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.
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.
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.
Features of CyclOSM
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.