Climate emergency and cycling no priority – yet!

A climate emergency was declared a few years ago in the ACT Legislative Assembly, but at ACT Transport we still see and act BAU. The due process is slow, as demonstrated by two examples: the Garden City Cycle Route and active travel infrastructure in Gungahlin Town Centre. Both are likely to NOT be finished until 2026. Currently, feasibility studies are planned in 2022, with detailed planning, consultation and budget a few years down track.

Time warp

The Gungahlin Town Centre Planning Report [bold added by canberra.bike] from November 2010, noted:

Walking and cycling: footpath and cycle path connections were frequently raised during consultation. Retailers and shopping centre owners emphasised the importance of providing an opportunity for people to walk from one centre to another as easily as possible.”

Gungahlin Town Centre Planning Report, November 2010, 15.

ACT Government policy seeks to promote walking and cycling as a means of transport because of the health, environment and cost benefits this can bring (ACT Government 2004). A main street style of town centre also needs a high number of people walking to work because of the benefits this can provide, e.g. to business for on-street shops, bringing people to public spaces and keeping internal car traffic low. Thirdly, it is much more expensive to retro-fit this infrastructure later.

Responses have been considered for the long-term planning of the town centre, including the following:
planning for a comprehensive trunk path network that will link the town centre to surrounding areas

Gungahlin Town Centre Planning Report, November 2010, 42.

Jumping forward to the Gungahlin Town Centre Planning Refresh-Snapshot from November 2018, active travel was revisited.

Walking and cycling connections are important to encourage active travel within, to and from the town centre. The Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner’s Tool (a design tool used by ACT Government for planning active travel facilities), has been used to
identify gaps in the active travel network for future improvements.
Active travel connections are also important to improve linkages to guide developments and identifying gaps from the town centre to the surrounding open space network, including Yerrabi and the Valley ponds.

Gungahlin Town Centre Planning Refresh-Snapshot, November 2018, 15.

Map 6 shows the key recommendations of the Planning Refresh for active travel (orange arrows) but little seems to have been done to remedy the problems.

Map6, Gungahlin Town Centre Planning Refresh-Snapshot, November 2018, 21.

Now, 4 years later, ACT Transport at the GCCC March 2022 meeting announced an active travel feasibility study is planned for Gungahlin Town Centre. (If your head is starting to hurt, yup, join the party!)

TCCS  7:36 

Happy to talk about the active travel feasibility study. As Peter has already highlighted, there is the feasibility study area for active travel in the Gungahlin Town Centre. Looking at the map up there (overhead), the shaded area is the area of study.

So where are we at on that feasibility study at the moment? It is an early feasibility study to look at the active travel connections within the town centre, to then better inform investments and further design work. The current feasibility study is looking at that higher, quite specific high level stakeholder engagement, Pedal Power ACT, for example, and Community Council (GCCC) has also been involved in that stakeholder consultation. What it will look to do is it will look at routing of active travel through the town centre. So it is not particularly focusing specifically on mode and sidelined mode. What I am talking about is walking versus cycle traffic. You will look at that a specifically in the town centre area where there may be some mode separation. So that separates those higher speed options – cycling and potentially scooters. In congested areas, mode separation is better, where as when you move further out from the town centre, you can generally get away with those wider shared paths. So we are toying around that the feasibility study is going through the stakeholder consultation, and consultation with shopping centres as well. That is not scoping study at the moment and saying that GCCC wants to bring some feedback to the table, we are more than happy to consider those within the study time. We  recognise that the Gungahlin Town Centre is quite constrained. No secret around that.

Likely result is more spines for active travel through the site, or through the town centre, and then as we move towards more detailed planning around those spines, there’s probably when we will pick up that more detailed information from the shopping centres around about where the destination points might want to be in relation to that active travel.

Back to the timeline, we’re looking to wrap this feasibility study up within the next four or five months, by which point, we’ll have a report back to us. Why did we look at just this area? There are some quite solid active travel routes into these areas. So there is, for example, shared paths along Horse Park Drive, there’s a shared path along Gungahlin Drive, etc. So there’s a really solid active travel networks coming into this area. And then we start to get some of those constraints, some of those challenges, particularly focused on this area.

Peter (GCCC President)  15:49 

I did attend the workshop with a whole bunch of folks. There are some frustrations that have just been articulated around, why are you doing this, why are you doing that? As it was explained to me, this is phase one of a three or four phase plan (process). So we do a feasibility study, then we look at what can actually be done based on what’s feasible, and then you actually start seeking funding to actually then deliver things. Which sounded a little bit “oh my gosh, it is going to take forever”, but that’s the process we’re dealing with. Certainly, at the workshop, the Community Councils position was, please talk to the people that were going to be directly impacted by this, the shopping centres, where are the source, think about where the sources and syncs the traffic out, where are people coming from, where they’re trying to get to, rather than just working at the routes themselves. And we’ll see how we go (consultations). But that may be for phase two, or three or four, not for phase one.

TCCS  17:02 

But as Ken already highlighted before, we do have quite a bit of traffic data from sensors in the road, use a Bluetooth that is attached to light poles, etc. So we know where a lot of vehicle traffic is coming from. It is a little harder with bikes and pedestrians. It will be a multi-phase approach, it is evidence based planning, which is probably the most supportive for the community, because I can see the decisions that were made and why those decisions were made.

ACT Transport (TCCS) at GCCC meeting, March 2022. Transcribed by https://otter.ai. Access Facebook video, 9 March 2022.

It is disturbing that so little has been done for cycling in Gungahlin Town Centre in the last years, and it is likely another 4 years before we see the result of the current review process.

TCCS planning process

Below is a high-level overview of the ACT planning process (by canberra.bike). It has been quoted as “evidence based planning” and for what it lacks in speed it gains in transparency.

ACT planning process – evidence based planning, canbera.bike, 10 March 2022.

Stage 1 – the idea

Everything starts with an idea.

ACT planning process – evidence based planning, canbera.bike, 10 March 2022.

The stimulus for the ideas can come from the public, ACT Government Strategy (policy), monitoring of roads and performance indicators, or directly from the ACT Legislative Assembly. The result of all these multiple discussions is a feasibility study.

Stage 2 – the feasibility study

ACT planning process – evidence based planning, canbera.bike, 10 March 2022.

The feasibility study is put out to tender. The scoping document requires the consulting company to respond with a report discussing the options, preliminary costing and preliminary sketch plans (PSP).

Stage 3 Detail planning

ACT planning process – evidence based planning, canbera.bike, 10 March 2022.

A favourable outcome on the feasibility study or public support will lead to a detailed planning of the proposal. Again, via a tender, a consulting company will prepare plans, staging and costing for the project. The costing is required for the budget.

Stage 4 The budget

Until money is made available in the ACT budget, the project cannot proceed.

Stage 5 The construction tender

ACT planning process – evidence based planning, canbera.bike, 10 March 2022.

The project will be built in one or more stages. For each stage, the construction work will be put out to tender. Usually, the construction work will take 1-2 years.

The project may be completed in stages. Typically, one stage is finished before the next stage starts. This means the project takes longer to complete.

Examples

Examples of projects and in what stage they are currently found.

StageDescriptionExample
1ideaCivic Woden bike path
2feasibility studyGarden City Bike Route
Gungahlin Town Centre active travel
Lake Ginninderra bike path
3detailed planningJohn Gorton Drive Bridge
4budgetSulwood Drive Bikeway
Civic to Molonglo Cycleway
5construction tenderBelconnen Bikeway stage 1 – 2019-20
Belconnen Bikeway stage 2 – 2022-23
canberra.bike, 10 March 2022

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