Cycle infrastructure comes in different shapes and sizes, and options are not all equally good. City renewal means we are not building on a bare field (greenfield) but are constrained by the surrounding infrastructure. Austroads talks about “treatment” options. ACT Transport has never asked us what is the best option, but they most likely have their reasons – good or bad – for what they do.
Protected bike lanes have become a favourite with recent projects such as Belconnen Bikeway and the recently finished Tuggeranong upgrades in Greenway. Protected bike lanes are NOT bike paths, but better bike lanes. During COVID, there was much talk about pop-up bike lanes that were generally protected. In other Australian cities, these have become permanent. In the ACT, we have skipped the opportunity and are building protected bike lanes, in substitute for bike paths.
The best and safest infrastructure, without argument, is grade separated bike paths. 95% of the cycling fatalities worldwide are from motor vehicles. Take cyclists off the road -and out of the vicinity of drivers – and cycling is much safer, and many more people are prepared to ride (particularly women).
Grade separated bike paths are built differently depending on their purpose. Bicycle expressways/cycling superhighways are wide, optimised for bikes and have bridge or tunnel crossings at major intersections. Canberra does not have any of these! The Principal Cycling Routes are often mislabelled as such. Beware and do not believe it. The CBR Cycle Routes are Main Community Routes and the preferred build form is a grade separated path.
The global norm is that you have bike only paths additionally to pedestrians only paths. This is the international standard, but for some reason Canberra is not fond of this approach. Instead, we have shared paths. These are less efficient. VicRoads noted separating bikes and pedestrians increases the carrying capacity, that means it is greater than the carrying capacity of a shared path of the same total width.
The other quirk you find in the ACT is that bike paths are usually two-way – a contraflow bike path. As long as it is a bike ONLY path, we can sort of get away with it, but in Europe, one way bike paths are common in big cities.
Copenhagen style protected cycle lanes
Have you ever wonder what is meant by Copenhagen style protected cycle lanes? This term appears in a number of ACT Government document, one of note is the Molonglo Group Centre Concept Plan. They should not be confused with bike paths which are grade separated and the better solution. Copenhagen style protected cycle lanes are popular in big cities as they can be retrofitted in old suburbs as part of urban renewal. What are we doing building them in green field suburbs instead of bike paths? The information shows the way Copenhagen style protected cycle lanes have been built in Melbourne.