Categories
urban planning

Cycle highways for commuting

Addressed to the ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr

The ACT Government has recognised the importance of investment in capital projects as part of the stimulus to offset the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 health threat. In 2018 and 2019 the ACT Government released multiple policies to make Canberra a more liveable city, to combat the effects of climate change, and to prepare the city for a population of 500,000, who will need to commute to town centres and Civic across town twice daily. It is expected that our infrastructure will collapse under the peak period loads without the strategic investment in active travel and the construction of cycle highways. Even though it might still be the commonly held mental model, Canberra cannot still live by small city standards but rather mature into a regional metropolis.

Categories
urban planning

Letter to Yvette Berry on active travel

The active travel facilities planned for Whitlam Stage 2 fall short of expectations. As human behaviour follows infrastructure, this lack of future proofing active travel facilities is directly detrimental to achieving an increase in active travel in the ACT.

This ACT Government held an Active Travel Design workshop (12 December 2018) and stated that the background to the new Active Travel Design Guidelines included “poor infrastructure outcomes as a consequence of planning intent getting ‘lost in translation’”. My analysis concludes that this observation is likely relevant for the planning of the brand-new estate Whitlam. My concern is that the failure to systematically integrate active travel principles in the planning process, as well as the dominance of decade old legacy planning practices, will most likely result in the missed potential to develop active travel facilities in the Whitlam and other new estate developments in Canberra. Consequently, this will not only make the roads less safe for vulnerable road users but also not achieve any set active travel goals.

Categories
urban planning

When strategies collide: climate change, active travel and environment

The ACT Government goals found in the ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-25, the Molonglo River Reserve Management Plan 2019, and the Active Travel Framework conflict and are difficult to reconcile. These strategies show commonalities but as with any specific project, there will be trade-offs. In the Molonglo Valley, active travel is poorly served.

The ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-25 goals cannot be met with Recreational Routes, and that is all the Molonglo River Reserve Management Plan 2019 is likely to produce. The Active Travel Framework describes both Recreational Routes and Community Routes. Riding to work must be attractive, direct and safe, if we are to achieve the ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-25 goals for active travel. We need cycle highways and more Community Routes. Only 3% of Canberra’s commuters currently ride to work – and this is actually a downward trend!

The Molonglo Valley Development demonstrates the tensions that arise in urban development. The Molonglo Special Purpose Reserve and Whitlam Residential Estate show no clear benefit for the active traveller. This should be a reason for concern. A good overarching network of cycle highways will not occur by accident.

Categories
urban planning

Clear words for clear goals

Clear words for clear goals: making Active Travel meaningful

An email sent to Shane Rattenbury on 24/2/2020 (minor edits)

To achieve the ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-25 goals, less people will be driving. The strategy does not deny anybody the right to drive.

If people are to leave their cars at home, then the Active Travel Network needs to be very attractive. COMMUTING is one of the primary reasons many people own a car. We cannot live without work and for the majority this involves a twice-daily commute. The 2017 ACT Household Travel Survey shows that the daily commute is one of the longest journeys made. Schools, shops, doctors and sport are usually in the local area and the distance travelled is almost always shorter. Not surprisingly, commuters are least likely to leave their car at home. Getting to work is serious. 

Categories
urban planning

What is wrong with Molonglo 3 East

A case study for Molonglo 3 East Planning and Infrastructure Study Project Brief and urban planning of new estates in the ACT.

The ACT Government announced in the 2012 ACT Planning Strategy that it “sought to create a more compact, efficient and inclusive city” The proximity between new suburbs in Molonglo Valley and the city will help encourage commuting to work with a bike and the achievement of goals of the ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-25, but the potential benefit of the proximity of the Molonglo Valley will be largely forfeited without good quality, safe and direct active travel infrastructure. This is currently NOT typical for the Molonglo Valley estate developments.

This ACT Government held an Active Travel Design workshop (12 December 2018) and stated that the background to the new Active Travel Design Guidelines included “poor infrastructure outcomes as a consequence of planning intent getting ‘lost in translation’. My concern is that the failure to systematically integrate active travel principles in the planning process will most likely result in the missed potential to develop active travel facilities in the Whitlam and other new estate developments in Canberra. As human behaviour follows infrastructure, this lack of future-proofing active travel facilities is detrimental to achieving an increase in active travel in the ACT.

Molonglo 3 East Planning and Infrastructure Study Project Brief design tender (2 December 2019), released by the Major Projects Canberra Infrastructure Delivery Partner Group, is for the first stage design of Molonglo 3 East, but not for Whitlam. It is worth monitoring it as it signals the first planning stage of these new, yet unnamed, suburbs has begun. To quote the brief, the ACT’s Indicative Land Release Program 2019-20 to 2022-23, “proposes 200 blocks be released in the study area by 2022-23.”

Categories
urban planning

Active travel: key documents

If you are interested in better bike paths for Canberra, active travel and urban planning, these documents could be of interest. They will be discussed in future posts on canberra.bike and have been mentioned in many already.

Categories
urban planning

Greenfield developments and active travel

It is unrealistic to expect the ACT Government to fund all active travel infrastructure from general revenue as capital works. It cannot be done. Alone the maintenance to a high standard an ever-expanding bike paths network is a challenge.

The sale of land for dwellings will always be a top priority for the ACT Government due to the expected population growth and ever-growing costs of servicing the existing Canberra population. The ACT budget is spent on the services that are regarded by most Canberrans as essential (health, education, etc).

We are proud of Canberra, our bush capital. The environmental regulations will continue to be front-of-mind for estate planners to protected and preserve these environmental assets. The downside is that it comes at a price. There are many places in Canberra where you will not get approval to build a bike path.

Land sales are revenue, so the ACT will prioritise that over finishing suburbs (and bike paths). The land release will remain staged. This type of estate planning is within a bounded area and the bigger picture outside those boundaries, such as cross city cycle highways, are left off the map.

We will need to accept that without capital funding, the active travel infrastructure will never be built all at once, but in a fragmented way.

Riding to work requires cycle highway networks that span the city. With the above constraints, it is achievable but not quick or easy. Without long term planning and enduring effort, it will never be achieved.

Categories
urban planning

An introduction to Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool

The Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool is embedded in the ACT urban development process. The general public, local residents and other stakeholders have a vested interest in new developments in the ACT. It is, however, difficult to find answers to what are sometimes simple questions. Urban development is a large machine that by necessity must serve the professionals and commercial partners, but Canberrans as residents and are important too. These two groups are separated by both language and knowledge.