Bollards or bother

Bollard barrier, Belconnen Bikeway, Belconnen, ACT

To keep people out, build a fence. To keep cars out, build a vehicle restriction barrier such as bollards. Bollards are a hazard to cyclists and therefore unpopular. It is generally accepted, however, that drivers will trespass on parks, nature reserves, or bike paths unless a barrier is build to stop them from doing so. A poorly behaved minority of motorists are the reason for bollards, but cost and inconvenience is carried by everyone.

Bollard barrier, Belconnen Bikeway, Belconnen, ACT
ACT Bollard barrier, Belconnen Bikeway, Belconnen, ACT. See ACT Standard Drawing ACTSD-0502 Vehicle Restrictions to Trunk and Intermediate Paths Main and Local Community Routes Inner urban/suburban below.
How bollards are used depends a lot on the country. The idea is simple enough.

Information box: Canberra Nature Park

Canberra Nature Park are scared of horses, motorcycles, and mountain bikes and they would like to keep them out of their nature reserves. Bollards, in this case, will not do. Gates are a common alternative, but their effectiveness is limited. They do, however, also keep out people who would like to relax and recharge in our nature reserves. Sometimes pedestrian styles are added to the fence but they are often forgotten.

Butters Bridge ahead, chained and locked, step-through gate Pipe Flat, intersection with Coppins Crossing Road, Molonglo River Reserve, Molonglo Valley
Gates keep out everybody – not just cars. Butters Bridge ahead, chained and locked, step-through gate Pipe Flat, intersection with Coppins Crossing Road, Molonglo River Reserve, Molonglo Valley

Stupid motorists

The Emu Bank Cycleway (bike path) was completed in early 2021, but due to the construction of a KFC beside the Belco Skate Park the final section was not completed until 2022. A section of the bike path at the lights was sometimes mistaken for a slip lane. This sound a little crazy? At the time, the protected bike path had not been painted green and the driveway for KFC left it open without any barrier. Now that the bike path is painted with a green death strip, it is much clearer where the road stops and the bike path starts. Cars do not drive on the bike path any more. But – cyclists will still need to be careful crossing all driveways along Emu Bank.

Bollard standards

Bollards can be an obstacle for many types of wheel vehicles, including prams, Segways, cargo bikes, and wheeled aids for the disabled. For those with disability, a walking frame or wheelchair can be essential. If the bollards are not separated adequately, the bollards can block entry. The needs of the disabled have been recognised for a long time now in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (see below).

Riding around Canberra it is noticeable that many of the barriers on our paths are difficult, if not impossible, to navigate with a longer wheel vehicle (cargo bikes, prams) or a wheelchair. See the section Failed experiments below.

The ACT Active Travel Standards specify bollards as a vehicle restriction barrier that is bike friendly. However, bollards are often badly placed or inadequately separated. Example: The bollard placement was botched for a recent tender for the resurfacing of the Lake Burley Griffin shared bike path in front the Yacht Club and now needs to be remediated.

Even contractors seem to be unclear about the ACT Active Travel Standards. How should we use bollards on shared bike paths?

The answer can be found on the ACT Standard Drawing ACTSD-0502 Vehicle Restrictions to Trunk and Intermediate Paths Main and Local Community Routes Inner urban/suburban. See the bollard detail on figure 1.

Bollard detail, ACTSD-0502 Vehicle Restrictions to Trunk and Intermediate Paths Main and Local Community Routes Inner urban suburban. ACTSD-0502-Rev0-180928 vehicle restrictions to trunk paths
Figure 1: Bollard detail, ACTSD-0502 Vehicle Restrictions to Trunk and Intermediate Paths Main and Local Community Routes Inner urban suburban. ACTSD-0502-Rev0-180928 vehicle restrictions to trunk paths

Local Community Routes (LCR) are most common and can include the shared path to the shops or a loop around a lake, such as that at Lake Ginninderra. The Lake Ginninderra loop is a 2.0 m wide intermediate path – far too narrow for the ACT Active Travel Standards (MIS05). In retrofit, the minimum width for a Local Community Routes is now 2.5 m and in new estates, and for new paths in older suburbs 3.0 m minimum width is required.

The ACT Standard Drawing for bollard placement on Local Community Routes is shown on figure 2. Note that the ACT Standard Drawing ACTSD-0502 mandates bollard separation of 1.5 m.

Local Community Routes (LCR ), ACTSD-0502 Vehicle Restrictions to Trunk and Intermediate Paths Main and Local Community Routes Inner urban suburban. ACTSD-0502-Rev0-180928 vehicle restrictions to trunk paths
Figure 1: Local Community Routes (LCR ), ACTSD-0502 Vehicle Restrictions to Trunk and Intermediate Paths Main and Local Community Routes Inner urban suburban. ACTSD-0502-Rev0-180928 vehicle restrictions to trunk paths

The CBR Cycle Routes are made of Main Community Routes and form the trunk network for cycling. As such, the paths should be built to a much better standard for higher speeds and safety in all weather and all times of day (lighting).

Main Community Routes (MCRs)

These are the “arterials” for active transportation and connect PCRs to group and employment centres. Connected destinations also include hospitals, industrial areas and the airport precinct as well as major active travel venues such as Stromlo Forest Park.

There are a number of different types of Main Community Routes that have different purposes such as connecting town centres by alternative routes, links to other MCRs and PCRs to form a connected network and inner-urban loops in town and group centres. The latter allow higher amenity movement around these destinations with PCRs and MCRs generally terminating at the loops.

Planning for Active Travel in the ACT: Active Travel Infrastructure Interim Planning Guideline (ACT Government, January 2019), page 22

ACT Standard Drawing for bollard placement on Main Community Routes is shown on figure 3. The preferred vehicle barrier in new estates and for new paths in older suburbs is a landscaped island – an island built in the centre of the path. The island can include a low garden, as can be seen below on the Heysen Street Link.

Heysen Street, Weston,Weston Creek
A landscaped island vehicle barrier on the Heysen Street Link, Weston.

In retrofit, in older suburbs, a lower standard is permitted with a bollard in the centre of the path and another two either side with a minimum separation of 1.5 m. The Belconnen bike path was a new path and should have been built to the higher greenfield standard with an island, but was instead built to the retrofit standard!

Bollard barrier, Belconnen Bikeway, Belconnen, ACT
Bollard barrier – the landscaped island option could have been considered for the MCR. Belconnen Bikeway, Belconnen, ACT
Main Community Route (MCR), ACTSD-0502 Vehicle Restrictions to Trunk and Intermediate Paths Main and Local Community Routes Inner urban suburban. ACTSD-0502-Rev0-180928 vehicle restrictions to trunk paths.
Figure 3: Main Community Route (MCR), ACTSD-0502 Vehicle Restrictions to Trunk and Intermediate Paths Main and Local Community Routes Inner urban suburban. ACTSD-0502-Rev0-180928 vehicle restrictions to trunk paths.

In general, most cyclists in Canberra would be grateful if the standard we see on the Belconnen Bikeway was typical for all bike paths in the ACT. The Belconnen Bikeway segregates bikes and pedestrians (best practice). The Heysen Street Link shows many characteristics of higher quality build, and the landscaped island vehicle barrier is preferred over bollards.

In older suburbs, the bollards are too close together and should be replaced as shown in ACTSD-0502 with a 1.5 m separation.

Failed experiments

Older suburbs show the types of barriers that are no longer compliant with the ACTSD-0502. Here are two: bicycle barriers and banana bars.

Bicycle barrier are designed to keep cars out and let bikes through, and are common in older suburbs of Canberra. Ironically, these barriers are often very difficult to ride through on a bike. The photo below shows a bicycle barrier where the two sides do not overlap. The bigger the overlap and the closer the spacing between barriers, the harder they are to ride through.

Cycle barrier, adjacent to Cycle Route C5, Aranda, Belconnen
Cycle barrier, adjacent to Cycle Route C5, Aranda, Belconnen

Banana bars vehicle restriction are common in the ACT and removed from the ACT Active Travel Standards. Only, and only when the path is upgraded, are we likely to see their replacement, and this is likely to take a long time. Below is a photo of a banana bar vehicle restriction on the 2 m wide Lake Ginninderra shared path.

Banana bars vehicle restriction DS13-02 18 June 2007
Banana bars vehicle restriction DS13-02 18 June 2007

DDA: accessibility for all

The Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) provides protection for everyone in Australia against discrimination based on disability. It also aims to promote equal opportunity and access for people with disability.

Australian Standards are only mandatory within the property line, but it is the intent that wherever possible, paths meet the relevant Australian Standards and the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). This is the ACT Government’s intent.

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