Community paths: audited around 700 from 3,000 kilometres

Civic cycle path

Transcript Of Evidence for the Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services from 4 March 2021. The Standing Committee discusses transport and planning issues that related to cycling, but not all that often. The relevant information from the last time is found here.

Contents

  1. Fact check
  2. Recommendations
  3. Cycle infrastructure
  4. Monaro Highway
  5. Braddon

Fact check

According the ACT 2019 data from the Open Data Portal (dataACT), the ACT Government is responsible for 2655 km of concrete paths, 390 km of bitmen paths and 12 km of paths made of pavers. So when TCCS says they “to date, we have audited around 700 kilometres of the 3,000-kilometre network,” they actually mean all community paths and not just those paths made of asphalt which most of us would think of when we talk of shared-paths.

Data: “Footpaths in the ACT 2019”, Community Paths in the ACT 2019, Open Data Portal dataACT, This dataset is up to date as of August 2019. ACT Transport, accessed 7 August 2020.

Further reading: Taking stock of community paths

Recommendations

Two recommendations came out of this from the Standing Committee on Planning, Transport and City Services that are relevant to cycling from the Estimates 2020-21 and Annual Reports 2019-20, April 2021 (see attached).

Recommendation 8

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.

Recommendation 9

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, Standing Committee on Planning, Transport and City Services, April 2021, viii.

Cycle infrastructure

Extracts: Transcript Of Evidence, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021, 84-88.

THE CHAIR:

I will start with the first question. Minister Steel, TCCS has a target of 90 per cent of territory roads being maintained in good condition, but we do not have a target for bike paths and footpaths. Why is that?

Mr Steel:

I acknowledge and have read the privilege statement on the table before me. In the reporting period for the annual report we exceed our target in terms of road resurfacing, which is fantastic—the percentage of roads that are in good condition being, I think, 91 per cent during the reporting period. We are placing a greater focus now on the maintenance of footpaths and shared paths throughout Canberra.

Transcript Of Evidence, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021, 84

I will hand over to officials to talk through some of the work that we have been doing to better audit our footpaths around Canberra and shared paths. … The work that will come from those audits will inform priority repairs based on a range of different factors. I will hand over to the team to explain what those factors are.

THE CHAIR:

That would be great. Ms Fraser, a brief rundown of what you are doing would be fantastic, but can you then circle back to the question, which is: can we have an indicator for footpath and cyclepath maintenance in future reports, and when might we get that?

Ms Fraser:

I acknowledge the privilege statement. With regard to the comment Minister Steel made, compared to previous years, we have increased our spend on path maintenance, both cyclist paths—asphalt paths—and concrete paths. We have also undertaken extensive condition audits of all shared paths—cyclepaths and footpaths—in the ACT region.

To date, we have audited around 700 kilometres of the 3,000-kilometre network. The purpose of that condition audit is to look at how we can program preventative maintenance rather than reactive maintenance. We have done a lot of work in the past year in that space. It is very promising. …

THE CHAIR:

We have an indicator for roads maintenance. We have set a target. I do not know what the appropriate target would be for cyclepaths and footpaths, but it strikes me as a really good idea to also have a target for maintenance of cyclepaths and footpaths. Can we do that?

Ms Fraser:

The current accountability indicator that we have for the road pavement in good condition relates to surface, bump counts et cetera. That is very difficult to manage for shared paths and even harder to audit for concrete. We are certainly looking at ways in which we can better indicate our performance with regard to maintenance, preventative and reactive. …

THE CHAIR:

Why is it harder for an asphalt cyclepath than for an asphalt road?

Ms Fraser: When we do the road condition audits, we have a vehicle with a machine that undertakes road bump counts.

THE CHAIR:

You do not have the equipment. Okay.

Ms Fraser:

Doing that on a small, shared path is much more difficult. It relies on manual inspections. It is a lot more resource heavy compared to how we can audit the road pavement surface.

Transcript Of Evidence, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021, 85

Comment

The obvious question here is why does the TCCS not buy equipment that would work on a narrower bike path? It would be sensible to find out how high cycling countries in Europe have automated it. If the paths were widened to 3.5 m, a normal road machine would fit on the paths, as the standard road lane is 3.5 m wide. Greenfield development require a minimum of 3.5 m cycle paths according to the ACT Standard (MIS05).

For a good example, look to Tumbarumba Rail Trail. This asphalt cycleway was built with standard road construction equipment to a width of 3.5 metre. Obviously, cars are not permitted to drive on it – bikes only. The point is clear, we have problems in the ACT, because we make the paths TOO narrow.


THE CHAIR:

You can probably expect the same question from me again, so it would be great if you guys could come up with a useful accountability indicator.

Ms Playford:

Can I add one thing about the accountability indicator? I just want to note that in the next year or so, with the government, we will be bringing in the wellbeing framework and doing a comprehensive review of our accountability and strategic indicators. We are in the process of doing a new strategic plan for the directorate. It is around finding things we can work on with the Audit Office in terms of how we can measure these sorts of things. We will certainly take your feedback into account as we go through that review process over the next 12 months or so. …

MR PARTON:

I get a sense that the discussion on this extensive audit of shared paths and bike paths is not one in a series of extensive audits, that it has been a long time since we have assessed this information. Is that correct or not?

Mr Steel:

I think audits of our shared path network and footpath network have been done in the past. Shelly might be able to provide some further detail on the extent of those audits.

Ms Fraser:

We have a proactive maintenance program. We have inspectors who are regularly inspecting our path and cycle network through a proactive program. We also have a reactive program. If we get specific requests or concerns, we respond to those on a reactive basis.

MR PARTON:

As a cyclist, I have noticed a ramping up of maintenance on some of those cyclepaths, particularly down in Tuggeranong. Obviously, as a cyclist, I watch that pretty closely. I would say it is a good job; let us hope it continues.

Mr Steel:

It is really important that we keep on top of the maintenance. We want to encourage people to get out and cycle and walk more in our community, and we have seen a huge number of people doing that during the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding I have announced today, allocating federal funding from the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program, is $2.6 million in additional funding for repairs and maintenance of our footpath and shared path network. That is in addition to our existing allocation for this type of work, and it will go a long way. Of course, at the election, Labor made a commitment to invest more funding to this as well on an annual basis, noting it is a priority.

MS LAWDER:

You mentioned proactive and reactive maintenance. I am aware of a few cases where there have been serious accidents requiring ambulance attendance and there has then been reactive maintenance where those raised paths or whatever have been fixed. Do you keep statistics on the number of injuries relating to the lack…

Transcript Of Evidence, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021, 86

Comment

Transport Minister Steel states, “I think audits of our shared path network and footpath network have been done (audited) in the past,” which is a bit worrying because a lack of audits for cycling infrastructure has been discussed for years. If there were any audits, they were never made public. Other audits, such as the one on traffic calming note by Ms Fraser are done on an annual basis.

The Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017, reported the following.

5.16 The Roads ACT Asset Management Operational Plan for Community Paths in the ACT (2010) has a detailed description of service levels for community paths with policies and issues relating to the maintenance of community paths. However, the most recent version of this plan is dated 2010. Under the plan’s review timeframes, it should have been reviewed three times since 2010. Refer to Recommendation Six (a) for a recommendation in relation to this matter.

Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 83.

of bike path maintenance? Do you have a goal for how quickly you would repair paths that have contributed to a serious accident?

Ms Fraser:

We do not keep a register per se of accidents that relate to cyclist hazards. We rely on reporting through Access Canberra on serious or fatal incidents on the road network, not specifically just for cyclepaths or pathways.

In our asset management system, we can trace where we have had requests come in and we can trace where we have fixed that defect or responded, or where it is up to in a works program or works order. We can certainly trace all that. Did I miss any part of your question?

MS LAWDER:

The part about how long it might take you to fix the defects that may have contributed?

Ms Fraser: We endeavour to fix immediate safety hazards within 10 business days. Ideally, we endeavour to fix them within 48 hours. However, due to competing priorities or the volume of requests, our target is for up to 10 business days. We are meeting that quota. Other repairs that are not immediate—so there is not a make safe such as grinding or cold mix—are packaged up into larger portions of work and delivered based on location, for efficiencies.

MR PARTON:

I have a question that starts off being extremely specific, but I will make it wider.

A constituent in Banks suggested to me earlier this month that City Services staff had indicated to him that traffic calming measures, in the form of speed humps, were set to be installed on Forsythe Street in Banks. In the context of this hearing, are we able to get an indication of whether that is the case or not?

Mr Steel:

I am not aware of that specific instance, but I will ask the team whether they are aware of it. If not, they can take that question on notice. The usual process would be that assessing whether those types of treatments were going to be useful on a particular street would be informed by some sort of traffic study on the street. Ms Fraser may like to comment.

MR PARTON:

This goes to my wider question. What is the process to determine whether traffic calming measures are required? Which one is optimal? What is the actual start point of that process? Is that a process that is driven by community concern or by police concern? How does it happen from start to finish?

Ms Fraser:

A range of factors contribute to our assessments of local area traffic management considerations. Usually, if we get a number of concerns from the community or police with regard to a range of factors—it could be speeding, crash…

Transcript Of Evidence, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021, 87

incidents or fatals—we collate all that data and undertake studies to determine the average speed and whether there are implementations other than traffic calming. We try to utilise traffic calming as a last resort. In most cases it is a minority of vehicles on the network that contribute to speeding or unruly behaviour, so we try to promote that they are reported through police with regard to encouraging the right behaviour.

MS LAWDER:

It is clearly difficult, though, isn’t it, to catch those people?

Ms Fraser:

It can be, I understand. …

MR PARTON:

Yes. Further to that, with regard to the installation of traffic calming measures, are you guys able to measure the effects? Do we assess the effect—I guess in some cases the intended effect, and in some cases the unintended effect, which might be more difficult to measure? That is obviously diverting people onto other roads.

Ms Fraser:

We certainly undertake follow-up audits, I believe on an annual basis, to determine the efficiencies of the implementation of those local area traffic management devices and whether it is warranted to install more devices, or remove or reassess, based on a range of factors, such as community feedback, speed surveys and police reports.

Transcript Of Evidence, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021, 88

Comment

The need for traffic calming is assessed through the collation of data for traffic incidents and fatal collisions. This may work with registered motor vehicles but it has been mentioned many times that we do not really know much about bicycle accidents, as they are not required to be reported. A telling statement was made above: “We do not keep a register per se of accidents that relate to cyclist hazards. We rely on reporting through Access Canberra on serious or fatal incidents on the road network, not specifically just for cyclepaths or pathways.”

The lack of data around cycle accidents that do not result in death or hospitalisation or involve a collision with a motor vehicle leaves considerable uncertainty about the costs of such accidents. Assessing traffic calming through the collation of data, presumes there is the data in sufficient quantity and quality to make a recommendation. Clearly, when the data is lacking, this approach will not bear fruit. In modelling they say “garbage in garbage out”. As good as the model may be, the predictions will never be better than the data you put into it. We need more and better data for cycling.

Read more: Section 4.8 Measuring cycling safety


Monaro Highway

Extracts: Transcript Of Evidence, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021, 100-101.

MR PARTON:

In regard to the Monaro Highway, are you able to update the committee on the progress of the major upgrade for Monaro Highway and Lanyon Drive intersection, as was announced in the last 12 months?

Mr Steel:

Yes, I can. I will invite Jeremy Smith to provide some further detail on where we are up to with this very significant roads project….

In the budget we have committed in the outyears further funding for the project, to extend the work. The first part of the project will be the new Lanyon Drive…

Transcript Of Evidence, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021, 100

interchange with the Monaro Highway, which will see grade separation there, where there are currently lights, particularly on the southbound carriageway, and a new intersection established onto Sheppard Street in Hume. I will hand over to Jeremy Smith to talk about that project.

Mr Smith: I acknowledge the privilege statement. As the minister said, we are progressing with the major upgrade of the Monaro Highway between the Alexander Maconochie Centre and the Isabella-Johnson Drive section of the highway. At the moment, as the minister said, we are working on the Lanyon Drive component, which consists of the connection from Lanyon Drive onto the Monaro Highway.

We are working through early designs and approvals on that at the moment, with a view to indicatively approaching the market for an expression of interest for a large design and construct contract on that. Those expressions of interest will go out in about May-June (2021). We will assess those expressions of interest, then go out to market for the contract itself in about September-October this year, indicatively commencing works in the first quarter of 2022…

MR PARTON: How much federal money has been allocated to this project and what does the mix of funding look like?

Mr Steel:

It is a fifty-fifty partnership under the land transport act. The federal funding that has been committed is around $30 million in partnership—$15 million each. The original commitment was $200 million, or $100 million each—so $115 million each, in terms of the investment in this major project

MR PARTON:

And bike infrastructure as well?

Mr Steel:

Yes, there is an active travel component to this. We have been consulting on that with the community as well.

Transcript Of Evidence, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021, 101

Braddon

Extracts: Transcript Of Evidence, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021, 130, 134-135, 139-141.

MR COE:

What is in the remit of the CRA (City Renewal Authority) as opposed to all the other government agencies?

Mr Barr:

The CRA is coordinating precinct works within Braddon, and that includes an appropriation to undertake capital works improvements. Those works improvements will include investment in improving footpaths, street furniture, plantings, lighting and other safety improvements within, initially, the Lonsdale Street precinct. It will also include better pedestrian connectivity to Haig Park that builds on the Haig Park improvements that have included better pedestrian access, lighting, improving the maintenance of the park and addressing sight lines and other community safety concerns. There is a specific pavilion renewal project associated with the old works depot in Haig Park.

On Lonsdale Street the works will be minor in nature so as not to be disruptive to businesses during the COVID recovery, but will include two mid-block pedestrian crossings north and south of the roundabout on Lonsdale and Elouera streets, and pedestrian connectivity improvements, as I have mentioned, to Haig Park at the north end and then at the southern end into the CBD. There will be improvements to plantings. There are bits of the footpath that are public land that will be improved. There has also obviously been a program as developers have renewed particular blocks. They have been required to bring the footpath and public realm up to an agreed standard. That is the process that has been underway. There will be more works undertaken in the 2021-22 fiscal year and the authority is, as I understand it, about to undertake some further consultation on the very fine detail of the proposed projects.

I have given guidance based on my own view and the feedback that I have had from businesses that the public works should not be disruptive. I have advised the authority that it should not be undertaking long, expensive, arduous public works that will restrict access to businesses in the street. So they will be doing fairly short, sharp interventions that get an outcome quickly and minimise disruption in the street.

Transcript Of Evidence, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021, 130

THE CHAIR:

I do appreciate a small and humble authority; that is great. Circling back to some questions that Mr Coe was asking before about the Lonsdale Street area, I assume we got some design consultants there. Have we had a look at turning that into a one-way, and perhaps using some of the shared-zone building design that we have elsewhere? Is that what we are doing?

Mr Barr:

Yes, that has been examined. A one-way street is not proposed, but the issue has been examined.

THE CHAIR:

Examined and dismissed?

Mr Barr:

Yes, at this point.

THE CHAIR:

Why was that?

Mr Snow:

I have worked in many cities that have looked at or examined one-way. I actually believe that one-way streets are counterintuitive to creating great streets. What has happened in the city centre recently is that speed limits have been dropped to 40 kilometres. Certainly, the long-term intention is to improve the median of Lonsdale Street—not yet. As the Chief Minister said, that is for a later stage.

Certainly, if we can get speed limits down and we encourage a different behaviour by drivers, particularly car drivers, there is no reason why the available carriageway width cannot accommodate cars, cyclists and pedestrians. That is the experience from similar treatments in other cities, and we are confident that that design solution will achieve the better balance between the different travel modes that are important to that precinct.

THE CHAIR: But we already have a design solution like that at the edge of Civic, where we have a slow speed, and we have all the paint and the signage on the road that is all designed to make cars drive slowly. That gives pedestrian and cyclist access. Are we not using that kind of treatment?

Mr Snow:

I do not think that we need to necessarily paint things on the pavement. I think that we can change driver behaviours and actually get that balance, as I said, by slowing cars down and introducing physical changes which change the psychology of people using the street. That has been shown to work, as I said, in many other similar districts with that combination of things. It is really important, we think, in Lonsdale Street, that we have cars. Cars can be retained as long as they are managed…

Transcript Of Evidence, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021, 134

well, but certainly cars and access to kerbside parking is a really important part of the ongoing success of that part of the city centre.

THE CHAIR:

I remember when the Civic redesign happened. The reason for that was that it opened up the pedestrian access. The traders loved it because it brought more business in. It did all the things I imagine we are trying to do in Braddon. That was seen to be the best practice. Is that no longer best practice?

Mr Snow:

The view that we have formed, based upon the best technical advice we can get, and based upon experience, as I said, at other locations, is that this treatment of the cross-section, the introduction of new pedestrian crossings—that rebalancing that I talked about—is well matched to both the uses and activities for Braddon. Braddon, for us, is a very special part of the city centre, and the design approach we have taken is to touch the ground lightly, if I could describe it as that. We do not want to alter detrimentally what is already working very well in that part of Braddon. Lonsdale Street is a great street, and we have to be very careful about any interventions.

THE CHAIR:

I agree; it is a great street. It is a fairly hazardous street to navigate, on foot or by bike. Recently, a staff member got run over by a garbage truck right there. It is pretty high risk. From my uneducated eye, when I look at other treatments that we have elsewhere in this city rather than other cities, I can see other things that I think would work better. I am pleased that it was considered, at least. I am glad it has been considered. I would encourage further consideration. Crossings are great, but crossings do not really help if somebody is not on that crossing light thing. I have seen some better design that I think we have had 10 years ago.

Transcript Of Evidence, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021, 135

THE CHAIR:

I will circle back because I am finding it very difficult to understand the different principles in place. We have pedestrian priority and low speed limits on the edge of Civic in an area that we are trying to activate with shops and cafes. We have had that established for a decade now, for quite some time, and it has worked really well. There are a lot of particular design features that were hot at the time and are now quite well indoctrinated. We are not looking at that kind of design for Braddon at all; we have already dismissed it.

Mr Barr: I would not characterise it in that way, no. I think most of the principles are around slower speed and providing safe passage for pedestrians, both north-south and east-west. …

What is proposed is two additional east-west crossings, one in the southern half and another in the northern half. Then at the top, where Lonsdale Street meets Girrahween and that forms the border with Haig Park, there will be the other pedestrian access point. Along the duration of the street, though, there will be works undertaken to remove some of the clutter. There is some historic post signage et cetera. Countering that, though, has been a need to put in more bicycle parking, more seating and the like.

Transcript Of Evidence, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021, 139

The preferred street for the trunk cycling route is, in fact, Mort Street, not Lonsdale.

THE CHAIR:

So separated cycling down Mort Street…

Mr Barr:

Yes, down Mort Street. There is more room on Mort Street and it better connects into the existing city network.

THE CHAIR:

Mr Snow, when you were talking us through all these designs and works that we were going to do, you mentioned that we would like to reduce speed limits. Are we not going to yet?

Mr Barr:

No, we are going to. I have asked for that to occur.

THE CHAIR:

Great.

Mr Barr: Either to 30 or 20, depending on advice from TCCS, but that is my preference. How I would summarise our approach here is that it is incremental. What I am endeavouring to do this year (2021) is to have the lowest cost, least disruptive interventions in terms of public works. I do not want the street to be a construction site in a COVID recovery year.

I have been very clear with the authority that we are not going to spend the next two years and $8 million digging up Lonsdale Street and making it a construction zone. The interventions are going to be light touch for the next period. We will have a further consideration once that work is complete, probably in 2023, as to what else we might do. But I want time for lower speed limits and better pedestrian connectivity to be embedded before we undertake any further public works.

I am also very conscious that the available budget needs to stretch to do the work in Mort Street that is necessary, as well as other parts of the renewal precinct. For example, in Dickson we have a Woolley Street project that is also going to take place in a roughly similar time frame to the Braddon work.

MR COE: With the easement that goes down the western side of Mort Street—that very wide easement which I gather was a public transport easement back in the day …

Mr Snow:

Yes.

MR COE:

But it is deep.

Mr Barr:

Yes. That is why Mort Street is preferred.

Mr Snow:

It is. When we commissioned this work, Mr Coe, we asked our consultants to not just look at specific streets but to step back and look at the entire Braddon mixed-use precinct. They have already started to think about, for that side of Mort Street, how we might carefully reclaim parts of that very wide asphalt area. As you know, that shows potential for us to reinstate that very strong tree reserve that runs from Bunda Street all the way to Haig Park. It was originally set aside as a tree

Transcript Of Evidence, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021, 140

reserve, not as a rail reserve. The rail reserve was in Lonsdale Street under the original Griffin plan. Certainly, in our concept planning work it would appear, subject to advice from TCCS, who manage the parking in the city, that there is scope to reclaim asphalt for more green amenity.

Transcript Of Evidence, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021, 141

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