22 January 2021

A cycling master plan will be good for cyclists, pedestrians and road users

| Tim Gavel
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Stromlo Criterium circuit

The Stromlo Criterium circuit is well used by Canberra cyclists. Photo: Tim Gavel.

Whenever a story about cycling appears, it activates an avalanche of pent up angst from the wider community.

Predominantly it’s anti-cyclists, and their arguments are based on a negative experience or a misconception.

The reaction to the story ‘Does the cycling community get a fair go in Canberra?’ on the need for more facilities illustrated this. If nothing else, it highlights why Canberra’s cycling community needs to present a better case, especially when it comes to cycling amenities.

READ MORE Does the cycling community get a fair go in Canberra?

Peter Rogers is part of a prominent Canberra cycling family. He rode as a professional, and his two brothers, Michael and Deane, are both former world champions.

Peter’s son Cameron is an emerging champion.

Peter is also captain of the Canberra Cycling Club, as well as being the outgoing president of Cycling ACT, so it’s fair to say he’s very aware of the local cycling environment.

“In 2004, Canberra’s sports cycling community identified the issue of growing demand for cycling [facilities] but decreasing access to safe venues due to city growth,” says Peter. “This was formalised within a proposal to government to build a multi-wheeled facility. Unfortunately, the facility was not funded.”

When Peter refers to the sports cycling community, he means the cyclists who compete in the sport of cycling, which is no different to, say, soccer or cricket.

There are also many Canberrans who ride for recreation or commute to work on the shared paths or the roads.

“The shared path system is great,” remarks Peter. “However, it presents safety issues relating to congestion and its narrow design. In most cases, if a bicycle rider wants a consistent ride or needs to travel longer distances, the roads are the only choice.”

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The shared paths are highly populated most weekends with an influx of walkers, joggers, cyclists, dogs and electric scooters, while on the roads cyclist are mingling with cars.

“On a fine day with good weather, most experienced cyclists already question whether they should use bike paths because of congestion, and the paths are simply too narrow to safely cater for everyone,” Peter says.

So, to the current facilities for Canberra cyclists.

Canberra has two purpose-built sport cycling facilities comprising a locked gate (bookings only) velodrome in Narrabundah, with very steep and intimidating embankments, and a short 1.2-kilometre criterium circuit at Stromlo Forest Park. Both facilities are very well used during available daylight hours.

Beyond competition, the criterium circuit must also cater to the public. And it’s very popular with young families and their children. This is a fantastic use of a public facility, but the popularity further limits the sports cycling community’s ability to ride or train at these time in a safe car-free environment.

To make it even more prohibitive, there are no lights at either facility meaning the community cannot run participation programs or events during peak times, 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

“The community has been calling for purpose-built cycling facilities since 2004, and later, the facilities the community asked for were rationalised by government in the Stromlo Forest Park Mastering Plan in 2010. Once again, the funding is yet to be committed,” says Peter.

Key provisions for the sport and recreational component of cycling include a 12-kilometre road circuit around Stromlo and an extension of the current criterium circuit. These provisions have also been listed within five major priorities for Stromlo Forest Park by the SFP User Group Committee.

Given road cycling’s popularity, the proposed 12-kilometre cycling circuit and criterium extension would underpin local events and significantly take the burden away from shared paths and encourage more people to cycle because of the safer environment.

Part of the issue in formulating an argument for improved facilities has been the lack of data around participation. It is often hard to quantify because of the ‘self-organised’ recreational and commuting aspect of cycling.
It is far easier to assess participation in sports such as soccer as most players are registered with a club.

Another aspect has been the resistance of government to embrace the needs of the cycling community. Progress has been static to say the least.

The comments from many in the community to RiotACT provide a barometer of the work required to create greater understanding.

“I wasn’t surprised by the response,” says Peter, “And many of the opinions are perfectly valid in highlighting the shortcomings in Canberra’s active travel and sporting infrastructure investment. Active travel and sport play a major role in Canberra’s health and wellbeing. As the needs of Canberra’s growing population evolve, the design of our roads, shared paths and sporting infrastructure also needs to keep pace.

“The quicker government invest in ways to address the issues raised in this thread, the safer and happier everybody will be. If we all aspire to walking, jogging, cycling, and driving in harmony, it makes sense for city planners to step up and provide better solutions.”

Surely the time has come for the development of a workable master plan to create a safer environment for cyclists while at the same time relieving those impacted by them, particularly on the roads and cycleways.

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Can I start by talking about the first point-cycling generally. There is no doubt that our cycling-walking infrastructure badly needs updating. But more importantly I would like to see a government commitment to duplicate these “multi use footpaths” right across Canberra as I believe they need to be separated as much as possible for the convenience and safety of the “travelling public”. The government continually peddles the active travel mantra yet does little about it. It would be costly to implement, and require honesty on the user to add a nominal rego fee for serious bike users with little percentage return to government. However, this is the cost of implementing government philosophy and demand aka active travel. Instead of spending all that tram money going to Woden, go to the airport instead and use the spare cash to kickstart an active travel infrastructure plan.

rationalobserver7:06 am 22 Jan 21

The cycling master plan already exists and is plain to see.
It entails the removal of all private motor vehicles from our roads.
There is a multi faceted approach to this, from removal of parking, to inconvenience by phasing traffic lights to favor pedestrians / cyclists and trams, and financial disincentives such as fines, parking fees, etc.

despite your name you are neither rational or a very good observer.

We don’t have an infrastructure problem here in Canberra – more an attitude and education problem around sharing our infrastructure with respect and courtesy..

Martin Miller makes a good point that sport cycling and transport cycling are two very different things. There’s some overlap, of course, but two different issues.

To the people decrying spending money on bike infrastructure I’d make a couple of points: the percentage of the infrastructure budget that’s spent on cycling infrastructure is much lower than the percentage of people who use it. While it’s not practical for everyone to commute by bike, those who need or want to drive benefit from bike infrastructure too — fewer cars on the road means less traffic, better (separated) infrastructure means fewer unpleasant bike/car interactions, fewer drivers means less competition for parking. I’ve not seen Australian numbers, but there’s a Canadian study knocking around that shows that while driving costs society about $9 per dollar spent by the driver, whereas cycling costs society a handful of cents. Good cycling infrastructure means kids can be more independent, it reduces pollution (noise/particulate/carbon), there are obvious fitness benefits, it’s good for people who can’t afford to drive. Plus bike paths are pretty cheap compared to roads.

Capital Retro12:00 pm 20 Jan 21

All cycling paths should be re-routed through the National Arboretum Theme Park so cyclists can harvest the money trees on their way.

For goodness sake, where else is the money coming from for all these demands? It is clear that most commenters so far have never risked a dollar of their own as they expect taxpayer funded commitments for all things to do with cycling.

A lot of people in Canberra don’t even have a bed to lie in or if they have to be hospitalised they can’t even get a bed to die in.

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