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urban planning

C10 Coombs to Civic Cycle Highway

The assessment of the benefits of the C10 Coombs to Civic Cycle Highway (CBR Cycle Route C10) is a multifaceted question. It can first be discussed in a narrow sense, whether commuting between Coombs to Civic is faster, and also in a broader sense regarding the benefits to the Molonglo Valley network. But the short answer is yes on both counts. I will answer these questions here individually.

The C10 Coombs to Civic Cycle Highway will get a cyclist to work faster. I provide an analysis of four routes (“options”) below – three are existing – and compare them against the fourth, the C10. The C10 is demonstrably here the best.

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The limits of quantitative analysis

This analysis is quantitative and therefore limited to what is measurable. Quantitative comparisons often don’t capture the qualitive experience as they are designed around what is easy to measure. These comparisons are poor at capturing other important aspects of a rider’s experience such as comfort, safety and convenience. Urban planners love to talk about “amenity“ but most would struggle to say what that is.

Those who have ridden down Aranda hill will know that subjective experience is important to the attractiveness of active travel. A rider travelling to Belconnen on a dark night, will encounter an unlit and uneven path, with hidden obstacles, such as those walking their dogs. We seem to have preference for dark colours which makes it impossible for cyclists to see pedestrians. We love our dogs and they can be dark in colour, too, and also unpredictable if off the leash. Add children to the mix and the rider is advised to proceed with caution. The track is extremely bumpy with roots growing across the track, and cracks along the edge (both due to poor path design, see MIS05). The roots are a serious hazard to the rider. They encourage swerving, riding on the wrong side of the path, and can cause instantaneous punctures due to the tyre bottoming out and the compression of the tube. The vibration of a bike at speed is enough to make your sight blurred, results in rapid deceleration of the bike, fatigue, and muscle pain. There are regular street crossings where the approaching cyclist is not visible to the driver. The road crossings are not a “Safe System” for a priority route according to Austroads standards. Austroads and MIS05 would recommend a priority crossing for the cyclists at roads, and visibility corridors (according to road speed). The cycle “rest” bars that have been flattened by a motor vehicle, attest to the dangers of these crossings. Finally, there is universal complaint that women don’t like riding on dark paths. That is halve the population that are not going to use active travel.

Safety and hazards on CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Belconnen, Canberra
Safety and hazards on CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Belconnen, Canberra

I hope that a direct, high quality, well maintained, direct, well lit, free of road intersections, and properly designed (Austroads and MIS05) cycle highway will make commuting to Civic attractive for the residents for Molonglo and Canberra south. We need to create a good cycling experience.

Safety and hazards on CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Belconnen, Canberra
Safety and hazards on CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Belconnen, Canberra

The value of the C10 for the commuter

From the qualitive, I will move on to the quantitative. I consider four routes (“options”); three are for routes that can be ridden today and compare them against the fourth – the C10.

I did something similar just two weeks ago in the discussion of the C10 Coombs to Civic Cycle Highway subsequently (see emails). The previous analysis also includes a comparison between Belconnen and Coombs, which are almost the same distance from City Hill. I will attach the PDF of the study for review and cite it here. The conclusion of the study was that existing infrastructure makes it much easier (multiple options) and quicker to commute on bike to Civic from Belconnen than it is from Coombs. Line-of-sight distance was one of the reasons that the Molonglo Valley was chosen for development but without optimised and well-planned infrastructure this potential will not be realised.

The routes considered in this assessment are in table 1.

OptionRoute descriptionCBR Cycle Routes name
6Coombs and then the bridge over the Molonglo River Reserve (6m wide, max 270 length), follows the route of an existing management trail to the National Arboretum, leaves the Arboretum before the access road and crosses the Tuggeranong Parkway via 60m long bridge, before connecting with the C5 (see below).C10
1Coombs and follows the John Gordon Drive and then around Weston Creek Pond, joins the shared bike path along the Molonglo River towards the Scrivener Dam, and continues along LBG until Civic.C5*
8Coombs, then follows the John Gordon Drive to Curtin, continues along shared bike path past the Governor General residence and along the path on the south side of LBG, before crossing the lake over the bridge to reach Civic.LBG
9Coombs, then follows the John Gordon Drive to Curtin, continues along shared bike path through Curtin and Yarralumla, the path on the south side of LBG, before crossing the lake over the bridge to reach Civic.C4
Table 1: Four options and route descriptions
Map 1: Four option routes

Options 1 and 6 share the same path on the second half of the journey, past Black Mountain, along Lake Burley Griffin to Civic.

Options 8 and 9 share the same path on the second half of the journey, past the Parliamentary Triangle before crossing the bridge to Civic.

It is normal for routes to merge like this around town centres.

RouteDistanceClimb (m)Travel time **(20kmh average)
Option 612.6 km170 m38 min
Option 114.0 km197 m42 min
Option 814.8 km251 m44 min
Option 915.4 km202 m46 min
Table 2: Four options – quantitative analysis
Graph 1: Four options – which is better?

Comparison with Belconnen

Coombs and the Molonglo Valley are a lot better for the commuting cyclist with the C10.

How does the active travel infrastructure vary across Canberra between town centres?

I compared travelling to Civic from Coombs and Belconnen town centres in February to emphasis the benefits of good active travel infrastructure.

See Spatial analysis of the effect of good and direct bike infrastructure travel times in Canberra 2020: Comparison of Belconnen with Coombs for the city commuter (19 Feb 2020). Here is an extract.

From Civic toAs the crow flies (1)Actual cycle distance (2)
Coombs8.3 km15.5 km
Belconnen8.5 km11.4 km
Table 3: Line-of-sight distances versus actual ride distance to Civic
notes
(1) “as the crows flies” is the straight-line distance between the two points
(2) “actual cycle distance” is calculated using actual cycle maps from OpenStreetMap 2020 and Garmin autorouting software; see also map 4 below

And visually it looks like this.

Map 2: 30-minute ride from Coombs – 10 min intervals
The distance travelled with a “normal bike”
Legend:
10 min journey – green
20 min journey – yellow
30 min journey – red
Map 3: 30-minute ride from Belconnen – 10 min intervals
The distance travelled with a “normal bike”
Legend:
10 min journey – green
20 min journey – yellow
30 min journey – red

Active Travel infrastructure in the Molonglo Valley 3 East development

The Molonglo Valley as is a new Canberra district and will have a population of 55,000 people. Just to the south is Weston with as many again. This makes the area the equivalent of Belconnen or Gungahlin by population.

A network of cycle highways is required through the Molonglo Valley to get riders to work. Further active travel links are required across the Molonglo River, too. The Molonglo River valley is step and the river dangerous. The Molonglo River Reserve is an environmentally sensitive area. All these factors argue for north/south links at multiple points across the river.

I said that the assessment of the benefits of the C10 Coombs to Civic Cycle Highway is a multifaceted question. The narrow sense is whether commuting by bike between Coombs to Civic faster. The answer is yes, as the C10 is the first part of a network through the Molonglo Valley and the parts are worth far more together than stand alone.

Next comes the broader sense of the question, the benefits to the Molonglo Valley network. Particularly Molonglo Valley 3 (north of the river) requires a good network as it is structurally isolated. The C10 Coombs to Civic Cycle Highway is the foundation for a much larger network providing links between Molonglo Valley 3 and Lake Burley Griffin and Molonglo Valley 1 and 2 in the south (currently Wright, Coombs, Denman Prospect). The first requires a bridge over the Tuggeranong Parkway, and the second a cycling bridge over the Molonglo River. It should not be forgotten that Coombs is the hub for routes to all town centres.

Any change starts with paradigm shifts. If we want to achieve an effective cycling infrastructure, we must include cycling bridges at the planning stage.

Map 4: Coombs as cycle network hub
Map 5: Molonglo Valley 3 provides links in that network with cycle highways

A network is much more than the sum of its parts. The C10 is justified on its own merits but will become still more valuable over time as the backbone of a much larger network in the Molonglo Valley 3.

All the Molonglo Valley cycleways are to be seen as part of a much larger transition network for commuters from other areas. The distance that commuters ride to work can be as much as 30 km (distance between Belconnen and Tuggeranong).

Map 6: CBR Cycle Routes

It should not be forgotten the light rail is part of the active travel package and corridors need to be secured for this, too.

Map 7: Light rail corridors to the Molonglo Valley

See fly-by of the route below

C10 Coombs to Civic Cycle Highway

Cycle Highways: travelling at speed

The experience of riding on cycle highways is one of speed whilst feeling safe. The C10 between Coombs to the Arboretum can be ridden at speeds of 30kmh. Particularly with electric bikes the ride speed should be high. For cyclists, road crossings, pedestrians, bumpy surfaces and tight corners are potentially deadly. They slow you down and stop you from getting to your destination. As a commuter that is all that is important. With its high design, construction, safety and maintenance standards the C10 Coombs to Civic Cycle Highway provides the infrastructure that Molonglo Valley residents need.

Notes

Note *: The C5 requires a substantial upgrade to get the route up to cycle highway standard. It is old infrastructure that needs be upgraded with the C10 now feeding into it before the Glenloch Interchange.

Note **: Times do not factor in the varying quality of the paths and safety risks. The quality of old paths is particularly patchy.

Photo by Mu00eddia on Pexels.com
Photo by Mu00eddia on Pexels.com

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