Cycle highways: Introduction to Active Travel

The idea of “cycle highway” needs to be located within the Active Travel Framework, so that it is not disconnected from the planning mechanism in the ACT (both ROAD AUTHORITY and PLANNING AUTHORITY).

Cycle highways sit in the active travel key statutory and non-statutory planning documents. This article is an introduction to Active Travel. Extracts related to cycle highways from two key documents in the Active Travel Framework are found in the following two articles.

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Cycle highways: Planning for Active Travel in the ACT

The relevant text for cycle highways is scattered throughout a number of key documents. Here the relevant extracts from Planning for Active Travel in the ACT (PATACT) are gathered together in one place.

Read this first.

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Opportunities lost in estate development

Estate development is a golden goose for the ACT Government. The ACT Government has limited funds and receives very little funding from the Federal Government for infrastructure. Estate development is a long and complicated process and active travel can be lost in the process, buried under other priorities. Let us get it right. If the active travel infrastructure falls short, it will be expensive to fix. A whole generation of kids will grow up being chauffeured around rather than taking the bikes to school or to visit their mates. This is a real culture change barrier.

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A plan is as good as its execution

There does not appear to be a lack of ideas for a better cycle network for Canberra but we have poor performance building them. The recent Fast Track program demonstrated this. The paths that were built were mostly below the minimum standard for cycling and unfortunately did not form networks.

Designing a cycling network by asking people to “suggest a path” brings with it the question, what to do with a list of unhelpful suggestions. The crowdsourced approach is great for stakeholder engagement but a disjointed “wish list” is unlikely to lead to cycling networks. Fast Track has demonstrated this.

In a landscape of changing political priorities, plans do not always turn out as expected.
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CBR cycling: we have a plan

The “CBR Cycle Routes” are a network of cycle routes between Canberra’s town centres. They do not all exist yet, and if people do not know about them, they almost certainly never will. Cycle paths are not built without community support.

Background to the urban planning process is found here.

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Language matters. Let’s do some definitional work!

Are you getting confused about the terminology of the Active Travel Routes Network?

Having studied several languages, I have learned early on that nothing is more personal than the words we choose to use. Nothing else is also more divisive and confusing in our day to day communication. (As a side note, if you like to read a fantastic book about the English language that confirms my sentiment, check out Bill Bryson’s book The Mother Tongue.)

So, let’s try and clarify what all this confusing lingo in the ACT active travel guidelines means for us.

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Active Travel Streets: making cycling safer

The active travel vision is grand but difficult to reconcile with the infrastructure found in older suburbs. The ACT Government inherits the old but the old was built in different times with different problems. 

“The past is a foreign country and they do things differently there.”

source unknown

The ACT Government faces today’s problems with the infrastructure designed for yesteryear. Some cities have experienced a great fire. From the bare earth, the city can be rebuilt anew for modern times. The challenge of urban planning is another, to rebuild a living city. This is more akin to rebuilding a boat while you are sitting in it. It is not straight forward and creates anxiety. 

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Active Travel Infrastructure Interim Planning Guideline (PATACT)

Another important document for active travel in Canberra and urban planning, and another very long title. This post is an introduction to Planning for Active Travel in the ACT: Active Travel Infrastructure Interim Planning Guideline (ACT Government, January 2019). Because the title is so long it is often simply referred to it as PATACT.

ACT Government, urban planning, ACT, Australia
Figure 1: The cover of Planning for Active Travel in the ACT: Active Travel Infrastructure Interim Planning Guideline (PATACT)

The ACT urban planning documents often build on one another. This one is no exception. This document was released in January 2019, which may seem a long time after the release of the Building an Integrated Transport Network: Active Travel in 2015, and Light Rail Network –Delivering a modern transport system for a growing city (Light Rail Network), October 2015. The last two documents describe the ACT Government’s strategy for active travel as well as the light rail component of active travel. With PATACT the ACT Government describes what that means for non-road infrastructure and urban planning, in particular cycling.

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C10 City to Molonglo Feasibility Study

The Molonglo Valley to City Trunk Cycleway: Feasibility Study was the result of the ACT Labor and ACT Greens 2012 Parliamentary Agreement: also known as the “C10 City – Molonglo” cycling route and an official CBR Cycle Route (Principal Community Route). It is intended to provide a direct and high-quality cycling route between the Molonglo Valley and the City.

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The Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool is dated

The Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT) is essential for the planning of greenfield developments such as the Molonglo Valley. It should be kept up to date but it is currently not. This is concerning as Practitioner Tool contains the cycling corridors (Active Travel Route Alignments) that should be the starting point for estate planning. The Practitioner Tool is out of date compared to the most current estate planning documents, perhaps because it is ignored in the planning process. Canberra.bike includes an introduction and discussion of the Practitioner Tool and here are extracts from the KEY DOCUMENTS.

Key documents – Standards and guideline documents which should be used in the planning and design of active travel facilities. These are listed in Sections 2.2.3 to 2.2.7.”

Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05 (MIS05) (ACT Government, April 2019), pages 13-17
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