Lost Benjamin Way bikeway

Swing gate barrier, Belconnen Bikeway, Belconnen, ACT

The bikeway along Benjamin Way in Belconnen lost funding and now seems to have been forgotten 8 years after its conception. The development of Belconnen Town Centre was further complicated in 2021. Will we ever see a grade separated bike path on Benjamin Way?

Benjamin Way as planned

The segregated bike lane along Emu Bank was as completed in late 2020. The project also included bike path along Benjamin Way, as shown in the plan below. The Benjamin Way bikeway has never been built.

Original plan of the Belconnen Bikeway including the path along Benjamin Way. ACT Government.

ACT Labor championed this cycle infrastructure at the 2016 ACT Election.

ACT Labor 2016 Election Belconnen Bikeway
ACT Labor 2016 Election Belconnen Bikeway leaflet advertising the Belconnen Bikeway including the path along Benjamin Way.

The original project website (now removed) included a cross section of Benjamin Way showing the bikeway. The bikeway was planned as a segregated cycle lane and NOT a grade separated bike path.

A cross section of the Benjamin Way showing the “bikeway” on the side. The design is similar to what we see on Emu Bank – a segregated, two way bike lane. It is however not a grade separated bike path which is always better.

2004 Benjamin Way missing link

The CBR Cycle Route C5 is the new name for a cycle path built by the predecessor of the NCA between Belconnen and the Lake Burley Griffin and provides a Principal Community Route between Belconnen Town Centre and the City.

The CBR Cycle Route C5 infamously ends halfway along Benjamin Way. This is typical of the bike infrastructure built in Canberra – the bike paths generally stop at the edge of the town centre. A more recent example is the Principal Community Routes to Gungahlin Town Centre (C7 and C1). The Molonglo Group Centre Concept Plan also has bike paths stopping at the edge of the Molonglo Town Centre precinct. We have learnt nothing in 40 years of building town centres.

The Belconnen public consultation, 16 February 2004, requested the completion of the bike path along Benjamin Way to Emu Bank. This request has been echoed in every consultation since, including the consultation for the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, the consultation for the Belconnen Bike Way, the SLA “Circus Precinct” consultation from 2020.

Why is 18 years not enough?

Benjamin Way missing link (CBR Cycle Route C5). Public consultation notes, Belconnen Session, Monday, 16 February 2004, Ten Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure, Roads ACT, 2004.
Benjamin Way missing link (CBR Cycle Route C5). Public consultation notes, Belconnen Session, Monday, 16 February 2004, Ten Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure, Roads ACT, 2004.

SLA Belconnen land release

The SLA announced in 2020 the land release on the corner of Emu Bank and Joynton Smith Drive, Belconnen, and carried out a series of “discovery phases” before releasing a Design Brief in 2021. The proposal aims to activate Emu Inlet Parkland and connecting the area up with the parkland adjacent to Lake Ginninderra to the north.

The goals of the land release conflicts with existing Belconnen Bikeway and Lake Ginninderra shared path feasibility study. The Benjamin Way bikeway is also impacted as proposal includes Margaret Timpson Park on Benjamin Way.

The discussion is complicated by Westfield that will block anything that is not in its interest.

The area of the SLA land release on the corner of Emu Bank and Joynton Smith Drive, Belconnen. Map: OpenStreetMap and contributors.

Below, the SLA Belconnen Plan Design Brief (10 June 2021) and Belconnen land release Discovery Phase Engagement Snapshot (19 February 2021) that preceded it.

Belconnen Master Plan

Most town centres have seen many master plans and most of them have been forgotten and never realised – Belconnen is no exception. The reason lies with the disconnect between the Territory Plan and the master plans. Master plans will be replaced with District Plans in 2023 which will be embedded in the new Territory Plan. These means that the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan 2016 will most likely be scraped in 2023 when the Belconnen District Plan is reviewed.

The Belconnen Town Centre master plan page is found here.

The Benjamin Way cycleway can be seen down the centre of the next figure (map 26) showing Belconnen Town Centre “future cycle connections”.

Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, September 2016, 98.

We can break the area up into precincts. First on map 19 is Emu Bank lakeside promenade.

Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, September 2016, 75.

Map 20 shows the Lathlain Street precinct map. Lathlain Street run parallel to Benjamin Way on the high side of Westfield.

Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, September 2016, 79.

The SLA would like to develop are Block 1 Section 151 and Block 26 Section 52. They are considering selling Block 30 Section 52 too, where the Belconnen Bikeway is currently located.

Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, September 2016, 81.

Map 9 shows the cycle network as it existed in 2016. The Belconnen Bikeway along Emu Bank has been added since then.

Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, September 2016, 35.

The Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan makes it obvious that it is not so easy to get around Belconnen due to the poor layout.

Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, September 2016, 58.

The Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan identified opportunities, which include the bike path along Aikman Drive (CBR Cycle Route C7) that has since been finished. The Lathlain Street connection is still awaiting development. The cross connection between Page and Aikman Drive seems to have been dropped.

Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, September 2016, 63.

Conclusion

Belconnen is a mess for active travel not because of space, the roads are wide enough, but rather the design. Big buildings such as Westfield (but not only Westfield) reduce the permeability of the town centre, to the detriment of pedestrians and cyclist.

Even in 2022 we do not have a coherent plan how to cross the town centre from north to south, and east (UC) to west. The existing network is piecemeal. Benjamin Way is a must, however. Due to conflicts between the Benjamin Way bikeway proposal and the Emu Bank Inlet proposal, we will need to wait many years still.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s