Taxonomy of active travel

Shared path, Akman Drive. Belconnen Bikeway under construction, stand 11/10/2020

The Active Travel Framework includes many abbreviations that are impossible to remember – unless we understand the system from which they are derived. This article is not an introduction to active travel but serves to clarify the taxonomy of route types.

Roads in the ACT are graded into a hierarchy.

  1. Highway
  2. Arterial
  3. Major Collector
  4. Minor Collector
  5. Local Access Street
Belconnen map showing the road network made up of Local Access Streets, Minor and Major Collectors, and Arterials. Source Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool, ACT Government
Belconnen map showing the road network made up of Local Access Streets, Minor and Major Collectors, and Arterials. Source Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool, ACT Government

Now active travel infrastructure has a similar hierarchy. Figure 2 shows the system by which “paths” are designated by a function and placed in a hierarchy. The Active Travel Framework describes a standardised system for naming active travel infrastructure (nomenclature). The hierarchy and divisions is typical of the taxonomy found in the natural sciences. It is not frivolous but serves to create a specific language that can be then linked to specific standards. The standards are defined to create good infrastructure that satisfies the needs of the different active travel user groups. These standards are codified into statutory documents such as the Estate Development Code (EDC). The quality and consistency of our city is dependent on standards and the practitioners that apply them. 

Active Travel Route (ATR) nomenclature and abbreviations are introduced in figure 2. For the purpose of this introduction, the figure has a narrow focus on just cyclists. The Active Travel Route (ATR) nomenclature covers all user groups.

Figure 2: Active Travel Route (ATR) nomenclature and abbreviations

Abbreviations worth knowing.

  • LCR – Local Community Routes
  • MCR – Main Community Route

Hierarchy of paths compared to traditional road hierarchy

RoadCycle separated path
(off-road)
Cycle lane
(on-road)
HighwayPCR
Arterial RoadMCRMORCR
Major CollectorLCRLORCR
Minor CollectorACRAORCR
Local Access StreetMixed StreetMixed Street
Table 1: Hierarchy of paths

The active travel hierarchy applies to for other active travel types too. Canberra bike focuses on cycling so the only important ones for us are PCR, MCR, LCR and ACR.

TypeLocation to roadsCycleEquestrianWalking
Vergeoff-roadPCR, MCR, LCR, ACRERACR, APR
Exclusive cycle laneon-roadMORCR, LORCR, ORCR
Cycle training, racingon-roadPCTR, PCRR
Recreationoff-roadRR, PRTET, PRTRR, PRT
Table 2: Where versus what – modes (users)

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