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.
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.
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.