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Recreational cycling close to home

Planning a recreational ride starts with identifying the options. CyclOSM highlights where you can cycle with blue and green lines and greys out where you cannot.

Why not cycle from home? There is a Canberra Nature Park within 500m from home for 75% of Canberrans. CyclOSM helps you find a ride at your doorstep by highlighting all the bike paths.

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Cycling in abundance

In 2012, ACT had 2000km of community paths, and 329km of asphalt bike paths, uncountable management trails and over 100km of singletrack for mountain biking. Most of the state is rideable.

OpenStreetMap is now better than ever before. In 2019 OpenStreetMap received a major update from Murrumbidgee River to Monaro Highway, Hall to Tharwa, and all of Gungahlin to the ACT border. This represents the greater suburban Canberra. Not only were all the roads and paths updated but all the green space in between as well. That made it a complete active travel and recreational map.

Photo by Film Bros on Pexels.com

Less is more

There is so much information here about Canberra that you cannot see it all at once, and you will have to digest it in pieces. CyclOSM is a map optimised for the cyclist but shows the data from OpenStreetMap. Blue is the colour for the cyclist. All bike paths are in blue. The solid lines are paved and the dotted unpaved. The grey outlines represent the management trails that are not permitted for cycling. There are many green paths, often singletrack, where you can ride, too.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Recreational cycling is wellbeing

You will notice there are many dead ends. Paths just stop and you will need to double back. This is not a mistake of the mapping but the result of the planning. The ACT does not have the intention to create a network of cyclable paths. This is explicitly true in the nature reserves, such as the Molonglo River Reserve, but cycling is permitted there nevertheless. Creating a network of cycle paths has only ever been attempted for the routes at the top of the hierarchy – Principal Cycle Routes – otherwise, the cycle paths are not well interconnected.

Recreational cyclists get accustomed to backtracking and going in circles for the lack of other options. For recreation it does not matter much as the purpose is not to go anywhere but rather just to get out and to enjoy a nice ride. Recreational cycling is all about wellbeing.

For the commuter and active travel, it is another story. The commuter requires a network for good quality and direct routes, and in Canberra there are too few of those. This is why recreational cycling is booming but still few ride to work. We can only ride on what is available, and what we have in abundance are recreational trails.

man in black shirt and brown shorts holding bicycle Photo by Nur Andi Ravsanjani Gusma on Pexels.com
Photo by Nur Andi Ravsanjani Gusma on Pexels.com

Features of CyclOSM

The Molonglo Valley development is a dead end currently. Entry is from the east end only. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
The Molonglo Valley development is a dead end currently. Entry is from the east end only. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
CyclOSM shows the paved bike paths in blue. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
CyclOSM shows the paved bike paths in blue. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
Stromlo Forest Park - a maze of singletrack. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
Stromlo Forest Park – a maze of singletrack. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
Stromlo Forest Park - singletrack are graded by difficulty. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
Stromlo Forest Park – singletrack are graded by difficulty. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

CyclOSM highlights

Flat, Molonglo Valley - an example of a management trail and grey out property access beside it. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
Pipe Flat (management trail), Molonglo Valley – an example of a management trail and greyed out property access beside it. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
Cooleman Ridge illustrates a common situation where the route around the private property can be quite a long one. Canberra Centenary Trail. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
Cooleman Ridge illustrates a common situation where the route around the private property can be quite a long one. The private service road (driveway) to the farm house is greyed out. Canberra Centenary Trail. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

The magic of OpenStreetMap

CyclOSM is possible because the information about the types of paths and who can use them is found in OpenStreetMap. All the community paths in Canberra can be used by both pedestrians and cyclists. In the Canberra Nature Park, walkers are permitted everywhere but the cyclist generally only on the management trails.

The first map of Black Mountain and Aranda highlights the walking only trails (blue lines) from OpenStreetMap. The brown dotted lines are management trails on OpenStreetMap.

Where bicycles are not permitted but you can walk it. Cycling is limited in Aranda Bushland and but there are many possibilities in Black Mountain. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
Blue lines show walking tracks and bicycles are not permitted. Cycling is limited in Aranda Bushland but there are many possibilities on Black Mountain. Source Overpass-turbo | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Some areas (yellow) and paths (blue) cannot be accessed for either walkers or cyclist. Typically, this is still commonwealth land but there many reasons for the closures and often the closures are only temporary, such as building construction sites and fire reduction grazing. ACT Environment may close areas for conservation and the roads in those areas are greyed out on CyclOSM.

Some areas cannot be accessed but usual building sites, road closures, temporary grazing as a result of fire control measures. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
Some areas cannot be accessed. Usual building sites, road closures, temporary grazing as a result of fire control measures. Source Overpass-turbo | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Some areas of Canberra are leased for long periods for residential, commercial and agricultural purposes. The farms are generally well signposted as “private property.” Much of Canberra is commonwealth land and rarely fenced off. The private roads are shown in blue on the map below from OpenStreetMap. Not surprisingly in the suburbs, there are many, usually fenced, properties with a private road. The Molonglo Valley is a good place to ride as there are relatively few private roads.

Private as a result of a long term lease. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
Private as a result of a long term lease. Source Overpass-turbo | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Stromlo Forest Park is different

Stromlo Forest Park is popular for singletrack mountain biking. There are plenty of management trails there too. Some management trails are greyed out. This is not correct as cycling on the management trails is permitted. The information for the park would confirm this.

The strange case of Stromlo Forest Park where some management trails are marked in OpenStreetMap as not permitted for cycling and greyed out on the map. This is incorrect as cycling on the management trails is CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
The strange case of Stromlo Forest Park where some management trails are greyed out on the map. This is incorrect as cycling on the management trails is permitted. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

The reason may be a simple one. Garmin bicycle computers have an inbuilt navigation software that prefers the best and straightest trail. Forest Trail management trail is far better and straighter than anything around it and is the best option for bike navigation. However, mountain bikers at Stromlo prefer the singletrack. As a workaround, OpenStreetMap has been edited to block the Forest Trail management trail and navigate the singletrack e.g. Dingo and White Gums.

Garmin cycling GPS with Komoot app shown
Garmin Edge 530 cycling GPS with Komoot app shown

Bicycle computers are getting a lot smarter. Komoot has now a routing mode optimised for mountain bike singletrack. The new Garmin Edge 530 has many features specifically for mountain bikes. The 530 can measure the length of a jump (zero-G) or flow (maintaining momentum) of a ride.

Komoot for mountain biking on every platform and for every screen size.

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