11 May 2023

ACT Government reveals plans to roll out European-style intersections across Canberra

| James Coleman
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Intersection planning

An artist’s impression of future ACT intersections. Image: ACT Government.

Canberra’s intersections will begin to look a lot like those in Europe under a new government plan.

The ACT Government’s draft ‘Design Guide’ calls for raised pedestrian crossings, coloured cycle paths, narrower roads and tighter corners to be rolled out across Canberra in an effort to slow down motorists and provide better protections for ‘active travel’ users.

“Canberra has great infrastructure for walking and cycling, but it does not always give priority to vulnerable road users in ways that will encourage more people to choose active travel,” the 35-page document reads.

“More Canberrans will walk and ride if it is safer, more accessible, convenient and comfortable. This starts with the basic design of our city’s streets.”

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The guide outlines plans to encourage “drivers to be more observant” and separate “cyclists and other vulnerable users from road users with higher speeds and higher mass”.

“Tightening an intersection’s geometry through the use of kerb build-outs, sharp kerb radii, narrow lanes, and limiting the number of lanes all contribute to lower speeds,” the guide reads.

New roundabout designs aim to “reduce speed and give time to observe each conflict in turn” with raised pedestrian crossings and cycle paths ensuring motorists pause before entering.

Future slip lanes and large high-speed roundabouts are ruled out in favour of traffic lights to “minimise intersection footprint and pedestrian crossing times”.

Light rail

Light Rail Stage 2A plans for the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and London Circuit. Photo: ACT Government.

Intersection design should also prioritise public transport, and include signals that give buses a head start.

“The goal of the intersection should be to not strictly reduce the number of conflicts, but to ensure a space where street users are visible and predictable in their actions,” the guide reads.

Canberra’s current thoroughfares aren’t exempt either.

“Existing streets need to be assessed on an individual basis and require traffic calming if current speeds exceed survivable speeds.”

These heavily European-inspired design principles have already been put into practice during recent upgrades to the Tuggeranong and Woden town centres, but they’re set to become the new standard across Canberra in coming years.

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ACT Transport Minister Chris Steel shared one of the sketches on his official Facebook page on 6 May as one of the “new best-practice designs for intersections in Canberra”.

“While every intersection won’t be retrofitted to look like this overnight, you can already see some of these design principles incorporated in our newer infrastructure projects, like Light Rail Stage 2A,” he said.

However, not everyone in the comments was so excited.

“This is a terrible design and will put lives at risk,” one said.

“It would be better to use traffic lights, as it would keep pedestrians and cyclists apart from moving vehicles.”

Another commenter cited “blockages and confusion” around similar intersections in Canberra, such as Furzer and Worgan streets in Phillip and Alinga and Moore streets in Civic.

“The intersections get blocked in all directions.”

One claimed to have experienced this in Geelong, Victoria: “With space for only one car in between the crossing and the roundabout, the traffic backs up a long way. It’s really annoying.”


New road design on show in Woden. Photo: ACT Government.

The National Transport Research Organisation (NTRO), also known as the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB), is a private transport advisory company owned by the state and territory transport agencies, with offices across all major cities including Canberra. CEO Michael Caltabiano says the biggest hurdle to the designs is “education”.

“It will take people some time to adapt,” he says.

“Canberra is a city designed for the car – you’re not going to be able to just turn that off. What you’ve got to do is change that over time to meet community expectations. And the answer is not all of one and none of the other. The answer is in how we integrate these journeys [with active travel].”

Mr Caltabiano expects the plans to “work really well”, especially in low-speed environments like Civic.

“Active transport users – cyclists, pedestrians, scooter riders – are most at risk at roundabouts because drivers are focussed on what’s coming on their right, what’s ahead, and entering and exiting the roundabout. What they inevitably miss is the pedestrian and cyclist.”

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He says the new designs encourage motorists to “pause and let that active journey happen”.

Mr Caltabiano also says there is a “mountain of evidence” narrow road lanes help to reduce “the speed at which people feel they should be driving”.

“Where things don’t work is just changing a speed sign. Because if you’ve got wide, open lanes and you decide to make it 30 km/h, you’re going to be unsuccessful because there are no visual cues there.”

The draft Design Guide is open for community feedback on the YourSay Conversations website until Friday, 2 June.

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If people were taught to drive properly, non-stop scanning of the scene around them, this nonsense would never arise. How do you see everything else but ‘miss pedestrians and cyclists’ ?…..and who was the genius who has suddenly introduced that word ‘conflict’ into such a discussion ?

Between this and the “no cars in civic” proposal they will just end up pushing people to other areas, causing businesses to close. Moreover, govt departments will start to realise that their staff can remote work more, and people will start moving out of Canberra all together. Why work in Canberra where it costs you an extra $300 a week?

I wouldn’t put Woden up as a shining example of a new road design. The mess created in Corinna Street is appalling. Pedestrians must dodge bollards which take up half of the pathway. If there are two people walking side-by-side on the same pathway, then people coming the other way must walk on the roadway dodging parked cars.

Not only that, but as seen in the Woden photo in the article, the changes look messy and clearly are an afterthought when you can still see the old road markings.

Capital Retro10:33 pm 15 May 23

Why can’t we have some European type base load energy too?

I mean all the Canberra virtue signalers who have their annual greenhouse gas powered trip to Europe don’t complain about using the nuclear energy in France, do they?

From the comments, The noisiest Canberrans would rather their kids lived in Climate-change hell than that they take ten minutes longer on their daily commute. Old fogies will kill us all

Capital Retro10:29 pm 15 May 23

Your one of those “old fogies” yourself, johnsalmond.

You do realise that adding 10 minutes onto the commute of 50,000 or more cars per day would have considerable impacts on carbon emissions right?

Lets start by doubling the Rates to keep funding this nonsense.
The cost of these sorts of changes is staggering and there is no magic pudding for the future. There is no long term provisioning for maintenance etc etc.
Canberra has such a low population density that this really is unnecessary. Leave the bloody streets alone.
The game of whackamole on traffic never ends. Hit people that infringe so hard that it hurts and leave the rest of us alone.

Did these experts also investigate how effective traffic flow is through those “european style” streets and intersections? Did they investigate how fast cars travel from a to b?
Large higher speed round abouts are no probem with pedestrian and bike overpasses and pedestrian crossings with lights

TruthinMedia7:58 am 15 May 23

Walkers are the most vulnerable and have to be separated from cyclists and escooters, I’ve been hit and injured twice in 2 years by chunks of metal ridden by idiots. It’s simple, there are enough dangerous / inattentive drivers that we don’t walk everywhere on the side of the road (hence sidewalks) and it’s the same with bikes/scooters – it’s metal travelling at speed some ridden by the dangerous/inattentive.

Money grows on trees, right?

Slow the majority down for a minority yay.

Canberra has a good network of cycle paths . Rather than continuing to degrade our public streets how about constant improvement of the cycle ways.

letterboxfrog8:38 am 15 May 23

Maybe the goal is change habits. Get out of the car, and ride a bike, scoot, walk, or take public transport. The minority becomes the majority.

letterboxfrog – no public transport to where I work. If you want to die a horrible death, ride a bike on very dangerous roads. (I ride my bike on weekends on bike paths for recreation). I’ll stick to the car thanks

Jenny Graves10:54 am 16 May 23

Exactly what I was thinking. The original planners had it right, keeping cyclists and pedestrians off the roads. The next problem, though, would be convincing cyclists that the cycle paths aren’t just for them but are supposed to be shared. A speed limit for them would be helpful.

Capital Retro12:05 pm 16 May 23

A lot of us can’t do that – wait until you are old and you will know what I mean.

HiddenDragon8:20 pm 14 May 23

Making it slower and more difficult to travel by motorised vehicle won’t stop Canberrans from doing so – it will just make them even more cranky about the pests responsible for the inconvenience.

A small, one-off surcharge on annual rates to fund the (permanent) relocation to Europe of ACT officials who are obsessed with trying to turn a regional antipodean city into a swishy little Euro-enclave in the Australian bush would be a very worthwhile investment for many Canberrans.

Daniel O'CONNELL9:08 pm 14 May 23

Maybe add another levy to car rego renewals joining the Road rescue fee, the Road safety contribution, the Lifetime care and support levy (!) and the Motor accident levy.

ChrisinTurner7:53 pm 14 May 23

In Europe pedestrians and cyclists get more consideration. Getting rid of slip-lanes is a good move. Roundabouts are too dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. The proposal is a good idea so please bring them on.

Nick Stevens7:42 pm 14 May 23

Raised pedestrian/shared crossing are already being rolled out in OZ and are very successful, as with the roundabouts, I’m sure they will be fine.

Hi Nick, I think you need to get out a bit more. There is currently this type of setup on Furzer and Worgen Street in Phillip and it is a disaster waiting to happen, I use this intersection several times a day and am absolutely amazed there hasn’t been a fatality there yet. You could also go out to the Anketell/Soward/Reed streets mess, where every weekend it is like a carpark, because someone decided to remove a car lane, for a bike lane, and have two lanes forming one lane mid intersection at one of the busiest intersections in Tuggeranong. For a non local it can be very confusing.

Capital Retro10:48 am 16 May 23

Re the Anketell/Soward/Reed streets mess, I have yet to see a bike using it but vehicle traffic is gridlocking due to the sacrifice of the second motor traffic lane.

I am shopping less in Tuggeranong as a result. The Majura shopping precinct at the airport has lots more appeal with IKEA just across the road.

Did the Tuggeranong Community Council have any input in the mass that has been the outcome?

Once again, Thank you to everyone WHO voted in Labour /Greens, this is YOUR Disaster that really does need fixing. Thanks,

Susan Davidson5:16 pm 14 May 23

It’s great to see the ACT government taking a good look at contemporary evidence and practice to improve safety for all road users

David Lee (David Lee)4:45 pm 14 May 23

Using pedestrians and cyclists to slow down motorists? Are you sure it’s safe?

How are these European-style intersections?

Which country in Europe has this type of intersection? I must have missed that country on my trips.

I grew up in Europe and still visit, not just my country of origin but travel to other countries as well. I have NEVER seen an intersection as the one in the picture!

Bet you have NEVER been to Holland or Denmark!

Capital Retro9:39 pm 14 May 23

Not many people go to those boring places.

A bit too progressive for you CR?

Buses won’t fit around them .. and cars and trucks will be damaged by them. Once again, ACT Government trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist by creating another one while ignoring the real needs.

thoughtsonthesubject2:08 pm 14 May 23

Unfortunately, cars aren’t as sparse as the drawing suggests. The obvious result will be long lines of cars waiting to enter the round-about. What about the pollution of these long lines of waiting cars?
As to cyclists and scooters hitting pedestrians: as generally the police is not called, there are no official figures. However, in Europe, cities are starting to ban electric scooters as they are causing too many accidents.
With regard to reducing speed to 40kmh on Northbourne. The elephant in the room is the tram. With steel wheels on steel rails, the tram cannot brake quickly. Near-misses are frequent, and accidents also occur. If the speed of cars with very efficient braking systems needs reducing to 40kmh, then that of the tram must be reduced to at least 30kmh.

I am a motorist, cyclist (well once was) and active walker. Being a cyclist or pedestrian in Canberra is taking a grave risk! I have a beautiful bike sitting in the garage that I gave up using a few years back. I have lost my nerve, cycling in Canberra has become too dangerous! I have been hit by a motorist while cycling who had failed to look while reversing out of his driveway. I was also abused by a motorist (a police officer no doubt) while I was crossing a pedestrian crossing. I have a much loved family member who was hit by a motorist as she sped out of an underground parking lot and blamed it on him!
Canberrans must be the rudest and most self-centred drivers in the country. This is summed up from the comment from GrumpyGrandpa below that he shouldn’t have to look out for cyclists and pedestrians whilst driving!
What’s the rush folks? Why can’t motorists treat all road users with respect?
Bring it on ACT government!

GrumpyGrandpa7:23 pm 14 May 23

Hello Jack D.
You are taking my comments out of context.

My point was that motorists already have enough things to concentrate on when entering roundabouts, such as vehicles on their right entering the roundabout and those coming around in front of them. Adding pedestrians and cyclists, who could cross from either direction, simply increases the danger to all.

The problem with these so called experts is that they either dont know or dont bother to find out why some of these ideas exist in places like Europe.
Heavy vehicles are not as big in Europe, bike paths in places like Denmark are far away from roads and treated like roads for regulation of bike rider behaviour. The traffic where these things are implemented are not as dense as they are here.

It is true that insane 4WD and SUV drivers in this city are mad. Only police, vehicle and impoundment and license cancellation should be implemented in the first instance. They are the ones who abuse speed, road rules and drive aggresiveley in most instances.

Europeans actually use their brains when putting these types of development in place. It is more and more obvious that the likes of CEO Michael Caltabiano are not applying their minds to Australian conditions. If this idea turns out to be a failure (I think it will in the long run) then CEO Michael Caltabiano needs to pay a very significant price for his stupidity, along with the minister responsible , Chris Steele in this case.

This government seems to be hell bent on ‘fixing’ things that don’t need fixing. As Chris mentioned, what about our health system? Money could be far better spent on mental health and our hospitals in particular.
Capital Retro, I would also like to see significant fines for cyclists who wear headphones whilst riding. On the shared pedestrian/cycle paths, it’s not uncommon to hear someone yell out ‘on your right’ before they whiz past at a great rate of speed. I’m not very steady on my feet and all it will take to hospitalise me would be for one of these speeding fools to knock into me.
I worry that if this plan goes ahead, the instances of cyclist/pedestrian accidents will dramatically increase.

Brianna – Your comment is a bit puzzling. You say you don’t like people on bicycles who alert you that they are overtaking on your right (which is the correct thing to do) by saying “on your right” as they approach. However if they just overtook on your right without alerting you would’t you then complain as well (ie that they hadn’t warned you of their approach? May be you just don’t like people riding bicycles. If, as you say, you’re a bit unsteady on your pins, you should be a lot more worried about motorists running through red lights at crossings; they will cause a lot more damage if one hits you.

Capital Retro7:24 pm 14 May 23

Brianna was relation the inadequate warning to the excessive speed. Next time, read the whole comment.

Fact remains CR, the bicycle passing on your right is doing so at a lower speed than a motor vehicle running a red light. Hospital stats don’t lie.

GrumpyGrandpa10:57 am 14 May 23

How ridiculous!

Motorists need to concentrate on vehicles entering or driving around the roundabout and shouldn’t also need to look for pedestrians walking or cyclists cutting across, in front of them.

How would trucks or buses cope with tightened turning geometry? Being longer vehicles, their rear end would block the pedestrian crossing or cycle path.

And somehow, Minister Steele thinks this is best-practice! With raised pedestrian crossings, Pedal Power’s 30kph world is becoming real.

Capital Retro8:58 am 14 May 23

Crazy stuff. The planners are on the Kool-Aid big time.

I recall a bus tour of Spain where the tour guide constantly warned our group to be aware of over zealous cyclists, especially in Seville. This was necessary as pedestrians have to cross dedicated cycle paths and the speeding cyclists stop for no-one.

If we are to become more Euro-centric, how about copying some of their cycling regulations as well?

For example: Helmets are mandatory, outside of urban areas. Riding without one can incur a fine of 200 euro. For under 16s, helmets are mandatory even in urban areas. Wearing headphones while riding is also illegal, again punishable with a 200 euro fine.

Helmets are already mandatory across Australia, and Australia uses dollars, not Euros.

Steven Green12:28 pm 14 May 23

Meanwhile in Canberra nobody gets injured by cyclists ever. But people do get struck by cars, so traffic calming around pedestrians and cyclists seems like a good idea. Let’s see how well it works.

Barbara Wright2:07 pm 14 May 23

Several people I know have been injured by cyclists and I’m sure plenty more have. The cyclists have usually ridden off leaving the injured to sort themselves out. Impossible to find them later as well for the medical bills

Capital Retro9:34 pm 14 May 23

How many caught and how many fined and how much in fines collected?

Capital Retro9:37 pm 14 May 23

You are wrong. A schoolboy at Fadden was maimed by a cyclist who was then jailed. Do some research.

Steven Green8:37 am 15 May 23

Got a link for us?

Capital Retro11:45 am 15 May 23

One of the most thoughtless and cruelest comments made on this blog.

Please stop f ing around with the roads, speed limits etc , yeah Woden great example take away car parks to creat a bike lane seriously!!

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