4 June 2018

5 things the ACT Government can do to create a more active cycling city

| Ian Ross
Join the conversation
man on mountain bike

Mountain biking in Canberra presents a great opportunity for cycle tourism. Photo: Kowalski Classic.

Last week, the ACT government made a pre-budget announcement about significant spending on active travel infrastructure, with new lake links and separated cycle paths for Belconnen and Woden. This is welcome news not just for bike riders, but for all Canberrans.

While we have nothing like the traffic jams of Melbourne and Sydney, congestion is a growing problem. As a small city, we have the opportunity to take action now before we suffer the economic costs of congestion and lose the liveability that makes Canberra such a great place.

Getting more people cycling is also great for our health and the environment. A 2017 UK study indicated the potential of cycling as a preventative health strategy, with people who regularly ride to work showing a 40% lower risk of heart disease, cancer and overall mortality. Getting more people out of cars and onto bikes will also be key to achieving the ACT Government’s new target of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

While Canberra has an active cycling community, there is a massive amount of work that needs to be done to shift our city away from car dependency, toward a healthy and sustainable future where cycling is a viable transport option for people of all ages and abilities.

Here are our top 5 actions the ACT Government can take to create a more active cycling city:

1. Safer cycle infrastructure: The traditional approach to reducing congestion is to build bigger roads, but city planners now understand that in the long term, adding more lanes simply leads to more traffic. Fortunately, the “build it and they will come” effect doesn’t just apply to roads. Progressive cities around the world are proving that building good quality cycle infrastructure is a key driver to getting more people riding. If you build safer paths that keep people on bikes away from cars, more people will cycle – it’s that simple.

The civic cycle loop is Canberra’s only truly separated cycleway, largely keeping people on bikes and away from cars, as well as pedestrians. The announcement that the Government will be constructing separated paths at Belconnen and Woden, is a major step forward and a big win for cycle advocacy in the ACT. We need a network of these across the city to provide a safe and direct way for people to travel on bike, starting with projects like protected bike lanes connecting the civic cycle loop to Woden via Adelaide Avenue.

civic cycle loop

Civic cycle loop separated bike path.

2. Maintain our existing paths: Unfortunately, our community path network is rapidly ageing and in need of urgent attention. Many of our paths are cracked, crumbling and hazardous, and in some cases have become so degraded that the only option has been to rebuild them completely – a costly option that could be avoided through proper investment in ongoing maintenance.

Cracked path

Cracked and degraded paths.

3. A connected path network: Anyone who cycles in Canberra will have experienced the frustration of riding on a path that comes to a dead end or being stuck in dangerous traffic when a bike lane disappears. For cycling to appeal to more than just hardened riders, we need to make it as easy as possible for people of all ages and abilities to get from A to B, with a planned and connected path network that is well signed and easy to navigate. This means filling in the missing links in the network, particularly to town centres, through infrastructure like the planned Belconnen bikeway.

bike and cars at road crossing

Lack of marked crossings to connect paths at key locations in the network.

4. Separating cycle paths and footpaths: Whether on a bike, jogging or walking, in most places we can share our paths safely and harmoniously by following the road rules and exercising common sense and courtesy. However, with so many of us out enjoying our beautiful bush capital, paths can become congested in key areas, particularly around the lakes. So that different users can share these locations safely, we would like to see a trial separation of cycling and walking along sections of lake paths, in particular around Lake Burley Griffin.

people walking and riding on paths

Congestion on shared path at Kingston.

5. A cycle tourism strategy: We know Canberra is a great place to ride a bike, and we’d like to spread the word. With our temperate climate, open roads, extensive path networks, and off-road facilities like Stromlo Forest Park and Majura Pines, we are well placed to develop Canberra as a cycle destination and tap into a growing and lucrative domestic and international cycle tourism market. To make this happen, we need an overarching strategy for cycle tourism and for government to commit to promote and develop facilities. For some time, the Government has been working on developing such as strategy, and we hope that the upcoming budget will see that document released, along with funds toward its implementation.

After long-term advocacy by organisations like Pedal Power, and through successive Parliamentary Agreements between the Greens and the ALP, we have made significant gains in cycling. Minimum passing laws are now in place, and the ACT Government has set an active travel target of 7% trips by cycling by 2026, with an Active Travel Office set up to coordinate initiatives across government. The 2016 Parliamentary Agreement provides for an additional $30 million investment in active travel to be rolled out over the four-year term, and we look forward to the 2018 Budget delivering on this commitment.

Making Canberra more bike-friendly is good for business and will help make our city more active, healthy, and sustainable. Surely that will be a good outcome for all Canberrans?

Ian Ross is the CEO of Pedal Power ACT and a keen recreational bike rider.

Pedal Power ACT is Canberra’s largest cycling organisation, representing people who already cycle and those who would like to. Our aim is to get more Canberrans riding more often.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

What the ACT Government can do is get fair dinkum about ensuring the road rules that apply to make cycling a positive experience are actually enforced by the various agencies delegated with this important task. For example, why is it ok for a trade to drop a skip bin on a shared path and block a key route? Why is it ok for all and sundry to park across kerb ramps, especially those with yellow paint on the road surface? Why don’t the ACT Policing follow up reports of red light runners, even when supplied with good quality video? And why doesn’t Pedal Power get some courage and take these issues on?

ChrisinTurner12:13 pm 11 Jun 18

In and around Civic there are many examples of completely missing footpaths, for example beside Glebe Park on Cooyong Street.

As a bike commuter I find the motorised bike a real danger on bike paths. At a glance, cars, other bike riders and pedestrians think it’s a regular bike and expect it to move like a regular bike and then when it takes off at an unexpected speed it becomes dangerous. I’ve seen some near misses.

Capital Retro9:50 am 08 Jun 18

These are not legal but the plods look the other way.

Yes they are legal – there are just restrictions in place around engine power and they must be used in tandem with pedals, they cannot replace the pedaling action. The law is quite clear on this.

Capital Retro4:05 pm 11 Jun 18

We are talking about different things.

And again, all I see are bad excuses for why the current paths can’t be used, even though they are in far better condition than most roads due to complete lack of use.

Really. You obviously don’t cycle on many. Grass growing through the surface, dirt washed across it, cracks…

As someone who BOTH drives and cycles, I can say without doubt that most roads are in better condition than most of the paths I cycle. I have compared the two by actually using them.

Capital Retro8:14 am 05 Jun 18

To those cyclists who are demanding path lighting be aware that lights are available for bicycles and I think by law that must be affixed to a bike when ridden in the dark.

Cars use their own lights effectively on roads that are do not have lighting.

Next think you cyclists will be demanding wireless seat warmers.

However the road nearby the unlit path is likely to have lights. Paths are also used by pedestrians. Unlit paths are a danger to them and to other users, as few pedestrians carry lights.

Capital Retro11:11 am 05 Jun 18

Indeed, some pedestrians don’t carry lights – I do, I have a baseball cap with LED lights in the lid.
No kangaroos carry lights and that is why cyclists should have and use them as well as looking out for errant pedestrians.

While I didn’t specifically mention lighting in the article, we believe path lighting on key routes would improve safety, and the perception of safety for people walking and riding. Bikes are required by law to have front and back lights, and in Canberra where the ambient lighting is low, riders need to take particular care to have appropriate lighting to see where they are going, as well as to be seen.

Capital Retro5:29 pm 05 Jun 18

Can you name the key routes that need path lighting?

Capital Retro7:54 am 07 Jun 18

Come on Ian, you should have all that information at your fingertips.

All the major cycling trunk routes should be adequately lit, particularly those around the lakes, and where the shared path does not run along an existing road.
Sullivan’s Creek and William Slim paths are examples of places that are very dark at night and have increased risk of accidents between people on bikes and people walking.

fridgemagnet5:39 pm 04 Jun 18

Develop more trail-based recreation opportunities. The Canberra region recently lost a great deal of mountain bike trail infrastructure at Kowen Forest and this is set to continue for the next 5 years (as too at Majura Pines). New locations for replacing this lost infrastructure needs to be found. Cotter Reserve would make an ideal trail head and be the perfect launching off point for trail riding adventures. Cotter, Bullen Range, Paddy’s River, Uriarra Pines, Mt McDonald, rides around the dam and up into the Brindabellas. There is so much potential here.

Capital Retro9:00 am 05 Jun 18

With respect, it was known that the infrastructure built by volunteers in Kowen Forest was only temporary as is the case for anything else in ACT Forests.

To the credit of the mountainbike people though, they do things for themselves instead of whinging like most Canberra cyclists who complain about rubbish on “their” cycle lanes. These Canberra people, who pay nothing specific towards their infrastructure (not even the road rescue fee) and their representative organisation could get off their bikes and clean it up themselves or even invest in a machine that cleans their paths.

The mountain bike tourist plans are very sound and indeed will boost tourism to our region.

dont you think that 90% of adult cyclists have a car and also pay taxes?

Capital Retro11:22 am 06 Jun 18

Of course they so, what?

So what? I have 2 cars and a motorcycle, and have to pay rego for all 3. Why should your push bike be exempt?

cos the law allows it.

If you don’t like that law, then lobby your MP to change it. Meanwhile deal with it. You also realise there are hundreds of thousands of cyclists that wouldn’t car an inch about paying rego if that’ll shut the whingers up. Of course many whingers will find something else relating to cyclists to whinge about and it won’t make one scrap of difference in reality.

In over 50 years of cycling i’ve never hit a car or a pedestrian. Most cyclists don’t either.

There are a ton of cycle paths all over Canberra, and have been for a couple of decades.. It appears cyclist just choose not to use them.

fridgemagnet5:33 pm 04 Jun 18

Yes, there is some great cycleways in Canberra and cyclists DO use them (a lot). The problem is that cycleways only get you so far or are often more circuitous than practical for commuting (or congested with other users), hence the need for on road cycling. The fact much of our cycleways are decades old also means they are in decay and require maintenance (just like our road infrastructure does).

We do have an extensive shared path network in Canberra but to make cycling a viable transport option for more people we need to provide direct separated paths along key routes so they can get from A to B quickly. We need a connected network – on-road bike lanes, shared paths, and separated cycleways are all part of the mix.

using woden to civic as an example – straight up the road in 20 mins, or a magical mystery tour that takes another 15 mins on the paths as you cross back and forth over adelaide ave and meander down through yarralumla and around the lake.

So what? Isn’t this all about being active and healthy? The extra time shouldn’t bother you all that much. More exercise. If you cared about getting somewhere quickly, you would drive there.

for some people it is. for some people it’s about money – ie who wants to pay for petrol and parking fees. let them commute in whatever way they see fit.

If you can’t get to where you want in this town via a cycle path then it’s the bicycle that’s impracticable, not the path.

It’s 10 degrees and a rainy or windy day. Are you going to ride or drive? It’s 35 degrees. Are you going to ride or drive?

Health benefit is always the argument put forward, but the study done for the inner Sydney cycle infrastructure included a graphic that showed that the value to the community of the health benefits from cycling would be more than offset by the cost from injuries and death from cycling. Effectively, the benefits enjoyed by the majority survivors is paid for by the few.

Capital Retro9:54 am 08 Jun 18

There are on road bike paths on the Monaro Highway from Isabella Drive to Fyshwick but there are more sightings of the migrating Swift Parrot than cyclists using the paths.

Capital Retro1:56 pm 08 Jun 18

And they don’t even pay the $25.90 “Road Rescue Fee” that the owner of the car they ran into has to pay.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.