We cannot build our way out of congestion. Why is it so hard to break this cycle despite all the evidence to the contrary? The transport investment in 2020 has not changed. Most of the money will be spent on roads.
“If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”Abraham Maslow
55% commute less than 10 km to work (HILDA 2019). In Canberra, the average time commuting to work has increased from 31.3 minutes in 2002 to 51.5 minutes in 2017, an increase of 64.5% over 15 years (HILDA 2019). Many could easily ride 10 km in under 50 minutes. Electric bikes would make this distance seem trivial. So why is the conclusion to congestion that we need to spend more on roads?
Other research has confirmed that our trips are mostly short and congestion is increasing. Cycling makes sense.
In the ACT (2017), the average distance we travel to work is less than 10 km. (ACT Household Travel Survey 2017)
The Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019 expects the cost of road congestion in the ACT and Queanbeyan to increase to approximately $504 million in 2031, up from $289 million in 2016, a 74% increase. (Urban Transport Crowding and Congestion Fact Sheet – ACT and Queanbeyan August 2019, Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019)
In ever denser cities the measure for transport is how much space a commuter takes up: the less the better. A car and driver need about six square metres of space. Compare that to a bus that can take dozens of people, and light rail that can take hundreds. Both replace cars. Bikes provide health and lifestyle benefits as well. It seems obvious that active travel is the far better option. Bike paths are much cheaper to build than roads. For a cash-strapped government, the decision to build bike paths should be an easy one.
Minister Steel’s response is more roads.
“Mr Steel said a number of current and recent duplication projects since the survey was completed will lower travel times, including the Cotter Road duplication, Ashley Drive duplication, stage one of Gundaroo Drive duplication, Horse Park Drive duplication and Coppins Crossing Road duplication.
Mr Steel also expects the ACT Government’s new road projects will also improve Canberrans’ commute times, including the new 6.4-kilometre corridor connecting Gungahlin and Belconnen duplication, which includes new on-road cycle lanes between Ginninderra Drive and the Barton Highway.
The Government also has plans for the duplication of Athlon Drive to add more lanes in each direction, replacing the bottleneck intersection on the Monaro Highway, as well upgrade intersections on Southern Cross Drive and Starke Street, Belconnen Way and Springvale Drive, Kent Street and Novar Street, and Launceston Street and Irving Street.”It’s taking longer for Canberrans to get to work, according to new data, The RiotACT, 30 July 2019, accessed 3 Aug 2020
There is an alternative: build bike infrastructure before the roads choke. With more cars, the roads will always be congested, no matter how much is spent. Why should we repeat the mistakes of other cities around the world? They have learnt that bikes are better.