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urban planning

Cycle highways and the Active Travel Framework

The aim here is to link the “cycle highway” vision with the Active Travel Framework. The term “cycle highways” is disconnected from the planning mechanism in the ACT, in particular those of the ROAD AUTHORITY and PLANNING AUTHORITY. It is necessary to show where cycle highways sit in the active travel key statutory and non-statutory planning documents.

The relevant text for cycle highways is scattered throughout a number of these documents. In this document they are gathered together in one place.

It is not only the scientists who dissect and divide. Engineers do it as well with urban design. The city is categorised and divided into pieces and everything is given a name. A whole nomenclature evolves around classifications and hierarchies. It all has a reason, but the initiation can be demanding.

Active Travel contains an abundance of new terms. As a convention I will capitalise technical vocabulary and add definitions in the glossary on this website.

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Discussed in this post:

  1. Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05 (MIS05) (ACT Government, April 2019)
  2. Planning for Active Travel in the ACT: Active Travel Infrastructure Interim Planning Guideline (ACT Government, January 2019)
  3. Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool

Introduction to Active Travel

Most people have heard of active tavel but it is harder to define what it is. “Any form of human powered mobility“ could be called active travel, but this is rather a literal definition, as it does little to make clear the thinking from which it came. Over the last centuary, cities have developed around the notion of “efficient transport networks” and this means, for the individual, generally roads and cars. Canberra has had a car-centric design from the beginning. The realisation that we cannot build our way out of congestion has reshaped urban planning. The desire is now to build cities that are space efficient (limit sprawl) and better consider the space in which we live over mobility (movement and place framework). Cities should be a good place to live. The result is a renewed importance of the oldest form of transport: human powered mobility.

One of the difficulties of active travel is that the user groups are so varied. This creates confusion and means that the required infrastructure varies too. One size does not fit all.

“USER GROUPS – Pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians are made up of different groups of users that have different values and needs. Pedestrian user groups include walkers, joggers, people pushing prams or strollers and those using wheelchairs, both motorised or non-motorised. Cyclist user groups include primary and secondary school children, family groups / recreational cyclists, commuters, neighbourhood / utility cyclists, and touring and training cyclists (refer AGTM04 Table 4.12).”

And to keep it interesting it also includes a WHEELED RECREATIONAL DEVICE (roller blades, roller skates, a skateboard or similar wheeled device).

COMMUNITY ROUTES are of particular importance for urban planning in the ACT. Planning for Active Travel in the ACT: Active Travel Infrastructure Interim Planning Guideline introduces the three main community routes this way (edited).

Page 22

5.1.1 Community Routes

Community Routes are the alignments where the facilities representing the backbone of the Active Travel Network (ATN) are to be provided for active transportation. They link all major centres to residential areas and cater for walkers and cyclists of all abilities and ages (8-80s).

The Community Route component of the Active Travel Route (ATR) consists of a hierarchy of four levels designed to cater for the widest range of trips for different user types.

Principal Community Routes (PCRs)

These routes represent the “highways” for active transportation.

> Generally, connect town centres and to Queanbeyan

> To be branded as CBR Cycle Routes

> Include the same facilities as Main Community Routes except for the inclusion of route labels and brands as part of directional signage.

Main Community Routes (MCRs)

These are the “arterials” for active transportation and connect PCRs to group and employment centres. Connected destinations also include hospitals, industrial areas and the airport precinct as well as major active travel venues such as Stromlo Forest Park.

There are a number of different types of Main Community Routes that have different purposes such as connecting town centres by alternative routes, links to other MCRs and PCRs to form a connected network and inner-urban loops in town and group centres. The latter allow higher amenity movement around these destinations with PCRs and MCRs generally terminating at the loops.

Local Community Routes (LCRs)

These are routes that link Main Community Routes (MCRs) with local destinations such as local centres, colleges, high schools, district parks and district playing fields.”

Taxonomy of Active Travel

Active travel is a break from the way cities have been planned. Here are the traditional urban infrastructure types. Without much consideration of paths, roads are graded into a hierarchy.

  1. Motorway
  2. Trunk
  3. Primary
  4. Secondary
  5. Tertiary
  6. Standard (local street)
Figure 1: Traditional infrastructure types
source: Cyclosm highway infrastructure

In the ACT roads have a similar hierarchy but now active travel infrastructure does too. Figure 2 shows the system by which “paths” are designated by a function and placed in a hierarchy. There is a now standardised system for naming active travel infrastructure (nomenclature) which is part of the Active Travel Framework. The hierarchy and divisions is typical of the taxonomy found in the natural sciences. It is not frivolous but serves to create a specific language that can be then linked to specific standards. The standards are defined to create good infrasture that satisfies the needs of the different active travel user groups. These standards are codified into statutory documents such as the Estate Development Code (EDC). The quality and consistency of our city is dependent on standards and the practitioners that apply them. 

Active Travel Route (ATR) nomenclature and abbreviations are introduced in figure 2. For the purpose of this introduction, the figure has a narrow focus on just cyclists. The Active Travel Route (ATR) nomenclature covers all user groups.

Figure 2: Active Travel Route (ATR) nomenclature and abbreviations

Nomenclature and abbreviations are found in section 2.3.1 of Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05 (MIS05).

“22.3 Interpretations

2.3.1 Abbreviations used in this document

CR – Community Route

LCR – Local Community Routes

LORCR – Local On-road Cycling Route

MCR – Main Community Route

MORCR – Main On-Road Cycling Route

ORCR – On-Road Cycling Route

PCRR – Principal Cycle Racing Route (a type of Recreational Route)

PCTR – Principal Cycle Training Route (a type of Recreational Route)

PRT – Principal Recreation Trail (a type of Recreational Route)

RR – Recreational Route”

Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05 (MIS05) (ACT Government, April 2019) on page 12 (shortened)
Traditional RoadRoadCycle separated path (off-road)Cycle exclusive bike lane (on-road)Cycle recreation (off-road)Cycle training (on-road)Cycle racing (on-road)
MotorwayHighwayPCRPRT, PRRPCTRPCRR
TrunkArterial RoadMCRMORCRRR
PrimaryMajor CollectorLCRLORCR
SecondaryMinor CollectorACRAORCR
LocalLocal access streetMixed StreetMixed Street
Table 1: Hierarchy of paths

The active travel hierarchy applies to for other active travel types. This is illustrated in table 2 but I will only discuss cycling for the rest of this document.

TypeLocation to roadsCycleEquestrianWalking
Vergeoff-roadPCR, MCR, LCR, ACRERACR, APR
Exclusive cycle laneon-roadMORCR, LORCR, ORCR
Cycle training, racingon-roadPCTR, PCRR
Recreationoff-roadRR, PRTET, PRTRR, PRT
Table 2: Where versus what – modes (users)

What makes cycle highways so hard

The hierarchy of roads now applies to the hierarchy of bicycle (community) routes. This gives active travel a level of sophistication that it has never previously possessed. It is also generally true, with this system approach, that the same level bike facility is paired with the same level of road facility. Also, the people who design and build the roads, The Road Authority (TCCS), build the bike paths. The local consequence for active travel is the higher level path type paths, MAIN COMMUNITY ROUTES and PRINCIPAL COMMUNITY ROUTES, will need to be separated from pedestrians (other USER GROUPS) for the facility to fulfil its function. At the top of the hierarchy the designs are specialised to play to the strengths of USER GROUP or vehicle type (cars or bikes, but not both). This makes one design illsuited for another USER GROUP, so that the USER GROUPs are best separated. USER GROUPs need to be separated for safety reasons, if not function.

With the introduction of the  Active Travel Framework the bike path has left its nest. The provision of infrastructure for bikes has always been torn by the tension between the cyclist as “pedestrian” and the bike as vehicle (VEHICULAR CYCLIST). Active travel now defines pedestrians, cyclists and motorists as different USER GROUPs, and acknowledges that each USER GROUP requires its own infrastructure.

The planning practitioners of today have seen urban planning develop from a road legacy to its logical conclusion. A bike network can be built without roads. Many USER GROUPs  are quite vunerable and the Active Travel Framework and standards, overwhelmingly describe Safe Systems that are designed to mitigate the risks around roads. At its heart is the problem of dealing with roads. This thinking is quite limited as little thought is spent on what you could do with bike path design without roads. For example, the ESTATE CODE (statutory document) specifies paths but only along roads. The ESTATE CODE is silent on estate infrastructure for other USER GROUPs. The design of independent path networks for cyclist (without any roads) is left out.

Roads are the problem not the solution. Building more roads begets more congestion. That is at the heart of the fallacy on which we have built our cities. Road building dominates urban planning and discourse to the detriment of effect bike networks. Without changing our thinking, the Active Travel Framework cannot be realised. Without change, we will continue to build cookie-cutter suburbs designed around cars.  

“Changing our belief systems has been put as rebuilding our house but it is more akin to trying to rebuild a rotten boat while you’re sitting in it.”

Jonathan Glover

The Principal Community Route is a cycle highway

The term PRINCIPAL COMMUNITY ROUTE(PCR) it is often used synonymously with the MAIN COMMUNITY ROUTE (MCR). They are quite different.

In the context of the Active Travel Framework, however, a PCR is a “cycle highway”. The PCR is at the top of the hierarchy, independent of roads, and can be planned and built without roads. The later sections of this document provide extracts from the KEY DOCUMENTS that support this conclusion.

The financial incentives to do this are huge. You can build approximately 30 times more cycle highway (in length) for the same price of a dual lane carriage way in the ACT, which would have a PCR or MCR attached to it. Dropping the overhead of the road construction (legacy), provides more money for cycle highways.

Cycle highways are found in the KEY STANDARDS as Principal Community Routes(PCR). This is important as we need standards to build one. The information is distributed through the KEY STANDARDS but needs to be summarised here in this document, in one place, to make it transparent.

Cycle highways separate from roads

The statutory planning document for active travel suggest that cycle highways are separate from roads.

Planning for Active Travel in the ACT: Active Travel Infrastructure Interim Planning Guideline (ACT Government, January 2019)

Page 31

“6.1.2 Statutory Planning

The main statutory planning documents are the National Capital Plan and the Territory Plan. Importantly, the objectives and requirements below need to be incorporated into proposed amendments and ACT Government variations to these documents. This is particularly important for elements of the plans such as Development Control Plans, Structure Plans or Precinct Codes that relate to specific locations.

Objective

Provide active travel facilities that respond to their environment and provide greater amenity to users.

Requirements

  • Consider the topography when identifying alignments for cycling routes.
  • Look for opportunities to connect Community Routes through green spaces or service corridors rather than following the road network, especially if these can offer more direct alignment and better grading opportunities.
  • Align routes for active travel transportation”

Page 33

“6.2 Estate Development Design

Objective

Provide active travel facilities that respond to their environment and provide greater amenity to users.

Requirements

  • Main and Local Community Routes should be intuitive and direct. Their alignment may influence the layout of the estate.
  • Consider the terrain when identifying Community Routes.
  • Look for opportunities to connect Community Routes through green spaces or service corridors rather than following the road network.”

Extracts- Planning for Active Travel in the ACT (PATCAT)

source: Planning for Active Travel in the ACT: Active Travel Infrastructure Interim Planning Guideline (ACT Government, January 2019)

Page 15

“4.2 Estate Development

Estate developments are generally on land where the proponent is creating block boundaries, delivering services and constructing the public domain (paths, parks etc.). These developments are subject to specific type of Development Approval known as an Estate Development Plan.

Estate Development Plans are often in Future Urban Areas (normally “greenfield” estates) but can include significant infill development projects. They are assessed against the requirements of the Estate Development Code in the Territory Plan.

The Estate Development Code aims to facilitate sustainable, safe, convenient and attractive neighbourhoods that meet the diverse and changing needs of the community. This includes offering a wide choice in housing and associated community and commercial facilities, providing for local employment opportunities, encouraging active travel, minimising energy consumption, and promoting a sense of place.

In assessing a proposal against the Estate Development Code, The Planning Authority will refer the proposal to all relevant agencies. Part of the code requires TCCS to check compliance of the proposal in relation to their assets, including that any proposed active travel facilities will comply with Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05.”

Page 16

“If the estate is within a Future Urban Area it will also be assessed against the requirements of any relevant Structure Plan or Concept Plan. If it is not within a Future Urban Area then it will be assessed against the requirements of the relevant zone, precinct and general codes. This is why it is important for all Structure Plans, Concept Plans and relevant codes to include the requirements necessary to maintain and deliver the Active Travel Network.”

Page 17

“4.6 Design Acceptance

Prior to the construction of any assets on Territory Land, whether they are associated with Estate Development, Land Development or Public Works, detail design plans are submitted to TCCS for Design Acceptance. This typically includes all active travel infrastructure. TCCS review the detailed design for consistency with the approved Development Applications and relevant standards including Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05 to ensure the appropriate facilities are provided on the identified Active Travel Routes.”

Page 30

“6.1.2 Statutory Planning

The main statutory planning documents are the National Capital Plan and the Territory Plan. Importantly, the objectives and requirements below need to be incorporated into proposed amendments and ACT Government variations to these documents. This is particularly important for elements of the plans such as Development Control Plans, Structure Plans or Precinct Codes that relate to specific locations.

If appropriate, the objectives and requirements identified below should be referenced in scoping requirements for Environmental Impact Statements and Planning Studies.”

Page 31

“Objective

Provide active travel facilities that cater for everyone in the community.

Requirements

  • Identify access to public transport.
  • Identify crossing points on Arterial and Collector Roads that are suitable for aged people and people with disabilities to provide continuity of active travel routes

Objective

Provide active travel facilities that respond to their environment and provide greater amenity to users.

Requirements

  • Consider the topography when identifying alignments for cycling routes.
  • Look for opportunities to connect Community Routes through green spaces or service corridors rather than following the road network, especially if these can offer more direct alignment and better grading opportunities.
  • Align routes for active travel transportation”

Page 33

“6.2 Estate Development Design

Objective

Provide active travel facilities that respond to their environment and provide greater amenity to users.

Requirements

  • Main and Local Community Routes should be intuitive and direct. Their alignment may influence the layout of the estate.
  • Consider the terrain when identifying Community Routes.
  • Look for opportunities to connect Community Routes through green spaces or service corridors rather than following the road network.
  • Where Main and Local Community Routes are provided outside road reserves passive surveillance must be provided by adjacent development.”

Extracts- Active Travel Facilities Design MIS05

source: Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05 (ACT Government, April 2019)

Page 25

“3.3.2 Estate development – facilities in new or redeveloped areas

Walking, cycling and equestrian facilities

The Planning Authority provides strategic network planning for the pedestrian, cycling and equestrian routes in new and developing residential areas. Practitioners are to ensure the physical conditions of the facilities meet standards for each of the route types as defined in this Standard and the facilities align with the routes as shown on Active Travel Route Alignment. Active Travel Routes (Active Travel Routes) are to be planned to comply with the strategic planning requirements of Planning for Active Travel in the ACT.

The connectivity of routes for transportation and recreation are checked against the Active Travel Route Alignment. Figure 5-1 shows the implementation process in new urban areas (Estate Development context) and redevelopments in existing areas where the Active Travel Routes are aligned to most suit user needs. Route alignments are informed by terrain and directness to destinations and should not be dictated by road hierarchy.

If there is a need to modify Active Travel Routes as shown on Active Travel Route Alignment (for economic reasons for instance), practitioners will liaise with the Planning Authority to obtain acceptance. This should be documented in the Design Acceptance submission for the development.

Path provision requirements for verges are prescribed in the Estate Development Code (Estate Development Code), However, as the Estate Development Code requirements are related directly to road hierarchy and the Active Travel Network may utilise other green corridors for Main and Local Community Routes, the Estate Development Code may be modified to implement Active Travel Network facilities to more closely match ATR requirements (Refer Table 5-4 for more detail).

Access Community Routes are not defined in Active Travel Route Alignment so the Estate Development Code requirement should always be adhered to and compliment Main and Local Community Routes provided within the road corridor to ensure suitable access between residences and the Active Travel Network.

Direct routes that take account of grade and separation at intersections require the early identification of alignments for Active Travel Routes through new areas. The urban structure or concept planning for a suburb includes an outline of the required routes for Main Community Route, Local Community Route, Equestrian Route and Main On-Road Community Routes at an early stage to identify locations which need grade separated crossings of arterial roads. The location of equestrian route crossings of arterial roads is noted and design provision for shared and separated underpasses included in the early design process.”

Page 30

“4.1 Design principles for Community Routes

The general design principles and parameters affecting the provision of pedestrian and cycling facilities on identified Main and Local Community Routes are provided in AGTM06A and in Table 5-3.

Importance of momentum

An essential design objective of facilities for use on Main and Local Community Routes is the maintenance of a comfortable operating speed without loss of priority and amenity. This is achieved by locating paths and road crossings to preserve cycling and walking momentum, by using zebra or Path Priority crossings, particularly at local access side streets and avoiding tight bends and long detours. For supplementary advice in Estate Development, refer to Table 5-3. The principles remain the same in Retrofit, however the criteria may be modified with approval of the Road Authority to allow for site limitations.”

Note in the table 5-3 below: DIRECTNESS and DETOUR FACTOR

Page 31

Page 32

“4.2 Design requirements and criteria for paths on

Community Routes

The Active Travel Route Alignment shows the spatial route alignments and the hierarchy for Community Routes within future urban and established areas. Community Routes may include facilities located within the street verge or in open space reserves and may be co-located with floodways, landscape corridors or wetlands and retention basins. The path facilities provided on Community Routes within street corridors may vary against the Estate Development Code requirement when other route-siting opportunities are applied.

Facilities on Community Routes are provided in accordance with the route hierarchy as shown in Active Travel Route Alignment. In street corridors Community Route facilities generally parallel On-Road Cycling facilities to provide for a wide range of cyclist needs. On most types of streets there is a verge path on each side to provide for Community Routes (see discussion below). Table 5-4 shows the provision for different types of Community Route facilities in Estate Development with reference to route hierarchy, land use context and the corridor where the route is located, open space reserve or a street verge.

The selection of facilities for use on CRs should always be considered according to the Community Route hierarchy and separately to the road network.”

Page 32
Page 33

“All paths in the ACT can be legally used by pedestrians and cyclists so it is not necessary to sign paths as shared paths except in legacy locations where paths are shared with equestrians. In these situations, additional signage is used to indicate the wider shared use (see ACT Standard Drawings-0611).”

Page 34

“Estate development

Main, Local and Access Community Routes generally utilise paths and are designed for pedestrians and cyclists in accordance with the relevant ACT Standard Drawings, the Estate Development Code and the approved Estate Development Plan. Design issues to address include:

  • All new neighbourhoods should be made walking and cycling-friendly by following the key design principles outlined in Section 3.
  • Community Routes facilities such as paths are generally located on both sides of the roadway however there are exceptions and the Active Travel Route Alignment should be referenced for all Main and Local Community Route alignments. A trunk path may be provided for a Main or Local Community Route on one side of a street and a minor path provided on the other side for an Access Community Route. Facilities on Access Community Routes are provided extensively to ensure the door to door connectivity of the network.
  • Main and Local Community Routes need not necessarily follow road alignments. When these routes are located in verges, facility provision is influenced by land use as shown in Table 5-4.”

Page 40

“4.4 Paths on Community Routes

Estate development

Table 5-6 details the path types and dimensions in use in the ACT in Estate Development.”

Page 40

Page 41

“4.4.1 Path design

Estate Development and Retrofit

Path design is to consider land use and route hierarchy contexts. For example, a trunk path on a Main Community Route through a green corridor in a suburban context will have a higher design speed than a trunk path on Local Community Route in an inner urban context. Path design will comply with AGRD06A, references to the relevant sections of AGRD06A are shown in brackets:

  • Width (AGRD06A Section 5.1)
  • Bicycle operating speeds (AGRD06A Section 5.2)
  • Horizontal curvature (AGRD06A Section 5.3)
  • Path gradients (AGRD06A Section 5.4)
  • Clearances and the need for fences (AGRD06A Section 5.5)
  • Crossfall and drainage (AGRD06A Section 5.6)
  • Sight distance (AGRD06A Section 5.7)
  • Changes in level (AGRD06A Section 5.8)
  • Surface treatments and tolerances (AGRD06A Section 5.9 and 5.10)
  • Lighting and underground services (AGRD06A Section 5.11 and 5.12)

Paths should not be located directly adjacent to property boundaries because of the risk of blind spots particularly from drivers exiting from driveways. Paths should not be located abutting kerbs as they may locate path users in the car door opening zone or may be obstructed by refuse bins on collection days (see Table 5-5). Refer to MIS 01 Street planning and design for technical requirements for street cross section planning.”

Page 44

“4.4.7 Vehicle access restriction to paths

Estate Development and Retrofit

Physical barriers are often necessary to prevent damage by unauthorised vehicles to parkland or infrastructure such as bridges not designed to take the weight of a vehicle. Barriers placed at the termination of paths, on bridge approaches and at property boundaries can present a danger to cyclists and pedestrians if not carefully designed and sited.”

Page 47

“4.4.11 Paths and floodways

Estate development

Paths should be designed to protect pedestrians and cyclists from flood events and provide access to suitable alternatives in the event of flooding.

Paths forming Main or Local Community Routes should be located above the flood level of a storm event with a 20% Annual Exceedance Probability (AEP). When paths are within the flood area of larger waterways such as major rivers or creeks with faster moving water and longer inundation periods, a higher level of protection up to 10% Annual Exceedance Probability (AEP) is to be considered.

Paths parallel to floodways should be as high as possible. Recreational paths not serving a transport function may be protected against lower AEP events, but consideration should be given to maintenance requirements resulting from more frequent inundation.

At-grade floodway crossings may be provided for Minor and Intermediate Paths (Access routes) under the following conditions:

  • Consideration has first been given to utilising nearby existing or proposed alternative high level crossings.
  • Suitable structures satisfy appropriate performance criteria for paths on Main and Local Community Routes. “
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

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