History of the Belconnen Bikeway

Main Community Route (MCR), Belconnen Bikeway, Belconnen, Canberra

The need for better infrastructure in Belconnen Town Centre goes back a long way. Back in 2004, it was quite clear that the lack of cycle infrastructure in the Belconnen Town Centre need fixing. As the 2016 ACT Election rolled up, ACT Labor was finally prepared to do something about it. Delays followed. The original planned completion date of 2019 became the construction start date. With the arrival of the 2020 ACT Election, the project was still not completed, and the scope significantly reduced. It is now finished, in part.

The Lost Benjamin Way cycleway with a future perspective is discussed in the article here.

Contents

  1. List of updates
  2. What are missing links?
  3. 2004 Benjamin Way missing link
  4. Common Problems with building cycle infrastructure in the ACT
  5. 2019 construction starts
  6. 2020 finished in part
  7. 11 October 2020 more construction
  8. Belconnen Bikeway was frequently dug up

List of updates

3 June 2020 Belconnen Bikeway website

An update on the ACT Government website for the new Belconnen Bikeway: completion in late 2020.

Belconnen Bikeway, AC Government, accessed 3 June 2020
Belconnen Bikeway, AC Government, accessed 3 June 2020

6 February 2021 Belconnen Bikeway

The construction of Belconnen Bikeway along Emu Bank was finished just before the Christmas 2020, however, Benjamin Way has been forgotten – that was promised back at the 2016 ACT Election.

20 March 2021 Belconnen Bikeway was dug up

The new Belconnen Bikeway was dug up for a few months in early 2021 but has now been resealed and the hazard removed.

30 July 2021 Belconnen Bikeway

All to July 2021 the Belconnen Bikeway has been blocked again in the same spot as before. There appears no urgency to clear it.

5 August 2021 Belconnen Bikeway Project Costs

Part 2C Capital Works, TCCS 2019-2020 Annual Report, 255.

Building a better city – Active Travel – Belconnen bikeway
Revised pratical completion date: Sep 2018
Total expenditure: $250,000
Comment: likely design work

Part 2C Government Contracting, TCCS 2019-2020 Annual Report, 268.

Belconnen bikeway – superintendency
Contractor: Cardno Pty Ltd
Value: $197,162.40
Period 24/7/2019 to 1/7/2021

Belconnen bikeway – construction
Contractor: Cord Civi Pty Ltd
Value: $6,218,631.36
Period 9/9/2019 to 9/7/2021

Total project cost: $6,665,793.76

6 August 2021 Belconnen Bikeway dug up again

Belconnen Bikeway was dug up again and block in July 2021 due to construction work beside the Belconnen Skate Park. The bikeway opened again but remains unsealed in the works area.

What are missing links?

Missing links describe gaps in the cycling network and those gaps can be quite short. Adding another 100 m of path, connecting two other bike paths, makes a network. Without this short link, a cyclist may need to ride a much greater distance.

Filling the gap and building a cycling path to form a network does not need to be expensive but it adds a lot of value to the stakeholder. The benefit of fixing the missing link far exceeds the construction costs, as it makes the whole path network more attractive to cyclists. More people exercising = more people engaging in healthy habits!

ACT Labor promised to build several missing links at the 2016 ACT Election. There are many missing links in the ACT cycling network.

The ACT Government has a dedicated project page for the Belconnen Bikeway. The Belconnen Bikeway is an important missing link and one of ACT Labor’s election promises from the 2016 ACT Election.

ACT Labor 2016 Election Belconnen Bikeway
ACT Labor 2016 Election Belconnen Bikeway

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.

Common Problems with building cycle infrastructure in the ACT

The scope reduces as the project proceeds

Reduction in scope

When we first hear of projects, they can sound quite grand. After the initial first planning phase, they seem a little less ambitious. The detailed planning phase brings the realisation closer, but it may not be how we imagined it, with reduction in scope and other changes.

One cannot be generally ungrateful because it is still progress. However, lack of funding for cycle infrastructure projects is a problem. If the projects are underfunded, it remains uncertain when it will be finished – if at all. In the ACT, where cycling infrastructure delays are the norm, funding issues are potentially fatal.

Benjamin Way to Aranda

The new Belconnen Bikeway in such an example of a project stalled due to lack of funding. The 2016 plans for the Belconnen Bikeway included a bike path along Emu Bank, between Florey and the CIT, but also along Benjamin Way, between Emu Bank and the CBR Cycle Route C5 through Aranda. The Benjamin Way cycleway is currently (2022) not funded, although the tender documentation was finalised in January 2021 (read more below). This project missed Fast Track funding too.

ACT Labor 2016 Election Belconnen Bikeway
ACT Labor 2016 Election Belconnen Bikeway

Projects run on average late

Projects are a finished on average 4.8 months late in the ACT

Open average, TCCS projects finished late and cycling infrastructure projects are no exception. TCCS tend to adjust the expected completion date on the website on the run, so that the delay is not very noticeable. TCCS planned date should be seen as an expression of good intent and not a binding promise. Progress is a good thing.

The TCCS 2019-2020 Annual Report outlines the capital expenditure for the period between 2016-2022 for 138 projects that were delivered on average 4.8 months late

Coombs delay

Sometimes the delays can be quite significant. Take, for example, the bike paths around the Coombs peninsula. Coombs Stage 2 path works were announced back in January 2020 by the Suburban Land Agency. Coombs has had residents as early as 2015, but the bike paths around the edges of the suburb were never finished. In the ACT, cycle infrastructure often comes last.

construction, cycleway, ACT Government, ACT, Australia, Coombs
Coombs bike path construction works, Molonglo Valley, 2020.

Benjamin Way cycleway gone missing

Tender documentation was finalised in January 2021.

Active Travel Works (2018-2020). Extracts from FOI 21-023.

Cleared as complete and accurate: 24/02/2021
Cleared by: Executive Group Manager
Contact Officer name: Jeremy Smith
Lead Directorate: Transport Canberra and City Services

Scope

Part B – Benjamin Way protected bikeway: Design and construction of a protected bikeway along Benjamin Way from Emu Bank to College Street and improving pedestrian access and amenity in the adjacent public realm.

Funding

The 2018-19 ACT Budget provided $10.45 million over three financial years as part of the Town Centre Active Travel New Works Program.

Progress

Part B – Benjamin Way protected bikeway:
Tender documentation was finalised in January 2021. Final review is required to complete the detailed design stage, this is anticipated to be complete March 2021. The budget allocated to construct the Benjamin Way protected bikeway was reallocated to the Belconnen Bikeway project in early 2019 to enable its construction.

2019 construction starts

The construction of the Belconnen Bikeway construction started in 2019. By the start of construction, the Benjamin Way section of the project had been dropped.

2020 finished in part

The photos below show the progress that been made by mid 2020. The separated bike path and pedestrian path along the old bus road were finished but not open. Construction had started on Emu Bank. The section beside the University of Canberra was largely finished.

Old bus road finished

Path down to Joyton Smith Drive, Belconnen
Local Community Route (suburb) intersection to the Main Community Route (MCR), Belconnen Bikeway, along Joyton Smith Drive, Belconnen
Towards Westfield, Main Community Route (MCR), Belconnen Bikeway, along Joyton Smith Drive, Belconnen
Towards Florey, Main Community Route (MCR), Belconnen Bikeway, along Joyton Smith Drive, Belconnen
Local Communtiy Route, Crossing of Joyton Smith Drive, Belconnen Bikeway between Westfield and Florey, Belconnen
Local Communtiy Route, Crossing of Joyton Smith Drive, Belconnen
“Share the path, Keep left” sign – simple but good advice – Local Communtiy Route, Crossing of Joyton Smith Drive, Belconnen
New directional signs at the crossing of the Local Communtiy Route and Joyton Smith Drive, Belconnen
New directional signs at the crossing of the Local Communtiy Route and Joyton Smith Drive, Belconnen

Emu Bank under construction

Under construction, Belconnen Bikeway (Main Communtiy Route) along Emu Bank past Westfield, Belconnen
Path blocked from the lights onwards, path beside the construction of the Belconnen Bikeway (Main Communtiy Route) along Emu Bank, Belconnen
The CBR Cycle Route C5 from Aranda will here, intersection Benjamin Way and Emu Bank, Belconnen

11 October 2020 more construction

The 2020 ACT Election saw the Belconnen Bikeway still unfinished, despite it being promised at 2016 ACT Election. Your guide to cycling in Canberra TCCS map (January 2019) shows that the Bikeway was expected to be finished in 2019.

2019 Belconnen bike paths
Delays were the norm: TCCS 2019 Belconnen Town Centre map for bike paths shows that the Belconnen Bikeway was scheduled for completion originally in 2019. The Belconnen Bikeway was not opened until early 2021 and the Benjamin Way gap remains uncompleted in 2022.

At the time of the 2020 ACT Election, parts of the Belconnen Bikeway had been opened in 2020, but over half of it was still behind fences and barriers, and off-limits to cyclists. The sections in GREEN below were open, in ORANGE still a construction area and closed off. The cycle path, shown in RED, along Benjamin Way was promised back at during 2016 Election, but not mentioned further during the 2020 ACT Election for reasons unknown.

Belconnen Bikeway under construction, stand 11/10/2020
Belconnen Bikeway under construction, stand 11/10/2020

Belconnen Bikeway (C3)

  • Status update 11 October 2020: under construction.
  • Opened: 1.6 km from Florey to Westfield and 0.5km between Kirinari Street and Cooinda Street along College Street. In total 2.1 km is opened from 4.7 km complete length.
  • Visual appearance: Mostly paved and marked but fenced off for most of its length. Only two short sections are open.
  • Scope: Benjamin Way was promised and now has been removed from the project. It may be in planning but there is no evidence of this.

Belconnen Bikeway was frequently dug up

Back in March 2021, just a few months after the Belconnen Bikeway was finished, it was dug up again. The wound lay open awaiting repairs. All July 2021, the path was dug up and blocked off again.

Unlike roads, bike paths can be blocked with little consequence. Just imagine digging up Northbourne Avenue and just walking away from it without bothering to reseal the road. That is what has happened to the Belconnen Bikeway. That the path was recently completed made it worse.

Belconnen Bikeway, Emu Bank, Belconnen, ACT
Belconnen Bikeway, Emu Bank, Belconnen, ACT
Belconnen Bikeway, Emu Bank, Belconnen, ACT
Belconnen Bikeway, Emu Bank, Belconnen, ACT
Belconnen Bikeway, Emu Bank, Belconnen, ACT
Belconnen Bikeway, Emu Bank, Belconnen, ACT

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