Aranda CBR Cycle Route C5: falling short of expectations

Aranda hill, CBR Cycle Route C5, Belconnen, Canberra

The ongoing saga of Aranda bike path. Maintenance is sorely needed but despite the newest promises nothing had been done. ACT Labor’s cycling ambition is underwhelming which leaves them on the back foot and it takes years to organise routine maintenance. Here is an example.

Aranda update 13 February 2021

The lower section of the Aranda bike path (C5) has been resurfaced following the 2020 ACT Election but is already cracking due to tree roots. The root cause of the cracking previously was also the trees. This problem is well understood as asphalt reshapes itself to the underlying ground like a glacier. Asphalt is more like plasticine than concrete. The ACT Active Travel Stand Drawings and Austroads recommendations for bike paths provide recommendations for bike path construction to avoid such issues. For roads the asphalt is laid on a thick compacted road base (for John Gorton Drive it has about a 30 cm thickness). The construction of a bike path is similar with a thick “road base” and a relative thin layer of asphalt over that. The “road base” is important as it provides the stability and load bearing that asphalt lacks.

Where is it?

The Aranda hill bike path connecting Belconnen with Lake Burley Griffin is a Principal Cycling Route (PCR) between Belconnen and Civic, Woden, Molonglo Valley and Weston Creek. In the new nomenclature, it has been named the CBR Cycle Route C5. More about this here and here.

Sign, Aranda CBR Cycle Route C5

The site visit

We got there and nothing had been done. That was a disappointment. Five warning signs had been put up, paint had been splashed around to mark the worse spots but no repairs have been made. 

The email is written as though the problems are recent. The maintenance issues with the Aranda hill go back years. We have reported them last year after a couple of bear crashes coming down the hill in the dark. At about the same time I read a comment on the RiotACT from one man that complained he had reported the faults now with FixMyStreet for two years and nothing had been done. We have been riding the hill since 2014 and have no memory of any maintenance work being carried out. Now Tara’s email suggests that repairs could wait for another “12 to 18 months subject to funding and competing priorities.” The prediction here is that the repairs could be finally made up to 8 years after it was obvious that the path had become unsafe.

CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Aranda, Canberra
CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Aranda, Canberra

What is wrong with this path?

The path has a number of faults:

  • undulations, where the path sinks and rises over a few metres to ground level changes 
  • cracks along the length of the path, typically caused by water 
  • cracks across the path, typically caused by roots from trees
  • drainage of water across the path
  • sediment deposits from storms on the path
  • road crossings that are inadequately signed and no traffic calming on a PCR.

What causes cracks?

More about cracks along the length of the path typically caused by water, and cross the path typically caused by roots from trees, is discussed here

The crack will be small at first but over time they get bigger and dangerous. Some are now big enough to comfortably stick your finger into. On the edge of the paths, longitudinal cracks will cause the edge of the asphalt to break up and fall away, leaving a jagged edge. 

The path is washed away at the edges in places and just drops off. In other areas, silt has built up to a considerable thickness on low lying sections of the path, particularly behind path damage from roots. These sections are muddy and slippery and a hazard. In some places for some distance is actually an intermittent creek. Water from the surrounds flows down the path as it provides the least resistance. All these drainage issues need to be fixed. 

Priority crossings

Two roads cross the CBR Cycle Route C5 on Aranda hill: Redfern Street and Lyttleton Crescent. Redfern Street gets a lot of traffic as it connects Hawker to Jamison. Lyttleton Crescent is quieter but the motorists do not have good visibility of the bike path. The rider needs to take care crossing both roads. What we need here is a well lit and marked priority crossing, as is required in the ACT Active Travel Standards. 

Street crossing, CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Aranda, Canberra
Street crossing, CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Aranda, Canberra
Street crossing, CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Aranda, Canberra
Street crossing, CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Aranda, Canberra
Safety and hazards on CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Belconnen, Canberra
Safety and hazards on CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Belconnen, Canberra

Muddy paths

When silt builds up to form a layer on a bike path it represents a hazard for cyclists. This usually happens due to poor drainage. We often see drainage ditches beside roads, but bike paths are all to often painted onto the contours of the landscape and have not been designed or built with measures to prevent runoff water following across the path or leaving storm deposits. The sandy and clay soils of Canberra are easily dislodged in heavy rains. These mud deposits on bike paths are slippery, and when dry they form a loose layer which impairs braking. 

It may not be obvious to some that bikes have limited traction. Bike tyres are designed for a hard, smooth and abrasive surface that is typically concrete or asphalt. Bike tyres are often very narrow particularly on city bikes and road bikes. Some of these bikes do not have tyres without tread which makes the tyre slippery in wet weather. Most tyres have some tread so that it has good traction even when the surface is wet. The tyres are not designed for torrential rain or mud. Mountain bikes are different. They are designed for dirt, sand and mud and have been fitted tyres for these circumstances.

One of many

Aranda Hill is one bike path of many that need maintenance. We should not accept that bike paths in Canberra are poorly maintained. Chris Steel boasted the intent to resurface 6,000,000 square metres of roads in 6 months coming up to the election and that TCCS is working overtime filling potholes in the roads. Well and good, but bike paths have been in dire need of maintenance and get very little attention. We should demand this to change.

“To all those complaining about this much-needed cycling infrastructure improvement, I say, get on your bike and try to ride it, in safety, in the Belconnen Town Centre area and then get back to me. I won’t start on the cycle/shared paths I used for many years commuting from Evatt and McKellar other than to say they appear to have received little to no maintenance since I started using them in the late 1970’s. You need a dual suspension MTB to cope with the bumps and cracks!”

Klaus Popp 9:21 pm 09 Oct 19, The RiotACT

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