Athllon Drive Duplication: not for cyclists

Tuggeranong Parkway. Flickr, Molonglo Catchment Group, (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Athllon Drive Duplication has been welcomed by many in the south who drive to Woden or Civic. For cyclists, however, the project sadly offers little. This is not untypical for road duplications.

“Think THREE” explains that cars, pedestrians and cyclists are different. They have different needs and different characteristics. This is well recognised in Austroads and the ACT Active Travel design standards.

A transport network designed for pedestrians looks different to that designed for cyclists, and the network for cars looks different again. Where the networks cross you get conflict points. The Austroads design standards are mostly about how to deal with these conflict points. Special measures are required to keep everybody safe, particularly vulnerable road users.

All improvements to the existing infrastructure in Canberra are limited by the amount of money the ACT Government is going to invest. In project management, the capital budget restricts the scope of the project. We would like lots of nice features for bikes but the reality is the limited budget means that priorities need to be set and things at the bottom of the list will be dropped.

Athllon Drive Corridor upgrade but cycling is not mentioned - Athllon Drive corridor through several upgrades which include duplicating sections. Source: ACT Government
Athllon Drive Corridor upgrade but cycling is not mentioned – Athllon Drive corridor through several upgrades which include duplicating sections. Source: ACT Government

Athllon Drive Duplication

The Athllon Drive Duplication is a classic example of this. It is a project target at improving road transport between Tuggeranong and Woden for cars – not bikes or pedestrians.

The project has two sections, one in the Woden Valley and the other in the Tuggeranong Valley.

North section, Woden Valley

This section is rather short (only 600 m) and has been planned for a long time. On-road cycle lanes will be renewed in both directions. The off-road shared bike paths will not be improved. Pedestrians will get a path to the bus stop.

Athllon Drive Duplication, Woden Valley, ACT Government
Athllon Drive Duplication, Woden Valley, ACT Government

South section, Tuggeranong Valley

This section is the longest (2.4 km) and the newest. Again on-road cycle lanes will be renewed and the off-road shared bike paths will remain as they are. They are not in the scope of this project.

The most exciting thing about the Athllon Drive Duplication is that finally an underpass will be built under the dangerous Sulwood Drive for pedestrians and cyclists. Canberra.bike considers this as the main benefit of the project for cycling. Considering the overall cost of the project this investment in cycling infrastructure is disappointingly little.

Athllon Drive Duplication, Kambah Wanniassa, ACT Government
Note the underpass under Sulwood Drive (top left). Athllon Drive Duplication, Kambah Wanniassa, ACT Government

Cars come first

Road duplications are all about cars. They are arterial roads where cyclists and pedestrians have no place in the Movement and Place Framework that is part of modern urban planning. Cyclists and pedestrians are vulnerable road users and collisions with a motor vehicle at a speed difference of greater than 30 km/h is most likely fatal. A dual carriageway road in Canberra has a speed limit of typically 80 km/h. Even if the cyclist is riding at 30 km/h, the speed difference is 50 km/h. A cyclist is unlikely to survive this.

Road duplication provides few benefits for cyclists.

Why duplications do not work for cyclists?

  • Dual carriageway road cannot be made safe for cyclists with on-road cycle lanes.
  • With limited funds, road duplications aim for maximum improvements for cars. Pedestrians and cyclists get little consideration.
  • There is considerable opportunity cost. For the same money, the ACT Government could build a dedicated cycleway of 30 times the length. **

** based on the cost of Horse Park Drive duplication ($170 million) and Majura Parkway ($288 million).

On-road bike lane (1.5m) on Gundaroo Drive between Gungahlin Drive and the Barton Highway.
On-road cycle lane (1.5m) on Gundaroo Drive between Gungahlin Drive and the Barton Highway.

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