Section 6.4 Language of structure plans

Structure plans are high level documents. The closest to a planning strategy that can be found in the Territory Plan. Do the principles found in structure plans lead to suburbs fit for cycling?

The ACT urban planning review would like to see stronger links between the ACT Planning Strategy and the Territory Plan. The structure plans are high level statements on the outcomes for future urban areas.

Assuming that the statements in the structure plans are carried forward to later planning stages, one would expect that a strong outcome for cycling where the structure plan has strong goals for the cycling network. Looking at the language of structure plans is the first step to assessing if this is the case.

Some structure plans may have sketches and maps, often drawn by hand. A sketch can make a powerful statement. Visualisations should not be neglected.

What is a structure plan?
A structure plan sets out principles and policies for development of the future urban areas.

Planning and Development Act 2007, page 71

What is a concept plan?
A concept plan—
(a) applies the principles and policies in the structure plan to future urban areas; and
(b) is a precinct code in the territory plan (see section 55 (3)) that guides the preparation and assessment of development in future urban areas to which the concept plan relates.

Planning and Development Act 2007, page 71

Structure plans in the Territory Plan

  • South Lawson Structure Plan
  • Crace Structure Plan
  • East Gungahlin Structure Plan
  • North Gungahlin Structure Plan
  • Gungahlin Central Area Structure Plan
  • North Watson Structure Plan
  • Kingston Foreshore Structure Plan
  • West Belconnen Structure Plan

Main goal

Table 6-1 outlines for each structure plan the vision for cycling. Should there be more than one statement, the strongest is listed.

Active travel was introduced into the transport strategy first in 2012 and then later in 2015, 2018, and 2020. The transport strategy informs the planning strategy. One might expect outcomes to improve over time. The structure’s plan year of release is also included in the table 6-1.

Structure PlanYearGoal
North Watson2008none
South Lawson2010provide access to key features
Crace2008integrated cycling network
East Gungahlin2014integrated cycling route network
North Gungahlin2008integrated cycling route network
Gungahlin Central Area2011provided early in the development
separate commuter cycling routes
encourage the use of bicycles
Kingston Foreshore2010encourage the use of bicycles
West Belconnen2016integrated cycling route network
encourage cycling to reduce travel dependence
Table 6-1 Cycling goals compiled from the structure plans found in the Territory Plan.

Standard phrases

The most common standard phrases from the table 6-1 are fleshed out below.

Little to nothing

Both North Watson and South Lawson have little to nothing to say about cycling. This is not good. The structure plans are from 2008 and 2010.

Integrated cycling route network

The only variation found in this phrase is that before 2016 the text refers to only national standards and not ACT standards. It is found in structure plans from 2008, 2014, and 2016.

This phrase states the requirement for a cycling network, but not the function nor the quality of the network. The reference to ACT or national standards could be seen as helpful, however, the structure plan is one of vision. The standards are more relevant to the concept plan. Because of the lack of a vision this phrase is better than nothing, but still weak. The Belconnen Town Centre upgrade demonstrated a vision in a way that it can be designed.

An integrated cycling route network should be created within and between communities consistent with ACT and national standards

West Belconnen Structure Plan

Encourage the use of bicycles

This phrase looks promising as it describes what makes good cycling infrastructure: functional, convenient, safe and attractive. It is found in structure plans from 2010 and 2011. This phrase is better than the last, as it describes the qualities of a cycling network that encourages cycling. The technical ACT and national standards are not about making a cycling path attractive. Urban planning practitioners understand what it means to create a sense of ‘place’.

Encourage the use of bicycles for transport by providing functional, convenient, safe and attractive cycle routes

Kingston Foreshore Structure Plan

Encourage cycling

The description below demonstrates a good understanding of the desired active travel outcomes and recent goals in the 2018 ACT Planning Strategy. West Belconnen has the strongest vision. The ACT Government had made a strong statement on active travel in 2015. The ACT Government goal is to “reduce vehicle dependence” and create active travel suburbs that are “legible and permeable”.

Neighbourhoods will be planned to encourage walking and cycling to reduce vehicle dependence, with a legible and permeable hierarchy of roads, conveniently located commercial and community facilities,

West Belconnen Structure Plan

Outcomes today

Table 6-2 describes the quality of the outcome for cyclists.

Structure PlanYearPlanOutcome
North Watson2008poornone
South Lawson2010poorpoor
Crace2008OKexcellent
East Gungahlin2014OKpoor
North Gungahlin2008OKgood
Gungahlin Central Area2011goodpoor
Kingston Foreshore2010goodpoor
West Belconnen2016excellentexcellent
Table 6-2 Comparing the ambition of the goals for cycling in the structure plans against the actual built cycling network outcomes.

Impressions

The first thing to be noted is that the outcome has little to do with the structure plan’s date. One might expect the outcomes to improve for more recent projects, but this hypothesis does not stand.

The second option is a correlation to the region. This is also not the case. Take Gungahlin as an example. North Gungahlin and Crace are good, but Central and East Gungahlin are poor. This failure of planning networked cycling infrastructure in Central Gungahlin will bear consequences.

Finally, the vision of an “integrated cycling network” has not produced consistent outcomes. Crace has come out the best, ahead of North Gungahlin. East Gungahlin is struggling.

East Gungahlin failure is the result of a poor cycling network in Central Gungahlin and an unfinished Well Station Drive. Throsby has been left isolated. A 3.5 m dedicated cycle path along Well Station Drive would connect Throsby with the end of the cycle route on Flemington Road (CBR Cycle Route C11). Harrison is not easily fixed and difficult to traverse.

In conclusion, there is no strong correlation to the date, region, or cycling vision. What makes a suburb good for cyclists depends on other factors. The planning process produces mixed outcomes and sprinkles good cycling suburbs between bad. A fragmented cycle network undermines change management efforts to increase regular cycling participation. We are mixing good assets amongst bad ones. The failure to build a consistent and interconnected network will undermine cycling mode share growth for years to come.

Intermingling good and bad cycling suburbs, like a chequerboard, does not produce a good cross city network. We are stranding good assets between bad. Photo by Roman Kaiuk on Pexels.com

Structure plan overview

North Watson (2008)

Cycling is not mentioned.

South Lawson (2010)

South Lawson Structure Plan has little to say about cycling, but makes up for it with the sketch.

Shared cycle/pedestrian paths will provide access to key features in Lawson south and connect to existing paths in surrounding areas including the University of Canberra and lake foreshore.

South Lawson Structure plan

South Lawson Structure plan

Crace (2008)

An integrated cycling and pedestrian network should connect to the local centre, parks and hilltops within the suburb of Crace and provide links to trunk routes, services and facilities in other areas of Gungahlin and Canberra.

Crace Structure Plan

East Gungahlin (2014)

An integrated cycling route network should be created within and between communities consistent with national standards.

East Gungahlin Structure Plan

Kenny and part of Harrison: Cycleway/pedestrian link to be provided within open space.

East Gungahlin Structure Plan

North Gungahlin (2008)

An integrated cycling route network should be created within and between communities consistent with national standards;

North Gungahlin Structure Plan

An integrated cycling and pedestrian network should connect commercial centres, schools, parks, ovals, and hilltops and provide links to trunk routes.

North Gungahlin Structure Plan

Gungahlin Central Area (2011)

For the Gungahlin Central Area Structure Plan, the intent is strong, but the outcomes are poor.

Vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle connections to existing adjacent suburbs are provided early in the development.

Gungahlin Central Area Structure Plan

Cycling infrastructure from day one is the best way to stop car dependence.

Separate commuter cycling routes from the walking paths.

Gungahlin Central Area Structure Plan

Commuters from the northern suburbs of east Gungahlin (Bonner, Forde and Throsby) will ride through Harrison to travel south. The CBR Cycle Route C11 is along Flemington Road, south of Well Station Drive. North of Well Station Drive, the cycling infrastructure is poor.

Encourage the use of bicycles for transport by providing functional, convenient, safe and attractive cycle routes connecting major destinations and linking to district and metropolitan cycle ways, as well as providing bicycle racks and locking facilities in public areas.

Facilitate the use of bicycles for recreation by providing attractive and safe cycle ways integrated with the open space system.

Gungahlin Central Area Structure Plan

This paragraph looks promising as it describes what makes good cycling infrastructure: functional, convenient, safe and attractive.

Facilitate pedestrian and bicycle movement within the Town Centre and Central Suburbs and from adjacent areas.

Gungahlin Central Area Structure Plan

Provide convenient bicycle and pedestrian access between transport nodes (public transport facilities and car parking) and retail, community and recreational facilities, and to adjoining suburbs.

Gungahlin Central Area Structure Plan

Kingston Foreshore (2010)

Encourage the use of bicycles for transport by providing functional, convenient, safe and attractive cycle routes

Kingston Foreshore Structure Plan

This paragraph looks promising as it describes what makes good cycling infrastructure: functional, convenient, safe and attractive.

West Belconnen (2016)

An integrated cycling route network should be created within and between communities consistent with ACT and national standards

West Belconnen Structure Plan

Neighbourhoods will be planned to encourage walking and cycling to reduce vehicle dependence, with a legible and permeable hierarchy of roads, conveniently located commercial and community facilities,

West Belconnen Structure Plan

The (commercial) centre will be well serviced by public transport and link effectively with the wider pedestrian and cycling network.

West Belconnen Structure Plan

Provision will be made for open space links between the Murrumbidgee River Corridor, Ginninderra Creek and Strathnairn Village suitable for cycling, pedestrian and equestrian use.

Provision will be made for open space links to the Molonglo River Corridor and to the existing off road path network in Belconnen for the purposes of pedestrian, equestrian and cycle use.

West Belconnen Structure Plan

Shared paths (bicycle/pedestrian) will provide access to key features within West Belconnen 

West Belconnen Structure Plan

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