There are so many opportunities to improve cycling in Canberra. The little money available for a safe and fast cycling infrastructure should be spent where it is needed most. This means that we focus the investment on the top priorities first.
- Prioritising cycling investment
- Building Seven Large-Scale Cycling Corridors
- Lower speed limits
- Grade separated cycle infrastructure
Prioritising cycling investment
CBR Cycle Routes are a worthy investment, but underfunded and unfortunately poorly maintained. Largely built before 1988, they are worn out and in need of renewal. Considering we currently have nothing else, we better look after them. CBR Cycle Routes are the backbone network for most Canberra cyclists.
The facilities along the CBR Cycle Routes generally do not conform to the current active travel standards (MIS05) with regard to width, smoothness, or safety (priority crossings, lighting, road crossing markings, etc). Much could be improved. The investment in the CBR Cycle Routes should no more be questioned than when we decide to fill a pothole in the road. But while we have an annual road maintenance program with targets we benefit from as drivers, the same cannot be said for our Canberra cycle infrastructure.
Recommendations of the PTCS Committee relevant to cycling (Estimates 2020-21 and Annual Reports 2019-20, April 2021).
6.75 The Committee recommends that the ACT Government acquire suitable equipment so that it has the capability to assess cycle and pedestrian path surfaces across the network.
6.76 The Committee recommends that the ACT Government set a target of 90 per cent of bike paths and footpaths being maintained in good condition, as is done for roads.Estimates 2020-21 and Annual Reports 2019-20, PTCS Committee, April 2021, viii.
Large sections of the CBR Cycle Routes are yet to be built. These are the dotted lines on Building an integrated transport network active travel 2015 below. Examples include:
- Northbourne Gateway Route
- Bike path between Molonglo Valley and Belconnen (Coulter Drive)
- Flemington Road in Gungahlin
- Adelaide Avenue grade separated cycle highway
Principal Community Route (PCR) –A subset of Main Community Routes (MCR) that form direct links between town centres. There are routes that are to include route labels and branding.Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05 (MIS05) (ACT Government, April 2019)
Good ideas that were never built
The Garden City Cycle Route was identified as a priority back in 2004 and added to the Ten Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure. The idea is not new and neglected for almost 20 years. Keep in mind that we have had a Labor government in the ACT Legislative Assembly since 20 October 2001.
2004 plan for bike paths parallel to Northbourne Ave and Barry Drive, enlargement of Figure E2 Proposed Cycle Lanes and Share Paths, Ten Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure, Roads ACT, 2004.
The Garden City Cycle Route would cover over five kilometres across the inner north, with cycle connections, travelling through the suburbs of Watson, Downer, Dickson, Ainslie, Braddon, and the City. The cycle path would include a mix of off-road shared paths and protected on-road cycle lane, and be in direct proximity to approximately 17,000 homes in the inner north corridor.Labor pledges $5 million for northside bicycle paths, Newstate Media, 16 May 2022.
Building Seven Large-Scale Cycling Corridors
The ACT Greens identified seven priority areas requiring major investments in cycling corridors. The first four on the listed are quoted in more detail.
- Woden to City (Adelaide Avenue)
- Molonglo Valley to Civic
- Northern Molonglo Valley, Belconnen and Civic
- Improving connections to the Belconnen Town Centre
- Upgrading the existing shared path on Gungahlin Drive
- Improving the cycling connection between the Tuggeranong Town Centre and Chisholm
- Improving cycling access to the City from Ainslie, Hackett, and Watson, and make Ainslie safer
Priority 1. Woden To City
Based on community feedback, the Greens’ immediate priority for cycling infrastructure is upgrading the Woden to City cycling corridor. There are a number of issues with the current cycling link between Woden and the City, which have long needed to be addressed. Just getting in and out of the Woden Town Centre itself on a bike is not ideal at present.
The development of light rail stage 2 provides an ideal opportunity to address many of these issues and improve the speed and safety of this cycling corridor.
At the same time, we would improve the connections into Woden Town Centre from surrounding areas, to ensure people can conveniently use active travel to safely access shops, services, and buses and light rail.Kickstarting A Cycling Revolution, 2020 ACT Election Walking and Cycling Policy, The Greens ACT, accessed 2 August 2020
Priority 2. Molonglo Valley To Civic
The Molonglo Valley is growing rapidly, but its cycle connections are not. There is an opportunity to build a high quality east-west cycling “superhighway”, connecting a new Molonglo Town Centre to the city. A feasibility study for such a cycle highway was undertaken due to the Greens including it in the 2012 Parliamentary Agreement – now we believe it’s time to build it. Residents of Molonglo should have a convenient and safe option for commuting by active travel, and in this newly developing part of Canberra we have the opportunity to ensure this is high quality, prioritised infrastructure.Kickstarting A Cycling Revolution, 2020 ACT Election Walking and Cycling Policy, The Greens ACT, accessed 2 August 2020
Priority 3. Northern Molonglo Valley, Belconnen And Civic
The new suburb of Whitlam, currently being built, is on the other side of the Molonglo River from the rest of the newly developed parts of the Valley, and requires a dedicated connection to link to the existing cycle network near Bindubi St and William Hovell Drive. A segregated cycle lane running alongside Coulter Drive would help connect suburbs in the Molonglo Valley to the Belconnen Town Centre.Kickstarting A Cycling Revolution, 2020 ACT Election Walking and Cycling Policy, The Greens ACT, accessed 2 August 2020
Priority 4. Improve Connections To The Belconnen Town Centre
For example, a segregated cycle path along the length of Benjamin Way would connect up the existing shared path network, through the Town Centre and to the new Belco Bikeway. In addition, cycling connections to Page, Scullin, Weetangera, and Hawker could be improved.Kickstarting A Cycling Revolution, 2020 ACT Election Walking and Cycling Policy, The Greens ACT, accessed 2 August 2020
Lower speed limits
The cheapest single measure to improve road safety, and to reduce fatalities and injuries of both motorists and vulnerable road users, is to reduce speed limits. The speed limits are adjusted according to the principles of Movement and Place. On arterials (movement corridors) higher speed limits are acceptable, but particularly on collectors and local streets within a suburb the speed limits need to be decreased in line with Austroads recommendations.
Austroads recommended speed limits within Canberra.
For many people, 30 km/h may seem a bit too slow. Austroads sees it differently.
“It is increasingly accepted by road safety practitioners that, to be aligned with the Safe System philosophy for pedestrians and cyclists, 30km/h impact speeds define the upper limit of an ‘acceptable’ collision. This ‘Safe System boundary condition’ coincides with an approximate 10% chance of the struck pedestrian being killed by the collision. Put another way, this corresponds to a 90% chance of survival. For the corresponding situation with serious injury (i.e., a collision with a pedestrian producing a 10% chance of serious injury), a much lower impact speed applies.”Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users (Austroads, 2020), 14.
Grade separated cycle infrastructure
Travelling at high speeds can be dangerous for motorists despite 100 years of continual improvement in the design of motor vehicles. To reduce the injuries and fatalities, high speed roads are designed to be safe for drivers and passengers of motor vehicles. The infrastructure should be seen as specialised, and Australian and ACT road design standards are a product of this safety thinking.
There is decidedly something wrong with the normalised thinking that figures it is OK to force a cyclist onto a cycle lane on an 80 km/h arterial road, when we all know that grade separated cycle infrastructure is the benchmark for cycling – and best built far from high speed roads. Grade separated cycle infrastructure has been internationally accepted as a requirement for high cycle participation rates of 10%. Would you seriously ride next to cars doing 80 km/h with your primary school children??
We have National (Austroads) and ACT Standards (MIS05) for cycle infrastructure that have been inadequately applied the ACT. Generally, the path design in the ACT barely achieves the minimum requirements. The minimum grade separated path width is 3.5 m in the ACT. In retrofit, 2.5 m paths are permitted, but we should always see 3.5 m or wider in greenfield developments. That the paths are always built so narrowly indicates a lack of ambition to do the job right the first time and to future proof the cycle infrastructure in a way the predecessor of the NCA demonstrated before 1988.
How much of the path network is of the minimum standard for cycling? The ACT Government makes data available to the community through the Open Data Portal data ACT. One of the datasets is the 2019 data for the community paths in the ACT. The total length of the paths for each path width is shown in the graph below for the community paths in the ACT.
- Total path network length: 3106 km.
- Most common width: 1.2 m and a total length of 1667 km.
- Next most common width: 2.5 m and a total length of 479 km.
- The portion of the path network that has the 2.5 m minimum width (retrofit) suitable for cycling: 19% or 581 km.