Walking across campus is both a charm and a chore of campus life. For most students, navigation involves following obvious and well-trodden campus footpaths. But for some, the buildings of the University are not obstacles, but enticing trailheads. When being late to class is a matter of seconds, finding the optimal route between two points becomes useful, as well as entertainment that gives purpose to campus exploration, and leads to discoveries you would otherwise never make.
The many names of campus roads and buildings can be confusing. I recommend taking this guide with you on your first forays through these routes. The time invested in learning them by heart will be repaid many times over. All timings were measured at a consistent walking pace of 4.8 kilometres per hour.
The Graffiti Tunnel Grift
Few campus falsehoods are so galling as the Graffiti Tunnel. The tunnel is a classic of supposed campus shortcuts, purportedly offering a convenient route from the Parramatta Road footbridge to Manning Road and beyond. This, dear readers, is a lie. There is almost no circumstance in which the Graffiti Tunnel is the optimal route between Science and Manning roads.
If walking towards Eastern Avenue from the Parramatta Road Footbridge, enter the main entrance of the Pharmacy Building, and walk to the end of the old corridor, turning left at the glass firehose cabinet. Go down to the first landing in the stairwell, then right into the Level 3 New Wing, and immediately exit left out into the garden. Turn right down the stone stairs, then through both sets of glass sliding doors in the Brennan MacCallum Building, and out onto Manning Road.
The time saved, compared to using the Graffiti Tunnel to reach the same point, is ten seconds. It is also a faster method than the popular Vice-Chancellor’s Garden route through the Quadrangle, since it allows you to take the diagonal down Fisher Road, and chain further shortcuts.
An alternate method also exists. Between the Bank and Pharmacy buildings, there is a set of outdoor stairs on Science Road which lead down to a set of occasionally-open fire doors. Walk through these doors, turn left at the end, then right through the brick archway. Go up the small set of stairs, then immediately down the longer flight. Turn right in the corridor, then left outside S238B Microscope Room. Proceed all the way to the emergency exit double doors, and through them into the laneway. Turn left, and then right through the Brennan MacCallum doors, as above. Though this method is four seconds slower than the Pharmacy walkthrough, it is elegant in its use of the subterranean Pharmacy/Bank honeycomb. I recommend it for the campus explorer who is slightly less pressed for time.
The Badham Bypass
A complement to the Graffiti Tunnel alternatives, the Badham Bypass is an unorthodox, but effective, means of reaching upper Manning Road from lower Science Road. The traditional student will walk downhill from the Russell Place carpark (next to the John Wooley building) to the Education Building, before turning left and walking uphill along Manning Road. Instead, walk through the open double fire doors into the bowels of the Badham Building (the doors are beneath a small ‘Hazchem’ sign, and give out onto the carpark). Take the first right, out into Technology Lane, past the picnic benches and through the Brennan MacCallum underpass that would normally take you to the Graffiti Tunnel. Go straight through to Manning and save six seconds, or (if heading uphill) turn left at the top of the stairs and walk across the top of the Learning Hub to save a further five seconds.
The Anderson Stuart Traverse
A simple ten-second time save. If walking up Manning Road to reach upper Eastern Avenue, walk through the building’s north entrance, and traverse the courtyard past the small fountain, into the corridor, and out the front door onto Eastern Avenue. The Traverse is a relatively fringe case, and useful for reaching only a small number of destinations. Shortcuts further down Fisher Road will usually serve you better.
The SLAM Dunk
A popular method of walking between Manning House and Physics Road (or the lower half of Eastern Avenue) involves using the pathway between the tennis courts and the sports field in front of the Physics Building; a foolish endeavour. Instead, when exiting out the back of Manning Food Court, turn left, then right through the portico of the Lawn Tennis Club (next to the Squash Court entrance). This will take you on a path between the tennis courts and the RC Mills Building, home of SLAM (School of Literature, Art and Media), delivering you to the corner of Physics and Fisher roads forty-one seconds faster than the usual route.
The Edward Ford Fast-Track
A further time save exists on Physics Road. If walking uphill, and intending to turn right onto Fisher Road, veer right through the gates of the Edward Ford carpark (immediately uphill from the Physics Building). Walk through the carpark and underneath the sandstone archway, then turn left through the doors next to the tiny zebra crossing. Go up the stairs in the atrium area, then exit the building onto Fisher Road on the next floor; an entertaining four-second time save.
The Chem Cut-Throughs
The Chemistry Building is a pathway to many routes some consider to be unnatural. To access Eastern Avenue from Fisher Road, students commonly walk around the Chemistry lawns, before turning up Chemistry Lane and going up the stairs next to the liquid nitrogen tank between Chemistry and Madsen; but not you, dear readers. You walk over the grass of the Chemistry lawns, across the tree-filled courtyard behind Chemistry, and enter through the sliding doors next to the bike cage. You then walk forward up to the bathrooms, and turn right, exiting the building at the end of the corridor, next to the liquid nitrogen tank, saving eleven seconds in the process.
Alas, this is only useful if your destination is Carslaw, or somewhere east of the Wentworth Building across City Road. If heading to ABS or Merewether, stay on Fisher Road up to the lights. If heading to Taste or New Law, cross the Chemistry lawns but cut left across the courtyard, past the huge drinking fountain, to the glass door at the base of a staircase. Go up the stairs and then straight out the front door to a Taste-y lunch. Finally, if heading to mid-Eastern Avenue from Manning Road, the standard outdoor route between Anderson Stuart and Chemistry on the outdoor stairs will remain fastest, as it allows you to take the diagonal down Eastern Avenue.
The Engo Express
The Engo Express is the optimal route between Eastern Avenue and the Engineering buildings south of City Road. It begins on Barff Road, the small laneway that runs behind Carslaw and New Law. From the top of Eastern Avenue, cut diagonally down the stairs behind the New Law lawns, and follow Barff Road to the City Road intersection. After crossing the lights, go straight up the stairs, past the Catholic Student Centre and down the next flight of stairs ahead of you. Traverse Cadigal Green to the left of the Old School Building. Including the New Law diagonal, this can save you up to ninety seconds over the typical footbridge route, depending on your luck with the light cycle.
The Redfern Rush
The traditional Redfern Run is not the fastest way to Redfern Station. The Redfern Rush is an extension of the Engo Express that can deliver you to the station almost a minute and a half ahead of the Run. As many a Redfern Runner knows, this could mean the difference between catching your train, or a long, desultory wait on the platform. Complete the Engo Express, but cross Maze Crescent and continue straight, past the PNR Learning Hub. Cross the lawn, the carpark, and Shepherd Street, before continuing up Calder Road. Turn right on Ivy Street, cross the lights to Lawson Street, and complete the Run as normal. From after the Barff Road lights, the time saved is about eighty seconds. However, depending on where you start on Eastern Avenue, total time saved could extend up to three minutes.
The only wildcard is the Barff Road lights at the beginning of the Rush. Much like waiting for a bus, arriving early in a cycle will save you no time compared to arriving just as the lights turn green. However, the potential time saves are so great, that even if RNG provides you the longest possible light cycle, you should still be no worse off.
The Footbridge Question
A matter of some contention among students who frequent the SRC or Wentworth Food Court is whether the City Road footbridge or the Butlin Avenue pedestrian crossing is faster. Evidence suggests the footbridge is superior in both cases. The City Road lights at Butlin Avenue operate on a cycle of fifty-three seconds of stop signals, followed by thirty seconds of walk signals. If you manage to arrive at the crossing at a frame-perfect light cycle, just as the walk signal begins, the time to the SRC or food court is identical to taking the footbridge from the same start position. However, the likelihood of reaching the crossing on a stop signal makes the footbridge the smart choice for the efficiency-minded student.
Bonus: The Eastern Avenues
The Eastern Avenues are two routes that run parallel to Eastern Avenue. Their advantage is that they are almost entirely under cover, making them ideal in rain, on windy days, or for avoiding stupol walk-and-talkers in campaign season. Though not shortcuts, they are useful backups for any campus walker to know.
If walking northwards along Eastern Avenue from the City Road Footbridge, enter the Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences (LEES) building through the sliding door adjoining the footbridge (before the ramp goes down). Go down the stairs and through to the Carslaw Learning Hub, straight ahead and up one flight of stairs in the Eastern Avenue Lecture Theatre complex, down the corridor and push through the fire doors at the end. Walk across the glass air bridge into New Law, down two floors, straight ahead to the garden in the glass lightwell, then turn left towards the exit. Just before walking out the glass doors, turn right through the sliding doors (past the sandstone heads), and down another level into the Law Library. Turn right, and walk through into Fisher Library and beyond.
Unfortunately, the fire doors between the Eastern Avenue Lecture Theatre complex and the glass air bridge are one-way. Thus, heading southwards requires an alternate, regrettably less elegant, route. Enter the northern Anderson Stuart door (next to the jacarandas on Manning Road), cross through the courtyard but turn right, rather than left, at the corridor that leads to Eastern Avenue. Leave through the southern exit facing Chemistry, and go up the outdoor stairs. Enter Chemistry and walk over the bridge, past the lockers, down the next staircase and then straight down the corridor and out next to the liquid nitrogen tank. Go up the stairs and enter the Madsen side door. If you’re desperate enough to arrange swipe access with the Sydney Analytical lab, you can head downstairs and out the southeast corner of the building under the protective eaves of F23. Otherwise, you’ll have to turn left out the Madsen front door and onto the windswept wasteland of Eastern Avenue with the rest of us.
Take every opportunity to cross the sports field between the Education and Physics buildings on diagonals. This is one of the largest, yet most under-utilised, campus time saves, and is useful for many routes. Separately, reaching Broadway or the Parramatta Road bus stop in Victoria Park depends greatly on your starting position, but many optimal lines harness the less-commonly used gap in the Victoria Park fence, behind New Law.
There are doubtless also time saves to be found between the buildings south of City Road. Not being an Engineering or Business student, I am unfamiliar with the most common destinations — a field for further research. Speedrunning is an iterative process, and improvements can always be found. Get out there and explore. Quickly.