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Language matters. Let’s do some definitional work!

The ACT Active Travel Routes Network lingo is confusing. Here is a first change management attempt to clarify what it means.

Are you getting confused about the terminology of the Active Travel Routes Network?

Having studied several languages, I have learned early on that nothing is more personal than the words we choose to use. Nothing else is also more divisive and confusing in our day to day communication. (As a side note, if you like to read a fantastic book about the English language that confirms my sentiment, check out Bill Bryson’s book The Mother Tongue.)

So, let’s try and clarify what all this confusing lingo in the ACT active travel guidelines means for us.

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We need to understand that we use a simplified system in the ACT and that the terms differ across jurisdictions. For instance, the road rules for cyclists are very different in NSW to the ACT.

Source: Active Travel Workshop, December 2018

This is an attempt to add some clarity and not a full overview or education piece of the terms used in the Austroads guidelines or the ACT active travel guidelines or planning documents. This post is based on the December 2018 Active Travel Design Workshop.

Source: Active Travel Design Workshop, December 2018

What’s the impact of confusing Active Travel lingo?

Well, for example tenders go out to providers outside of Canberra, and guess what?  They may not be familiar with ACT standards and their designs will reflect what they know. Oopsy!  For instance, paths then get built to minimum standards, e.g. 1.5m width.

Community path in Evatt, Belconnen. Overgrown paths are common in Canberra and require maintenance.
Community path in Evatt, Belconnen. Here is a pretty and very enjoyable recreational path that is too narrow for passing pedestrians safely.

So, what is the simplified system as far as cycling is concerned?

Source: Active Travel Design Workshop, Dec 2018

1. On-Road Routes of the Active Travel Network use:

Bicycle lane and marked shoulder. Source: Active Travel Design Workshop, Dec 2018

2. Community Routes in the ACT:

Bike path, Lake Ginninderra, Belconnen, ACT, Australia
Main Community Route, Lake Ginninderra, Belconnen
A normal (community) path. Source: Active Travel Design Workshop, Dec 2018
Marcus Clarke Street. Source: Active Travel Design Workshop, Dec 2018. The word ‘ONLY’ is missing. Without the word ONLY, all paths in the ACT are legally shared.
Bicycle-only path in the new suburb of Strathnairn, West Belconnen
Pedestrians-only paths are very rare. Indeed, so rare that we don’t have photos. Cheerful cute little girl walking along stone path on nature by Tatiana Syrikova, Pexels

Here is a challenge to you: please send us a photo of a pedestrian-only path, and let us know where the photo was taken 🙂 Thanks!

Pedestrian ONLY and Bicycles ONLY path marking. Source Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT), ACTSD-3500_Series_Related_to_Active_travel_181220
Pedestrian ONLY and Bicycles ONLY path marking. Source Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT), ACTSD 3500 Series Related to Active travel 181220

So, which terminology does not exist in the ACT?

It is important to understand that the term ‘shared path’ is not used in Canberra because ALL Community Routes are paths that are shared – unless signed otherwise. The term ‘shared path’ does not exist in the ACT.

You will also NOT find the term ‘footpath’. When reading or hearing people complain about cyclists on paths, remember: “There are no footpaths in Canberra!”

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