Tharwa: a small country town in ACT

Tharwa is a great idea for a day out and there is a lot to see in a small area. You could consider riding there south through Canberra, or if you are keen then try the loop ride from Stromlo Forest Park south through the suburbs to Tharwa, where you cross the Murrumbidgee River and return to Stromlo Forest Park on the other side of the river via Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and Cotter.

The Namadgi National Park, including the visitors centre, and Lanyon Homestead are currently closed (as of 6/6/2020). Please check before departure.


Recreational cycling close to home

Why not cycle from home? There is a Canberra Nature Park within 500m from home for 75% of Canberrans. CyclOSM helps you find a ride at your doorstep by highlighting all the bike paths.

ride review

West of Stromlo: ride on the far side

Mount Stromlo Forest is a large reserve on the slopes of Mount Stromlo. West of the mountain, many creeks run off undulating hills into the Murrumbidgee River, and have cut into the clay to form deep creek beds.

You are permitted to ride Mount Stromlo Forest on the management trails. This is generally true in all Canberra nature reserves with few exceptions. Mount Stromlo is famous for the network of “single tracks” on the east side at Stromlo Forest Park. These trails are specifically meant for mountain bikes but do not be surprised if you find walkers there too.

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.

urban planning

Active Travel Infrastructure Interim Planning Guideline

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.

ride review

Stromlo Forest Park

Stromlo Forest Park lies on the slopes of Mount Stromlo adjacent to the suburb of Wright. Most would know of Stromlo Forest Park for the mountain biking but it is gaining importance as a recreational centre for the Molonglo Valley and the close by suburbs of Coombs, Wright and Denman Prospect.

urban planning

The bike infrastructure in Wright and Coombs

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.