The peak period traffic chaos around Molonglo Valley would indicate that we have made a mistake. The development of this Future Urban Area has demonstrated that we still do not prioritise the development of cycle and active travel infrastructure. Molonglo was chosen as it was close to Civic, however we have not seen the take-up of cycling for transport in the Molonglo Valley but rather car dependency. To move cycling forward, we need to develop the cycle infrastructure independently of roads. What went wrong in the Molonglo Valley?
When we walk the halls of Planning, Transport and Legislative Assembly in the ACT today, we can be sure that none of those people we see will be there in 30 years. Community groups and councils lobby with MLAs and mandarins, who temporarily fill the roles. Building a cycle network is a long term task, requiring forward-thinking past the current political cycle. The cycle network will take 30 years to build. In that time, Canberra’s population will almost double. City builders think in decades and not years. Cycle corridors reserve the space to build that cycle network.
Cycle corridors are the mechanism by which strategic assets (public realm space) can be secured for good, fast cycling infrastructure between town centres for commuting cyclists, thus providing an alternative to driving. The cycle highways will not be finished quickly and they do not have to be. However, they will never be built unless the corridors are reserved and preserved.
The Territory Plan is part of the reason why good, fast cycling infrastructure between town centres for commuting cyclists – cycle highways – has not been and is not likely to be built. The ACT planning has been critiqued for hampering innovation. The comment, while likely directed at urban architecture, is still true for urban planning and design. Cycle highways are not possible without inclusion in statutory documents, such as the Territory Plan.
A strong political wind would push cycling forward in Canberra. The lack of political will has left cycling in the doldrums. ACT Transport’s paradigm lags behind best practice. A “one size fits all” approach fails to recognise that different modes of transport have different needs.
This case study of rapid transit in the Molonglo Valley shows that corridors for vehicular traffic and light rail may have something in common, but public transit corridors are poorly suited for a cycle highway (transit). Cycle networks are different.
The cycle network can only be built, if we reserve and preserve cycle corridors. How this is done, was demonstrated by the light rail project and requires changes to the Territory Plan and Planning Act. The ACT Government could copy this approach for cycle corridors.
Riding through Canberra we find the wayfinding signage for CBR Cycle Routes. Here is the past, present and future of CBR Cycle Routes.
Molonglo 3 East is in an early stage of planning and the significance easily missed driving by. In the Planning Design Framework the ACT Government outlines what it does and does not want, however, the intention is to leave plenty of space for good urban planning.