amen. Rating: Cheating death / 10.