The ACT Government’s 2019 Moving Canberra strategy was welcomed but essentially a rerun of the 2015 Active Travel Framework. The 2015 document was much more specific but failed for the lack of priorities, goals, and legislation. To say this another way, the ideas were good but the follow up poor. The 2019 Moving Canberra is vaguer and less specific than the 2015 strategy. The 2019 Moving Canberra creates a sense of urgency to do more of everything but lacks any recognition that strategy failure is not caused by the lack of ambition but rather the difficulty of implementation.
Canberra.bike has hardly mentioned ACT Government 2019 Moving Canberra strategy because it added little to the active travel debate. The ACT Conservation Council responded to it in a well-written submission. I will quote highlights from the submission here that are relevant in 2020. Between 2015 and 2020 the problems of cycle infrastructure investment remain largely the same in the ACT.
The ACT Conservation Council
“The Conservation Council ACT Region is the peak non-government environment organisation for the Canberra region… Our mission is to achieve an ecologically sustainable and zero net carbon society through advocacy, education, research and engagement with community, the private sector and with government.”The ACT Conservation Council submission on the Moving Canberra 2019-2045: Integrated Transport Strategy, page 1
The submission on Moving Canberra 2019-2045
“In its submission on the Moving Canberra 2019-2045: Integrated Transport Strategy, the ACT Conservation Council recommended public transport and active travel should be prioritised and legislated transport targets considered.”Moving Canberra – Integrated Transport Strategy, The Conservation Council ACT Region, 15 Apr 2019, accessed 27/6/2020
Here are extracts from the ACT Conservation Council submission.
“2. Legislate public transport and active transport targets
Any transport strategy for Canberra will necessarily need to integrate emissions reduction targets established in the ACT Climate Change Act, targets that are legislated and will require action. However, other targets, such as transport mode shift targets should be included in the Moving Canberra strategy. High-level targets on mode shift should be legislated in the same way emission reduction targets are legislated. While legislated targets may not be required for low level and/or specific objectives, legislation of high level targets would be a useful way to ensure Government commitments are maintained, that targets are reported via scheduled reporting obligations, and that investment decisions are aligned appropriately with desired outcomes. The ACT has a history of setting non-legislated targets: the last two transport strategies had targets that have not been met and the NoWaste by 2010 target was also not met. The Council believes that the reporting and accountability that accompanies legislated targets is powerful, and generally leads to a better outcome than non-legislated targets. Legislated targets are obviously able to be changed by the Legislative Assembly, and so are not impervious to a clear change of political direction or strategy.”The ACT Conservation Council submission on the Moving Canberra 2019-2045: Integrated Transport Strategy, page 6
“Investment must support implementation of legislated targets
Each section of the strategy discusses different opportunities for improving transport across Canberra, resulting in a document that conveys a sense that we need to do more of everything. Yet the reality is that with limited resources, decisions about prioritising investment will be made. It is of concern that, while the strategy talks positively about increasing the mode share of active travel and public transport, and highlights the importance of getting people out of their cars, the investment plan already committed to by the ACT Government seems primarily directed towards improving the major road network via road duplications and intersection upgrades. Acknowledging that there are a small number of identified works to enhance active travel and facilitate the extension of light rail, the ongoing investment in expanding the capacity of the road network is at odds with the strategic direction of the paper.
Recent investment in active travel in the ACT has been welcome, however, Canberra needs much, much more. Many more dedicated bike and in many cases separated pedestrian pathways are needed to really change modal share, as well as upgrades to existing active transport infrastructure. Building and maintaining this infrastructure will require ongoing funding beyond two years, especially if we are to extend these paths right across Canberra and complete missing links; ensure they are available to a range of different types of users; and maintain their quality so as they remain safe.
No amount of promotion of active travel will change modal share unless there is a network of well-maintained cycling and walking paths that are safe and easy to us. While some will choose to ride in bike lanes on Northbourne Avenue, having bike lanes alongside such a busy traffic corridor is a disincentive to many cyclists, in particular younger and/or less experienced cyclists. A motto for Transport Canberra could be: build it and they will come. If you build fast, straight, attractive and well-connected bike and pedestrian facilities, you will attract users and achieve the required modal shift without having to market the facilities to drive behaviour change. Conversely, if Transport Canberra invests in new or upgraded roads, demand for more private car use will be induced. The CEO of Vic roads in Victoria is on record having said “you can’t build your way out of congestion”. The Council would support this sentiment.”The ACT Conservation Council submission on the Moving Canberra 2019-2045: Integrated Transport Strategy, pages 7-8