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How safe are Canberra’s streets for bike riders?

By Anne Treasure - 19 September 2016 39

Broken_Bike (2)

“The value of cycling in Sydney has been undermined by hysterical claims that bike riding will cripple the city’s economy, misleading stories that distort data to proclaim that less people are riding, and wilful ignorance of good practice overseas,” said Sydney’s Mayor Clover Moore.

Recent horror stories about Sydney’s ‘War on Cyclists’ might make many Canberrans feel smug about our highly-valued cycling culture…

In Canberra we are fortunate that the ACT Government recognises the value of active travel.

Cycling and walking are promoted as forms of transport, and when evidence that these activities are being threatened comes to light, the Government has taken steps to address this.

And yet Canberra roads continue to be dangerous for cyclists.

Data from the recently-released 2015 ACT Road Crash Report indicates that the only upward trend in casualties were those involving vulnerable road users. This trend was exemplified late last month when a bus struck a bike rider on Northbourne Avenue during morning peak hour.

table vulnerable road users

The report recognises that the ACT has a greater cycling participation rate than the national average, and it is to their credit that the ACT Government has started to introduce reforms aimed at making the roads safer for cyclists and other vulnerable road users.

Recent implementation of recommendations from the Vulnerable Road User Inquiry – which include making it illegal to throw things at bike ridersthe minimum overtaking distance laws and riding across crossingsdiscussion about helmet laws and new driver competency – are encouraging, but there is far more that the Government needs to do in order to show Canberrans that cycling is a safe and valid form of everyday transport.

A recent Transport Canberra survey showed that nearly a third of ACT survey respondents would be very unlikely to encourage their children to walk or cycle to school.

With childhood obesity becoming a massive problem in affluent countries like Australia, this should set off alarm bells.

Not everyone can cycle, but support for programs such as Fitability means that more Canberrans get to experience the joy and freedom of recreational cycling.

So what else could the ACT Government do?

Safe separated bike lanes on Canberra streets would help more people feel confident cycling on the road.

An awareness campaign that illustrates the social, financial and environmental benefits of cycling.

Finally, informing the public about the very safe and extensive cycle paths throughout Canberra, means those that are able are given every opportunity to enjoy the health and economic benefits of cycling while largely removing the need to cycle near cars, trucks and buses at all.

Pedal Power ACT is holding an Election Forum on September 27 for Canberrans to put these questions to politicians and candidates. Everyone is welcome to come along and let our potential new Government know that cycling and active travel is important, and there is more to be done.

Anne Treasure is a communications consultant living in Canberra. She is currently working with Pedal Power ACT and Capital Cycling.

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39 Responses to
How safe are Canberra’s streets for bike riders?
1
rommeldog56 7:40 am
19 Sep 16
#

I cycle – for pleasure and a little fitness, not for commuting and I don’t cycle on roads for time trials getting to work, etc. In fact, I rarely use roads, unless to cross them. I think Canberra has a great bike path network, btw.

From the OP “And yet Canberra roads continue to be dangerous for cyclists” : Of course – I would have thought that roads will always be “dangerous” for cyclists. Unless of course, other road users are not using roads. Roads are also dangerous for car/bus/truck drivers.

From the OP ” Safe separated bike lanes on Canberra streets would help more people feel confident cycling on the road.” What are u advocating ? On ALL roads. There are already separated bike lanes on many main roads.

From the OP ” indicates that the only upward trend in casualties were those involving vulnerable road users.” Canberra is growing. So, unfortunately, I wouldn’t think that claim is surprising actually.

Also, the use of the term “Casualities” is interesting/emotive. Does this mean “incidents” ? Does it mean Does it mean “injuries”. Does it mean “deaths” ? Are ALL these “casulities” caused by car/bus/truck drivers ? Are some not self inflicted due to carelessness of drivers ? Are some “casulities” not cyclists hitting pedestrians or some other vulnerable road user colliding with another vulnerable road user ?

Looking at the graph, I would say that walking as a way to address fitness/obesity, is safer.

2
Holden Caulfield 12:49 pm
19 Sep 16
#

“An awareness campaign that illustrates the social, financial and environmental benefits of cycling.”

They are indeed benefits of cycling, I just can’t see them changing the behaviour of too many non-cyclists. You’ll need a much better hook than that.

I have a small cycle commute to work and also ride for fitness/pleasure when the weather and my mood suits. Where possible I will stick to shared paths or roads that have a dedicated cycle lane. Where that is not possible I will at least try and navigate myself to a road that has less traffic.

It’s just not worth the risk, even the most fair minded and aware motorist can make a mistake, let alone an ignorant fool. Therefore, I’d rather reduce my exposure where I can. The only laws that really matter are the laws of physics and they don’t paint a pretty picture in a cyclist v car collision.

Cycling on the road is dangerous, as rommeldog56 has pointed out. In a perfect world cyclists and motorists wouldn’t share the road.

3
Deref 1:09 pm
19 Sep 16
#

I’ve lost two cyclist friends, killed by inattentive motorists. As my old Dad used to say, “I was in the right” makes a great epitaph. The road is no place for cyclists.

4
Paul Costigan 1:41 pm
19 Sep 16
#

Unfortunately this city was designed for cars. We are yet to see an ACT government really committed to getting it right on the mix of transport. Shared paths do not work. They can be dangerous. I gave up cycling after being twice run off the road by ACTON buses – didn’t wait for the third to happen. I enjoy driving – and walk locally as much as I can. Rarely use public transport in Canberra; but am a public transport junkie in Melbourne and Sydney (Opal card at the ready) and other cities.

We have a long way to go on this in Canberra – I am sure it will happen one day.

Meanwhile you might enjoy this link and watch the time lapse video.

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/aug/11/cycling-amsterdam-bike-jams-bicycle-mayor-anna-luten

It does not work well in Amsterdam as some claim – we had a friend who died after being knock out when hit by a scooter while she was going for walk.

5
Maya123 2:17 pm
19 Sep 16
#

Paul Costigan said :

Unfortunately this city was designed for cars. We are yet to see an ACT government really committed to getting it right on the mix of transport. Shared paths do not work. They can be dangerous. I gave up cycling after being twice run off the road by ACTON buses – didn’t wait for the third to happen. I enjoy driving – and walk locally as much as I can. Rarely use public transport in Canberra; but am a public transport junkie in Melbourne and Sydney (Opal card at the ready) and other cities.

We have a long way to go on this in Canberra – I am sure it will happen one day.

Meanwhile you might enjoy this link and watch the time lapse video.

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/aug/11/cycling-amsterdam-bike-jams-bicycle-mayor-anna-luten

It does not work well in Amsterdam as some claim – we had a friend who died after being knock out when hit by a scooter while she was going for walk.

“Unfortunately this city was designed for cars.”
And trams too, after seeing an early map.

Imagine what that Amsterdam scene would be like if each person on one of those bikes was replaced with a car.
Sorry about your friend, but here in Canberra scooters are not allowed on bike paths.

6
Anne Treasure 8:11 am
22 Sep 16
#

Paul Costigan said :

Unfortunately this city was designed for cars. We are yet to see an ACT government really committed to getting it right on the mix of transport. Shared paths do not work. They can be dangerous. I gave up cycling after being twice run off the road by ACTON buses – didn’t wait for the third to happen. I enjoy driving – and walk locally as much as I can. Rarely use public transport in Canberra; but am a public transport junkie in Melbourne and Sydney (Opal card at the ready) and other cities.

We have a long way to go on this in Canberra – I am sure it will happen one day.

Meanwhile you might enjoy this link and watch the time lapse video.

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/aug/11/cycling-amsterdam-bike-jams-bicycle-mayor-anna-luten

It does not work well in Amsterdam as some claim – we had a friend who died after being knock out when hit by a scooter while she was going for walk.

Oh interesting, it seems most people do hold up Amsterdam as the ultimate goal for a city who aspires to everyday active transport.

The problem with saying that we have a long way to go in Canberra to make riding safe and feasible for commuting is that there is such a great network of cycle paths, that mean people commuting on bikes can largely avoid roads.

I agree that there are a fair few areas that need to work on linking up the cycle paths so that roads can be avoided altogether, and any future ACT government should commit to doing that as a baseline “active travel” goal. And they clearly need to make people – those who cycle and those who may like to again, like yourself – more aware of the existence of the paths.

7
rommeldog56 8:31 am
22 Sep 16
#

Anne Treasure said :

The problem with saying that we have a long way to go in Canberra to make riding safe and feasible for commuting is that there is such a great network of cycle paths, that mean people commuting on bikes can largely avoid roads.

I agree that there are a fair few areas that need to work on linking up the cycle paths so that roads can be avoided altogether, and any future ACT government should commit to doing that as a baseline “active travel” goal. And they clearly need to make people – those who cycle and those who may like to again, like yourself – more aware of the existence of the paths.

Cycling for commuting or recreation will never be “safe”. Safer, maybe, but not safe. Linking up bike paths and better maintaining them to encourage cyclists to avoid roads is much, much more safe and avoids the unnecessary added safety risk of cycling on roads.

8
dungfungus 10:03 am
22 Sep 16
#

Anne Treasure said :

Paul Costigan said :

Unfortunately this city was designed for cars. We are yet to see an ACT government really committed to getting it right on the mix of transport. Shared paths do not work. They can be dangerous. I gave up cycling after being twice run off the road by ACTON buses – didn’t wait for the third to happen. I enjoy driving – and walk locally as much as I can. Rarely use public transport in Canberra; but am a public transport junkie in Melbourne and Sydney (Opal card at the ready) and other cities.

We have a long way to go on this in Canberra – I am sure it will happen one day.

Meanwhile you might enjoy this link and watch the time lapse video.

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/aug/11/cycling-amsterdam-bike-jams-bicycle-mayor-anna-luten

It does not work well in Amsterdam as some claim – we had a friend who died after being knock out when hit by a scooter while she was going for walk.

Oh interesting, it seems most people do hold up Amsterdam as the ultimate goal for a city who aspires to everyday active transport.

The problem with saying that we have a long way to go in Canberra to make riding safe and feasible for commuting is that there is such a great network of cycle paths, that mean people commuting on bikes can largely avoid roads.

I agree that there are a fair few areas that need to work on linking up the cycle paths so that roads can be avoided altogether, and any future ACT government should commit to doing that as a baseline “active travel” goal. And they clearly need to make people – those who cycle and those who may like to again, like yourself – more aware of the existence of the paths.

“Oh interesting, it seems most people do hold up Amsterdam as the ultimate goal for a city who aspires to everyday active transport.”

Could that be because it is flat as a pancake and has limited areas for cars?
That is not Canberra topography, especially Tuggeranong.

9
rommeldog56 10:51 am
22 Sep 16
#

What is PedalPowers position on compulsory wearing of helmets by cyclists ? There was considerable debate on here a while back about a proposal that the wearing of helmets be non compulsory in specified areas. Will this be raised at the PedalPower election forum on 27 September ?

If so, here is some breaking news on that issue. The largest review yet of bike helmet use by 64,000 injured cyclists worldwide has found helmets reduce the chances of a serious head injury by nearly 70 per cent.

See this article here :

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/bike-helmet-review-throws-cold-water-on-sceptics-theyll-likely-save-your-life-20160914-grg5mo.html

If an objective is to keep cyclists ‘safe” on streets and on bike paths, keeping the mandatory wearing of helmets by all cyclists everywhere is a good start.

10
User777 11:06 am
22 Sep 16
#

Life is dangerous people; live at your own risk or wrap yourself in cotton wool and stay at home.

11
Maya123 12:08 pm
22 Sep 16
#

User777 said :

Life is dangerous people; live at your own risk or wrap yourself in cotton wool and stay at home.

Earthquakes! Your house might fall on you…

12
Rustygear 7:49 pm
22 Sep 16
#

I commute ride as my fitness method because I get bored by fitness-freak dedicated exercise. I don’t wear lycra. I ride slow. Actually I have diabetes and cycle to stay on minimal medication and so the condition doesn’t progress – absolutely I am no hero or fitness fascist. Just trying to be positive and take care of myself a bit. But I am really fearful of an accident (or road rage) – I worry that it is almost inevitable. The worst places are those ‘green lanes’ which in my mind are quite simply kill zones. Going off the bridge on Commonwealth Ave toward the city – there’s no practical alternative without lengthy detours – you go through three terrible high-speed kill zones before reaching the safety of Vernon Circle. I’m so, so vulnerable, just an old guy on a bike in the middle of cars racing high-speed, veering around changing lanes on both sides of me. All it takes is a luckless idiot or a hater, and I’m a smashed vegetable. How I wish that the planners and the govt would have a little care about people like me who are just trying to avoid health problems with a little physical activity. The only safe option is physically separated cycle lanes in places where there are high-speed cars, narrow main roads (like Flemington Rd past Epic) or complex intersections. I really don’t see why not.

13
Maya123 10:17 pm
22 Sep 16
#

Rustygear said :

I commute ride as my fitness method because I get bored by fitness-freak dedicated exercise. I don’t wear lycra. I ride slow. Actually I have diabetes and cycle to stay on minimal medication and so the condition doesn’t progress – absolutely I am no hero or fitness fascist. Just trying to be positive and take care of myself a bit. But I am really fearful of an accident (or road rage) – I worry that it is almost inevitable. The worst places are those ‘green lanes’ which in my mind are quite simply kill zones. Going off the bridge on Commonwealth Ave toward the city – there’s no practical alternative without lengthy detours – you go through three terrible high-speed kill zones before reaching the safety of Vernon Circle. I’m so, so vulnerable, just an old guy on a bike in the middle of cars racing high-speed, veering around changing lanes on both sides of me. All it takes is a luckless idiot or a hater, and I’m a smashed vegetable. How I wish that the planners and the govt would have a little care about people like me who are just trying to avoid health problems with a little physical activity. The only safe option is physically separated cycle lanes in places where there are high-speed cars, narrow main roads (like Flemington Rd past Epic) or complex intersections. I really don’t see why not.

I ride across the path on Commonwealth Bridge, take the shared/bike path through Commonwealth Park, the bridge over Parkes Way and arrive in Civic near the swimming pool. Try that route. There’s no way I would want to ride towards Civic along Commonwealth Avenue.

14
TimboinOz 9:01 am
23 Sep 16
#

Main roads and bicycles are NOT a good mix, it’s called physics or mechanics by Newton. Get over yourselves.

There are plenty of back roads and bike paths.

I began to go off the Green’s agenda on this alone, when all the $$$$ were spent on bike lanes on roads like Cotter Road past Curtin.

The tram’s just the last straw!

15
dungfungus 9:10 am
23 Sep 16
#

Maya123 said :

Rustygear said :

I commute ride as my fitness method because I get bored by fitness-freak dedicated exercise. I don’t wear lycra. I ride slow. Actually I have diabetes and cycle to stay on minimal medication and so the condition doesn’t progress – absolutely I am no hero or fitness fascist. Just trying to be positive and take care of myself a bit. But I am really fearful of an accident (or road rage) – I worry that it is almost inevitable. The worst places are those ‘green lanes’ which in my mind are quite simply kill zones. Going off the bridge on Commonwealth Ave toward the city – there’s no practical alternative without lengthy detours – you go through three terrible high-speed kill zones before reaching the safety of Vernon Circle. I’m so, so vulnerable, just an old guy on a bike in the middle of cars racing high-speed, veering around changing lanes on both sides of me. All it takes is a luckless idiot or a hater, and I’m a smashed vegetable. How I wish that the planners and the govt would have a little care about people like me who are just trying to avoid health problems with a little physical activity. The only safe option is physically separated cycle lanes in places where there are high-speed cars, narrow main roads (like Flemington Rd past Epic) or complex intersections. I really don’t see why not.

I ride across the path on Commonwealth Bridge, take the shared/bike path through Commonwealth Park, the bridge over Parkes Way and arrive in Civic near the swimming pool. Try that route. There’s no way I would want to ride towards Civic along Commonwealth Avenue.

I was unaware there was a dedicated bike path over Commonwealth Bridge.

Where is it exactly?

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