Business owners have welcomed discussions to improve active travel but say highly coveted on-street parking must stay in Braddon.
A series of proposals presented in an active travel discussion paper by ACT Greens MLA Jo Clay include removing roads, having car-free days, relaxing helmet-wearing restrictions on bikes and improving bike path infrastructure.
Ms Clay also proposed the removal of on-street parking in busy areas like Braddon’s Lonsdale Street and Mort Street so there could be more space for safe bike paths instead.
“On-street parking on both sides of Mort Street and Lonsdale Street provide insufficient parking and also mean there’s no room for an active travel shared path, so people can’t leave their car at home and they can’t find a car park if they drive,” the paper read.
“We need to keep enough parking near services for those who need to drive, such as people with a disability, those with very small children, the elderly and frail and those who are temporarily unable to walk due to illness. But many people could park nearby and walk or – better still – leave the car at home and use active and public transport.”
Braddon’s United Retailers & Traders (BURT) have welcomed many of these ideas – in principle at least.
“BURT supports more cycleways, better paths, expanded eScooter and eBike programs, and better connection to the light rail. We understand they are good for business, good for the community and good for the environment,” BURT spokesperson Kel Watt said.
“However, removing parking in Braddon will be a death blow to business and [cost] hundreds of jobs.
“Without convenient parking, customers will head elsewhere and desert our boutique small businesses for large franchises in the malls with multistorey parking.”
Mr Watt said the majority of businesses, customers and residents want to see better parking options – not the removal of parking.
But he didn’t rule out the idea entirely and noted that in an ideal world where the rest of Ms Clay’s ideas were implemented, he could imagine a Braddon free of on-street parking.
“Until all other aspects of Jo Clay’s proposals are in place to even make it a realistic discussion topic, an end to Braddon on-street parking must be ruled out,” Mr Watt said.
But Ms Clay noted the idea to remove street parking was just that at this stage – an idea.
“There is a discussion point about Braddon parking, but there are no firm proposals to change Braddon,” Ms Clay told Region Media.
“The paper is intended to open up the discussion for the Canberra community about how we can reduce emissions and increase our active travel while providing lots of good zero-emissions transport options that suit everyone.”
Furthermore, Mr Watt said traders have heard many proposals from ACT MLAs about changes to Braddon’s streets and parking in the last 18 months and the seeming policy confusion is leading to “uncertainty”.
The policies Mr Watt referred to include a proposal from then Greens candidate and now Minister for the Environment Rebecca Vassarotti, who proposed revamping Lonsdale and Mort streets with dedicated cycle lanes and wider footpaths, more trees and even the introduction of one-way streets.
“And we all know uncertainty is the single biggest killer of business confidence and jobs,” he said.
At the same time, work is underway to implement the so-called Braddon Place Plan. Construction of upgrades to Lonsdale Street – including more pedestrian crossings, more greenery and street seating, more street and public art and improved street lighting – was expected to begin early this year under a project being conducted by the City Renewal Authority.
Mr Watt said he’s yet to see this work begin, but he’s unconvinced by the government’s track record, given how long the upgrades to nearby Haig Park have dragged on.
The discussion paper is available here.