Molonglo Group Centre Concept Plan 2022

Does the ACT Government really believe that the average person is keen to cycle on the road along John Gorton Drive? Today saw the release of the Molonglo Group Centre Concept Plan, which will set this concept into stone. The road designs of John Gorton Drive and Flemington Road are very similar, and experience shows that it does not work in Gungahlin either.

Over the last 3 years, canberra.bike has been writing about the design decisions for active travel in the Molonglo Valley. There is no Active Travel Master Plan for the Molonglo Valley at this stage. Without it, we do not know where the cycle infrastructure corridors should or need to be. Once the Master Plan is done, EPSDD should be trying to put straight lines between destinations – particularly town centres, such as Belconnen Town Centre and Molonglo Group Centre, but also Tuggeranong. Note that the Molonglo Group Centre itself is a quite small area.

The Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT) should ideally inform planners where the Active Travel Network (ATN) should be, but this tool has not been updated for years, and it looks very old indeed. We keep checking it on a regular basis, with the faint hope that the John Gorton Drive will one day be realigned to cross at Coppins Crossing – something we have known since at least 2015.

Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT) – A web-based user interface that provides access to spatial mapping of the Active Travel Routes for walking, cycling and equestrian routes (ATRA) as well as access to planning and design policies, guides and other information relevant to the planning and design of active travel infrastructure in the ACT. The tool is available for use by all stakeholders including government agencies, developers and consultants and may be accessed at http://activeinfrastructure.net.au/

Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05 (MIS05) (ACT Government, April 2019)

Interpretation

Figure 6 Active Travel Network of the Molonglo Group Centre Concept Plan is shown below.

The big green double line running from north to south is John Gorton Drive. That is the four lane duplication, on which the vast majority of your average bike riders would never dare to venture. Yet, the Molonglo Group Centre Concept Plan shows this as a Main On Road Route. This is likely to end up being a waste of paint, as only the bravest daredevils will ride on the road.

The only type of cycle infrastructure worth building is grade separated bike paths, which may be shared. Grade separated means NOT on road, but instead off road, meaning they are placed on the verge. The design of John Gorton Drive is the same as Flemington Road in Gungahlin, and until this day, there is NO grade separated infrastructure for a large section along Flemington Road in Gungahlin north of Mitchell. Grade separated paths will only come when planned and added to the the Concept Plan.

The many ORANGE lines are off road cycle paths. The lines correspond to the current location of dirt tracks through the area when it was still a rural lease. In that sense, the active travel network is not planned but rather follows the tracks the roos have hopped. In the Molonglo Valley, EPSDD seems to put bike paths where there was previously a dirt track. The presumption may be that it reduces environmental impacts. This method is unlikely to create good cycling infrastructure, as the tracks were laid out for the farm that was, not the suburb it is to become.

The orange network is winding and indirect. That is typical for recreational trails. In the Molonglo Valley design, when grade separated cycle infrastructure is built, the design is for recreation. Recreational paths are not designed to be direct, fast, or to make it easy to cycle between destinations. If the paths are not of a high quality, grade separated, and direct, they are unlikely to make cycling sufficiently attractive for people to leave their cars at home – they fail the test for cycling for transport, as opposed to sport or recreation.

If we want a fast and efficient cycle network for transport and not recreation, we have to start building the paths where they count and not where they do not bother anybody.

Last year, EPSDD released the draft Molonglo Group Centre Concept Plan and for cycle infrastructure for transport it was lacking. With the final Molonglo Group Centre Concept Plan from 5 April 2022, nothing has changed.

Comparison of the existing dirt fire trails (tracks) with the planned location of the off road share path network from the Molonglo Group Centre Concept Plan.

The alignment of John Gorton Drive was never suited for cycling. It is too step (12%) north of the river and due to the C-shape (optimised for transit) provides neither a direct route to the Civic nor to Belconnen. Riding to Woden and Tuggeranong is not on their map, which is strange, as they are both on the south side of Canberra. What really need is an Active Travel Master Plan for the Molonglo Valley, and we are still waiting for that.

The original Concept plan for the Molonglo has not changed much since its inception. Active travel was missing then, and it is missing now. The ACT Government (EPSDD) has yet to demonstrate that it can design an active travel network through Future Urban Areas (FUA) that is efficient and functional.


John Gorton Drive fails on active travel

This post was put on Facebook by Martin Miller (15 April 2022) and we tend to agree. We are now planning Stage 3 and John Gorton Drive is still not fit for cycling.

John Gorton Drive is an absolute failure in ACT Transport Planning & Design. It should have been the exemplar transport corridor with bus lanes, separated cycleways, walking paths and with safe, modern intersections. There are no separated “cycling infrastructure” that was installed from the start rather than dangerous cycle lanes. I’ve seen kids scooter along them, because there was no paths along the road. Over designed intersections with overly generous slip lanes. Some shared paths have been Installed as an afterthought. It bifurcates the suburbs that has been big problem for town centres like Woden Valley. The Main road should have gone around the district rather than threw it.

Martin Miller, Facebook, 15 April 2022, commenting on Yvette Berry’s John Gorton Drive Post
Posted by Martin Miller, Facebook, 15 April 2022.

On the south side of Coppins Crossing, the gradient is close to 10% (180 m), on the north side 9% (100 m). Gradients above 5% are common.

The Molonglo Group Centre Concept Plan plans shared paths through Coppins Crossing, which are not compliant with the Austroads standards. canberra.bike

Gradient

The cycle path design for the ACT is described in the Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05 (MIS05) document and cites the Austroads standard Guide to Road Design Part 6A: Paths for Walking and Cycling 2017 (AGRD06A) for further details. 

4.4.1 Path design – Estate Development and Retrofit

Path design is to consider land use and route hierarchy contexts. For example, a trunk path on a Main Community Route through a green corridor in a suburban context will have a higher design speed than a trunk path on Local Community Route in an inner urban context. Path design will comply with AGRD06A, references to the relevant sections of AGRD06A are shown in brackets:

  • Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05 (MIS05), ACT Government
  • Width (AGRD06A Section 5.1)
  • Bicycle operating speeds (AGRD06A Section 5.2)
  • Horizontal curvature (AGRD06A Section 5.3)
  • Path gradients (AGRD06A Section 5.4)
  • Clearances and the need for fences (AGRD06A Section 5.5)
  • Crossfall and drainage (AGRD06A Section 5.6)
  • Sight distance (AGRD06A Section 5.7)
  • Changes in level (AGRD06A Section 5.8)
  • Surface treatments and tolerances (AGRD06A Section 5.9 and 5.10)
  • Lighting and underground services (AGRD06A Section 5.11 and 5.12)”

The Austroads AGRD06A standard includes recommendations for uphill gradients for cyclists. The “desirable uphill gradients for ease of cycling” depend on the duration of the climb (figure 1). For a 5% gradient, the “desirable” length of the gradient is no more than 80 m.

Figure 1: Desirable uphill gradients for ease of cycling, AGRD06A, page 34

Coppins Crossing does not come close to these requirements. Figure 2 shows the gradient profile along John Gorton Drive. Gradients are displayed on a colour scale, from a climb of +25% to a descent of -25%. The steepest climbs are in dark red and the colours span the rainbow to the steepest descent in dark blue. 

Figure 2: Whitlam to Coombs gradient profile, John Gorton Drive

Along John Gorton Drive between Whitlam to Coombs, the gradients can be as great as 10%. On the south side of Coppins Crossing, the gradient is close to 10% for a length of approximately 180 m, on the north side 9% for a length of 100 m. Gradients above 5% are common.

The circumstance at Coppins Crossing is not compliant with the ACT and Austroads AGRD06A standards. 

Figure 3: Histogram of gradients between Whitlam to Coombs along John Gorton Drive
Molonglo Group Centre cross section of the east-west arterial road
Molonglo Group Centre cross section of the east-west arterial road from the Molonglo Group Centre Concept Plan.

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