Taking stock of community paths

The ACT active travel standards have a minimum path width of 2.5 m. The reality is that many of the community paths are much narrower than this. Only 19% of the paths in the ACT are 2.5 m or wider (strategic paths). The most common path width is 1.2 m and makes up 54% of the 3106 km in the ACT. Many suburban streets, however, have no paths at all on the verge and pedestrians walk on the road, which is also often safer for the elderly due to lack of path maintenance.

How much of the path network is of the minimum standard for cycling? The ACT Government makes data available to the community through the Open Data Portal data ACT. One of the datasets is the 2019 data for the community paths in the ACT. The total length of the paths for each path width is shown in the graph below for the community paths in the ACT.

  • Total path network length: 3106 km.
  • Most common width: 1.2 m and a total length of 1667 km.
  • Next most common width: 2.5 m and a total length of 479 km.
  • The portion of the path network that has the 2.5 m minimum width suitable for cycling: 19% or 581 km.
For cycling the minimum path width is 2.5m. Width of Canberra community paths available through the Open Data Portal data ACT.

The data does not mention the approximately 1500km of streets in the ACT without any community paths. There are many such streets, particularly in the older suburbs. The good paths are not evenly distributed across the ACT but rather a few suburbs have the lion share. Many of the wider paths are found in the newer suburbs. The older suburbs do poorly in comparison.

There is a massive backlog of investment required to bring the community paths up to the minimum standard required for active travel and cycling. Fast-track is welcome but currently too little to make a dent in the network.

Reference material

Active travel standard: Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05, ACT Government, April 2019

Data: “Footpaths in the ACT 2019”, Community Paths in the ACT 2019, Open Data Portal dataACT, This dataset is up to date as of August 2019. ACT Transport, accessed 7 August 2020.

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