568 km strategic bike paths managed by TCCS

False is the claim that we have 1000 km of bike paths in Canberra. Even with the most optimistic estimate, only 568 km of paths meets the minimum requirements for cycling, and the asphalt paths are about half that. In the ACT we have 327 km of bitumen paths, 235 km of concrete paths, and 6 km with pavers – total 568 km. In comparison, we have 5900 lane kilometres of roads.

Methodology: We evaluate the ACT Government’s own data (2019) and identified “cyclepath” and “footpaths” that were compliant with ACT Active Travel Standards for width.

The ACT Government manages road pavements for the ACT road network which is approximately 5,900 lane kilometres in length.

Road infrastructure and maintenance, TCCS, accessed 20 April 2022.

343 km lower estimate

The 568 km is the upper estimate. A lower estimate of “343 kilometres of off-road cycle paths” is provided by the ACT Government Guidelines for community path repairs and maintenance (2012).

Footpaths and cycle paths (referred to as community paths) are provided to assist the community with walking and cycling activities. As at 30 June 2012, there was 2,533 kilometres of community paths in the ACT (2,190 kilometres of footpaths and 343 kilometres of off-road cycle paths). Community paths can be used by pedestrians, cyclists and motorised mobility devices (electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters/buggies that cannot travel over 10 kilometres per hour).

Guidelines for community path repairs and maintenance, ACT Government, 2012.

The claim of 1000 km of bike paths from the TCCS ACT Transport Strategy 2020 is a fiction – facts are supported by data!

Paths come in all shapes and sizes and not all are equally suitable for cycling. The ACT Active Travel Standards mandate path widths of the minimum of 2.5 m in retrofit, and 3.5 m in greenfield developments. As all cyclists know, path width is a big part of cycling safety.

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.

Total length (km) of all strategic bike paths owned by ACT Transport by surface and path classification. Data: “Footpaths in the ACT 2019”, Community Paths in the ACT 2019, Open Data Portal dataACT.

The “Footpaths in the ACT 2019” spatial dataset from the ACT Government Open Data Portal contains the following information:

  • Most paths in the ACT belong to ACT Transport, but ACT hospitals, Defence, the Federal Government and the NCA have their own paths.
  • ACT Transport’s paths are surfaced with asphalt, concrete or pavers (concrete blocks).
  • ACT Transport’s paths are categorised as either cycle or footpath (classification).

In the ACT, nearly all community paths can be used by both cyclists and pedestrians (and others). The distinction is not entirely arbitrary, as paths for walking and cycling are built differently due to their unique requirements.

Ideally, we would have a network of bike paths built to cycling specifications. The material of the paths is not that important compared to surface smoothness. Path width and turning dimensions are far more important when riding at speed, as it is not possible to suddenly stop or turn – let alone master 90 degree path angles.

Paths shared with unpredictable pedestrians, children, and dogs conflict with faster travelling cyclists and others embracing micromobility (scooters, skateboards, etc). The hazards are such that cycling on narrow paths less than 2.5 m may be permitted but cannot be marketed as being safe. A narrow path is only an option if it is one way or you have the path to yourself. Two-way shared paths should be at least 2.5 m in width. 1.2 m wide pedestrian paths will not do in the ACT in the future.

Cycle paths require safe separation from parked cars (dooring), hedges, walls, and other obstructions (see MIS05 standard). Data shared on the ACT data portal does not include this essential information. Therefore, the suitability of a path from the Open Data Portal dataACT for cycling is better determined by filtering the data by minimum path width (or wider) consistent with the ACT Active Travel Standards (MIS05).

Canberra bike calls these compliant paths “strategic bike paths” as they meet the requirements of a cycle network (read also Fast Track).

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