BEST OF 2021: Does the cycling community get a fair go in Canberra?

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Stromlo Criterium circuit

Stromlo Criterium circuit. Photo: Tim Gavel.

Year in Review: Region Media is revisiting some of the best Opinion articles of 2021. Here’s what got you talking, got you angry and got you thinking in 2021. Today, Tim Gavel talks cycling.

When the Stromlo Forest Park sporting facility was in the pre-development phase, post the 2003 bushfires, one proposal was for a 12-kilometre loop road for cyclists.

It would meander through the park offering a safe environment for cyclists to train and compete away from the aggression of motorists on the roads around Canberra.

A 1.2-kilometre criterium circuit was built in 2008, but the track for road cyclists didn’t make it through to the development stage, much to the dismay of the Canberra cycling community.

What has emerged in the past few years is a battle for space at Stromlo, most recently demonstrated by a proposal to trim part of the criterium circuit to make way for soccer fields. Thankfully, cyclists won the day and the criterium circuit will remain intact, with a reduction in the proposed number of soccer pitches.

READ ALSO Five minutes with Tim Gavel and Canberra cyclist Dylan Hopkins

The cycling community was effectively on the back-foot, fighting to save what they already had in terms of cycling infrastructure, let alone being in a position to campaign for more facilities.

Nonetheless, there remains a strong desire from many in cycling circles to revisit the proposal to build a 12-kilometre track at Stromlo.

Part of the reason for this is an increase in the aggression from motorists towards cyclists.

Safety – or the lack of it – has become a significant issue in Canberra.

For a safe 12-kilometre track to be built at Stromlo, the cycling community needs to prove its participation numbers. This is an almost impossible task when you look at the number of recreational riders who are not registered with any organisation.

Talking to bike shop retailers though, they suggest sales have gone through the roof during COVID-19.


Sales of bikes took off during the COVID-19 period. Photo: File.

This means more cyclists are on the road facing ever-increasing safety risks, despite the improvement in bike paths around the city.

Bike paths have also become more dangerous as the popularity of motorised scooters increases and more scooter-riders start using bike paths.

Another issue that needs to be factored in is the lack of space allocated to sporting fields in the suburbs, particularly in new suburbs.

If land had been allocated in some of the new developments around Molonglo, there wouldn’t be a need to use the Stromlo Forest Park space for soccer fields.

As the population grows, the lack of planning and problems created because of this lack of forward-thinking will become increasingly evident.

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Capital Retro10:25 pm 03 Jan 22

Has any cyclist on a shared path in Canberra ever been fined for not sounding (or affixing) a bell as they approach pedestrians?

It’s the law but like many other laws in Canberra it isn’t enforced. I’ve had two near misses lately where high speed cyclists have appeared from nowhere behind me and the only warning is a whooshing noise. Someone has already been maimed by one of these idiots and it is only a matter of when before someone is killed.

Phil Tarrant1:52 pm 04 Jan 22

There is a big problem there, as a cyclist and walker, the main issue is that when I ring my bell, some walkers jump to their left, some to their right and some do nothing. I was almost killed by one with a suitcase stepping left and then suddenly to their right, straight in front of me.
I was forced off the path onto the road in front of cars.
Even worse with groups, often a family is wandering all over and at the bell they scatter randomly with dogs, prams, kids on scooters. It’s impossible to predict. It just doesn’t work. So I stopped ringing and started just going around them (slowly).

Roman Centurian1:47 pm 02 Jan 22

This article is mainly about a bike path at Mount Stromlo, as a perceived solution to the cyclist problem in Canberra. Driving out there might suit recreational riders with a car, but does not address the issue. Riders use footpaths at times, as it is too dangerous to be on the road. Unfortunately, many of those cyclists are also motorists, so they bring the same aggressive, angry attitudes they have as Canberra drivers, to bully pedestrians. The aggressiveness in general in Canberra is something I have not found anywhere else in Australia. What is it about Canberra that makes it so? My pop psychology rationale guesses that the forced dishonesty of the extreme political correctness in the public service stops real and useful conversation and instead, generates festering anger and resentment, which finds release through taking it out on other road or footpath users.

My wife and I have been traffic control people at numerous events where we have closed off roads.

Obviously because of their mass and speed, cars are by far the most dangerous if they do something wrong.

However when it comes to ranking the demographics in order from typically least abusive to most abusive we’ve found:

Car drivers
Leisure cyclists
Serious cyclists

It always seems a bit ironic to be abused by cyclists when the road is being blocked off for other cyclists to race on.

Oh and they seem to be much more willing to be rude and offensive to my wife than to me.

Gloria Newlyn6:12 pm 01 Jan 22

Today as I was driving at Kingston Foreshore, I passed a cyclist riding with no hands right on the line so it was hard to pass within the required distance between the cyclist and my car. Also, when walking by the intersection of Honeysett View and Eyre St, I was almost knocked down by cyclists riding extremely fast through the STOP sign. There was no way they could have stopped in time to give way to traffic. So, when are these cyclists going to take responsibility and follow the road rules.

Scott Anthony6:05 pm 01 Jan 22

For their own safety, get cyclists OFF the roads or accept there will be more serious / permanent injury and death.. In terms of the costs for these major injuries, make cyclists carry insurance for it, user pays style… why should you demand others pay for your choices..? The reality is that cyclists come off as a selfish bunch who flout road laws because they very rarely ever get held accountable, until they get put in a wheel chair.. This one group of road uses has all the privileges and none of the regular safety obligations and accountability.. if you cycle and don’t like this comment, know that I don’t care.. The Laws of science over rule your opinion..

Alan Vogt,
I’m sorry but your comment about cyclists also paying rego for the cars and utes etc, doesn’t make a lot of sense.

We are charged for each vehicle we take on the roads. No one gets an exemption from registration because they have paid it on another vehicle, or they pay other Government taxes and charges.

Capital Retro3:37 pm 20 Oct 21

Alan Vogt, we all pay the fees you nominated but bicycles can only be used on them so they are exclusive for the people who have bikes and they alone should pay for extra that privilege.

The conversation seems to have ignored the fact that bicycles and scooters should give way to pedestrians, including people with prams and walking dogs. On the ever more crowded shared pathways this can be frustrating to those who want to go faster. The need to separate out faster traffic from walkers is growing. Also growing is the need for wider pathways so there is room for all – many footpaths are not even wide enough for two people to walk side by side yet alone share with bicycles and scooters.

Of all the things Canberrans could choose to comment on, this is the subject that gets a visceral response.

Canberran’s do not have correct priorities.

Morgan Small8:28 pm 06 Jan 21

Funny how everyone who comments on this topic is a saint…

Kirsten Anker3:10 pm 06 Jan 21

Every bike gives a car 5 meters more space on the roads and a vacant parking space at the destination.

rationalobserver9:32 am 06 Jan 21

Ignoring on road cycling and the many dedicated bike paths which already exist all over the ACT, there are many equivalents to the proposed 12k circuit in the park.
The gun clubs, model aero clubs, tennis clubs, golf clubs, etc, were all developed on ACT land using member funds and volunteer effort.
If there really is demand for this proposed 12k circuit, users should fund and build it themselves just like everyone else has.

You’re on a hiding to nothing writing anything about cyclists needing anything. The aggressive response is almost reflex in Aus by now.

Yeah, some cyclists can be dicks. So are quite a few motorists.
I’ve had motorists force me off bike lanes and a truck come travelling at 110kph within 6 inches, half way across the Fed Highway bike lane. A good thing I was on the far left or I wouldn’t be here. That’s not even talking about the number of people I’ve seen drive through red lights. I mean, we’ve all seen people do stupid things driving.

Personally I try to find places where there aren’t many people. The federal highway, majura parkway or the Ellerton Drive Extension. I still get things thrown at me or attempts at intimidation. Any suggestions where someone can ride where they’re not going to get abused, threatened or hurt?

Scott Anthony6:06 pm 01 Jan 22

yes, Canberra’s world class cycle path network is the safest place and is dedicated bike infrastructure.

Capital Retro8:27 am 06 Jan 21

Tim, congratulations on your appointment as Pedal Power’s new media manager!

It’s time the pampered and cosseted cyclists in Canberra understood the meaning of “user pays” because the only way forward for you is the government taxing by licencing, bike registration etc.

You will still vote for a Labor government no matter what they do and they know it.

Capital Retro. What do you mean by “user pays”? What fee do you pay to be able to use the mixed use paths? I think you will find that our rates cover all these costs and therefore provide a facility that can be used by all. That said, some common courtesy by everyone would make a big difference. As would having the paths upgraded so that they are wide enough and not full of potholes, puddles and bumps.

Capital Retro11:45 am 06 Jan 21

I mean anything for the exclusive use of cyclists – read the article which is all about getting more “cycling infrastructure”.

I extend common courtesy to all road users who are obeying the road rules but I no longer used shared paths which cannot be used by all even though we all pay for them. Some of us are too old or not agile enough to dodge cyclists. Only the thrill seekers among us can do this.

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