The message to take away here is that there is a lot of paths missing on the Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool. The idea is great. But they should not exclude the paths that they have already built. Particularly the unpaved paths are very poorly represented but they are not unimportant for many cyclists in Canberra.
We rely on directional signage to find our way around Canberra. The directional signage may not be good. This is particularly true for cycling, so how do we find the best route? There will always be the need for navigation. I have written about the best cycling maps for Canberra. These maps can be used to find the best route. Finding the best route with digital maps and GPS technology can be a great aid for biking and active travel.
We could see cycling as city bikes that are designed for paved surfaces, and mountain bikes that are designed for loose surfaces. These are both broad categories, but it is the first step to making sense of the routing problem.
To navigate Canberra, you need to find the right map. The maps need to be current and suitable for the type of biking that you are doing. Putting aside mountain biking in Canberra, we need maps for all those other types of bikes that prefer paved surfaces, which I will call city bikes. To find the best route to the destination, the maps need to show rideable paths, including bike paths, but roads are not so important for most people. Therefore, the bike infrastructure needs to be highlighted in preference to that used by cars, i.e. bike paths need to stand out.
Furthermore, it is also important that the maps are up to date. I have previously suggested that OpenStreetMap maps are amongs the best for Canberra. Here I will address the issue of the best representation of the OpenStreetMap for biking. Additionally, I will provide background information to online bike maps. I believe that printed maps would be better if they were printed from the source of data that was more current, and that OpenStreetMap on digital devices are worth using for navigating Canberra.
The best way to find your way around Canberra is with a map, particularly when signposts are lacking. The best map for Canberra is OpenStreetMap because it includes paths (not just roads) and is up to date. Here is a comparison of the map options so you can see the differences. This test is just about the maps. How to access the maps and take them with you is for another day. Car maps are of little value for bike riders as paths are generally preferred.
The suburbs of Wright and Coombs are new suburbs finished in the last five years and as such showcase the design principles for suburb development. For new suburbs good bike infrastructure begins and ends on the designer’s drawing board. Once the suburb is built it is set in stone. I would conclude that coherent network of continuous bike paths across the city needs a master plan for bike path infrastructure, upon which new suburbs can be designed and realised so that the new infrastructure interconnects. In other words, suburb design starts with the end in mind. The suburb is a small unit of the much larger and longer endeavour, to build active travel networks across the city.
Looking at the suburbs of Wright and Coombs the following can be observed:
- bike paths are along waterways and parks and traverse the suburb
- bike paths connect people to schools and shops
- bike paths often end at the boundary of the suburb
- when bike paths are found on the edge of suburbs, they are often fragments going nowhere, stopping and starting at arbitrary locations.
I wrote this to highlight the need for north-south bike path between Belconnen and Coombs. Go bike routes are direct and riding to Coombs from Belconnen is anything but direct. This post shows one way such a path could be built. There is space for it and the road crossing points could optimised but unfortunately it is not planned. Further more, the Molonglo Valley active travel routes exclude the Butters Bridge for cycling. I think this is a mistake but there is currently little evidence that this is changing.
Dickson to Gungahlin bike path parallel to Flemington Rd
The light rail, that represents a great step forward for public transport and city modernisation, was a step backward for the Flemington Rd bike path. It was removed and never replaced so there now a missing link past Mitchell. That the ACT Government is interested in fixing the problem and considering a new Flemington Rd bike path is good news. As with the Federal Highway there is no room for a bike path alongside the road but plenty of back streets that run parallel, away from the cars. This would be the safe and better approach. In this paper I propose one possible route that follows the Federal Highway, EPIC and Well Station Track to reach Gungahlin. A few maps are included below to illustrate the route.
What you can do and cannot do on a bike in Canberra. This is a note of what belongs to good territory planning.
There is a long list of missing links: route and tracks that could be opened for recreational biking. We can thank the Canberra Centennial Trial for opening a lot of the ACT commonwealth land for recreational use. The ACT is landlocked and surrounded by private own land for large lengths of the border that generally prohibits trespassing. The only way to ride in NSW is on a road and, for reasons of personal safety, you better choose your road carefully and be off it before nightfall unless you have very good lighting. Recent deaths of ACT riders have illustrated this point. But there is another type of obstacle and going around it means adding large distances to the ride.
Not all these hills can be ridden and sometimes it might be on the road with the cars but there is always a good view at the top.
What a difference good bike infrastructure makes
- Figure 1: City bikes locked to their stands
- Figure 2: Pedestrian and bike paths through a park – separate
- Figure 3: Bike lanes on the intersection help cyclists cross safely
- Figure 4: Bikes stop at the intersection in front of cars so they can cross first
- Figure 5: Bike lanes continue across intersections with even turning arrows (just like cars)
- Figure 6: Despite the road constructions the bike lane is visible with the bikes stop at the lights
- Figure 7: Park and ride is popular so you will find two level parking stations for thousands of bikes
- Figure 8: Railway and S-Bahn underpasses are wide and without steps so you can ride through without dismounting