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Sydney Road

Sydney Road in Brunswick is 2.5 km of straight, narrow, commercial and retail chaos packed between two hotels: the historic Sarah Sands in the south and the Moreland in the north. Lying between Merri Creek and Moonee Ponds Creek, it took over from Mickleham Road and Pascoe Vale Road as the main route out of Central Melbourne to Sydney by the mid-1850s. Like an excessive jigsaw puzzle whose pieces never quite fit, Sydney Road shimmers in the light, whether natural or electric. There are more than 480 shops and services, 110 being bakeries, coffee lounges, groceries, delis, milk bars, takeaways and restaurants. The road's constant factor is its tram line, which carries thousands of commuters to and from the city on the famous No. 19. Cars compete with trams, and times have changed since Beresford Rea wrote in Up and down the Sydney Road (1958) that only Copenhagen 'can show as many bicycles in its streets'. With the gentrification of Brunswick from the late 1970s, Sydney Road has become self-consciously multicultural and social - a place to be seen - and has its own Internet homepage, courtesy of the Sydney Road Brunswick Association. Major redevelopment at the southern end in the early 1980s strengthened the position of multinational chain stores but has posed no threat to cultural diversity.

Barry York