If there is one thing to be learned from urban planning in Canberra, then it is to plan your bike paths early, otherwise, they are likely to be forgotten. As a cyclist, we should be interested in the redevelopment of the Weston Basin on Lake Burley Griffin by the National Capital Authority.
It is one of the quirks of Canberra that while we have a territory government, the ACT Government is not responsible for all the ACT. Canberra is more like Rome and in the centre is Vatican City. Here we call it the Parliamentary Triangle, and it is ruled by the National Capital Authority (NCA). The domain of the National Capital Authority is bigger than one would think as it includes everything 200 m around the edges of the Parliamentary Triangle and Lake Burley Griffin itself. The National Capital Authority is the protector of the sacrosanct.
Weston Basin is the Weston Basin on Lake Burley Griffin is the forefront of Civic with the National Museum of Australia on one side and Commonwealth Ave Bridge on the other. It has had a chequered history with highlights such as the container village but has become increasingly tired in recent years and is due for renewal. The National Capital Authority has decided now is a good time to do something about it.
Funding for bike paths in Canberra is difficult and getting approvals for infrastructure from the National Capital Authority can be uncertain. That said, they have been quite progressive with biking infrastructure around Lake Burley Griffin and I do not want to give them a bad rap. Once onboard, money for the National Capital Authority does not appear to be the issue. For the rest of the ACT, it most definitely is.
If you want good cycling infrastructure around Lake Burley Griffin, we need a good concept and plan early integrating it into redevelopments such as that now at West Basin. Lake Burley Griffin foreshores are a high traffic area where conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists are inevitable. The best type of infrastructure in such areas is to separate the high-speed cyclists from meandering pedestrians. Many tourists who do not know on what side of the path we walk in Australia get startled and instinctively step aside in the wrong direction. Ringing the bell usually results in panicked tourists ducking for cover smack bang into the path of the bike.
We would love to separate pedestrian and cycle paths. We are not going to get them unless we ask for them. Separated paths are currently not the norm in the ACT. The trend is to make paths wider but unmarked, resulting in traffic chaos. A lot can be learnt from the use of paint on roads. It keeps everybody in nice straight lines. It is a pity that the paths in the ACT do not have better markings.
Here are a few articles on the West Basin development.
- Block 23 Section 33 Acton (Acton Waterfront) – Phase 2 Boardwalk and Land Reclamation, NCA, 4/5/2020
- ACT Government moves ahead with West Basin plan, The RiotACT, 3/4/2020
- Shock and outrage at West Basin land swap with Curtin horse paddocks, The RiotACT, 25/3/2020