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Lives are at risk on Commonwealth Avenue Bridge

By Anne Treasure - 30 March 2017 33

bridge photo

Using the western path on the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge continues to be hazardous for people on bikes, years after a ‘terrifying near-miss‘ and multiple incidents since then threatening Canberran lives.

Strong winds on the bridge, and potential human error among path users have the potential for disastrous consequences, with low railings providing an insufficient barrier from motor vehicle traffic.

The National Capital Authority is well aware of the problem, with cycling groups including Pedal Power ACT and the Canberra Cycling Club reporting the issue again and again over many years.

Many individuals in the Canberra bicycle community have voiced concern regarding the zone. Alan Muir was prompted to contact me after a photo (above) was published of the bridge from the March bike count, and triggered memories of a recent experience.

“I am an experienced bike rider with 30 years riding in and around Canberra both on and off road with my share of harrowing incidents. However I have just recently experienced the most frightening near-miss on a casual and normally riskless ride home,” said Mr Muir, who works at ANU.

“I was riding my road bike over the western side of Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, I was half way across heading south, staying left to allow for other on-coming pedestrians, when hit by a medium gust of westerly wind.”

“I was forced about half a meter towards the 0.6 metre (approximately) high barrier dividing the foot/bike path and the road.”

“Beyond this barrier are on-coming cars where there is no safe gap at all.  If I had gone across any further I would have hit the barrier, over balanced and being top heavy would have no doubt toppled over the barrier into on-coming 70klm/h traffic with little chance of survival.”

Changes to the western side of the bridge were planned some years ago but the unexpected cost of fixing Scrivener Dam gates meant that money for the project was redirected.

In mid-March, the National Capital Authority said that temporary traffic management arrangements will be put into place while a long-term solution is developed. They anticipate that this will happen within the next three months.

We need action on this matter now. Lives are at risk, and further delays increase the likelihood that a tragedy will occur in the heart of the Capital.

Anne Treasure is the Communications Manager for Pedal Power ACT. She writes on bike riding in the ACT from the perspective of a lapsed bicycle rider who should be cycling more. 

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33 Responses to
Lives are at risk on Commonwealth Avenue Bridge
1
mneuling 9:23 am
30 Mar 17
#

IMHO Kings Ave has a even worse problem with no barrier at all on the Russell end. See here:
https://www.google.com.au/maps/@-35.3006096,149.1435168,3a,75y,284.83h,68.43t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sMHRDvEWz4n_fR4EOJgNKNw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656
Being such a popular family route, you often see 2-3 yo kids riding their balance bikes/scooters there with no barrier and little distance to cars/trucks going 70kph.

2
chewy14 10:25 am
30 Mar 17
#

So the solution is what exactly?

Could it be that instead of asking for large sums of money to be spent, so that cyclists do not have to alter their riding styles or speed one iota, they take the same advice that they give to motorists about driving near bike riders?

Slow down around hazards, and if it’s too windy for even that, get off and walk.

3
Masquara 11:02 am
30 Mar 17
#

I’d like to see an assessment of the risk from someone not associated with Pedal Power. Let’s not forget that the powers that be regard spray from the Captain Cook Water Jet as a safety risk to motorists! Until the budget can afford these measures, get off and walk your bike if it’s windy …

4
Masquara 11:03 am
30 Mar 17
#

The cited incident had nothing to do with wind! It was “two cyclists colliding” – how did that happen exactly?

5
jcjordan 11:33 am
30 Mar 17
#

Chewy14 and i should be happy with millions being soent on car drivers infrastructure just so they dont have to change their driving style?

6
Acton 12:04 pm
30 Mar 17
#

Anne:

Once again you are focussing purely on the interests of cyclists without regard to the interests and safety of other road users, especially pedestrians.

The community does not have to put the interests of high speed cyclists above everyone else.

Cyclists, contrary to what Pedal Power believes, are not some elite group in the community deserving special privileges.

I’ve asked you before (without being given a direct answer) about the consequences to a pedestrian (adult or child) of a collision with a cyclist travelling at 30-50 km/h.

Observing the behaviour of erratic pedestrians and speeding cyclists around Lake Burley Griffin, there is a high likelihood of a serious accident on the shared path, particularly on the stretch from just before the Art Gallery, to just past the National Library. On the basis of your article that danger zone clearly includes the shared paths across Kings Ave and Commonwealth Ave bridges.

If the ACT Minister for Transport took her responsibility for public safety seriously, there would be a ban on all high-speed cyclists using the shared path around Lake Burley Griffin. These paths are suitable for leisurely scenic family cycle rides, not for wannabe Olympians trying to set a new personal best. The safety of pedestrians takes precedence over the convenience and aspirations of hoon cyclists.

When driving a car we now have to provide a minimum distance of 1 metre when overtaking a cyclist. Despite the predictable howls of protest from Pedal Power there should be a similar rule such as:

‘When riding a bicycle you must provide a minimum distance of 1 metre when overtaking a pedestrian’.

I agree with chewy14’s radical idea that if it is unsafe for cyclists to cross the bridge in high wind without putting themselves, pedestrians and car drivers at risk then they should get off their bicycles and walk.

7
chewy14 1:54 pm
30 Mar 17
#

jcjordan said :

Chewy14 and i should be happy with millions being soent on car drivers infrastructure just so they dont have to change their driving style?

jcjordan,
where exactly do motorists ask for expensive infrastructure to be spent so they don’t have to alter their driving style (note style) for a minute? Driving to the conditions of the road is a fundamental requirement of driving.

And that’s not even to start on the taxation, funding and economics issues regarding infrastructure funding.

8
Holden Caulfield 1:57 pm
30 Mar 17
#

Another suggestion to offer immediate respite from the apparent life threatening hazard of the low barrier on the western side of Commonwealth Ave bridge is to make the cycle traffic one way and mirror the direction of traffic the adjacent lanes. Not perfect, but it could be done in a very short time frame with a few signs, some new paint, and at little cost to the taxpayer.

The point about the Russell end of Kings Ave bridge is a good one too, and even as a pedestrian I sometimes remind myself not to be too complacent while doing my best to keep left when walking across the bridge towards Parliament House.

There are a few pinch points on the central loop where patience is a cyclist’s best method (near the Sculpture Garden, for example). But when I’ve been on my bike other cyclists have overtaken me here while I’ve been waiting behind a pedestrian for a safe moment to pass.

Taking the central basin discussion further, around two thirds of this loop has no barrier at all to help prevent users of the path from falling into the lake. While this outcome would be much better than falling into the way of an oncoming car, or worse, does Pedal Power hold any concerns over the safety of its constituents in this regard?

9
Maya123 2:14 pm
30 Mar 17
#

Acton said :

Anne:

Once again you are focussing purely on the interests of cyclists without regard to the interests and safety of other road users, especially pedestrians.

The community does not have to put the interests of high speed cyclists above everyone else.

Cyclists, contrary to what Pedal Power believes, are not some elite group in the community deserving special privileges.

I’ve asked you before (without being given a direct answer) about the consequences to a pedestrian (adult or child) of a collision with a cyclist travelling at 30-50 km/h.

Observing the behaviour of erratic pedestrians and speeding cyclists around Lake Burley Griffin, there is a high likelihood of a serious accident on the shared path, particularly on the stretch from just before the Art Gallery, to just past the National Library. On the basis of your article that danger zone clearly includes the shared paths across Kings Ave and Commonwealth Ave bridges.

If the ACT Minister for Transport took her responsibility for public safety seriously, there would be a ban on all high-speed cyclists using the shared path around Lake Burley Griffin. These paths are suitable for leisurely scenic family cycle rides, not for wannabe Olympians trying to set a new personal best. The safety of pedestrians takes precedence over the convenience and aspirations of hoon cyclists.

When driving a car we now have to provide a minimum distance of 1 metre when overtaking a cyclist. Despite the predictable howls of protest from Pedal Power there should be a similar rule such as:

‘When riding a bicycle you must provide a minimum distance of 1 metre when overtaking a pedestrian’.

I agree with chewy14’s radical idea that if it is unsafe for cyclists to cross the bridge in high wind without putting themselves, pedestrians and car drivers at risk then they should get off their bicycles and walk.

The path around the lake wouldn’t exist except for cycling. That is why it was built. Now you basically want to ban many people from cycling on a path that was built for cycling. There should be no problem if people walk also on it. I do and have never had a problem. Most people get it and fortunately do keep left. Only a minority don’t, but I guess it is those who complain.
It’s not rocket science. KEEP LEFT! Easy. Then no matter how fast the bikes are going it won’t matter as you won’t be in each other’s way.

As for Commonwealth Bridge, it is dangerous in strong westerlies. I have on a number of occasions got off and walked.

10
Postalgeek 2:31 pm
30 Mar 17
#

Acton said :

If the ACT Minister for Transport took her responsibility for public safety seriously, there would be a ban on all high-speed cyclists using the shared path around Lake Burley Griffin. These paths are suitable for leisurely scenic family cycle rides, not for wannabe Olympians trying to set a new personal best. The safety of pedestrians takes precedence over the convenience and aspirations of hoon cyclists.

If you actually believe what you say about the safety of pedestrians taking precedence over convenience, I guess you’ll be pushing for all urban road speed limits to be lowered to leisurely scenic family 40 kmph speeds, given that from 2009 -2014 bicycles made up 0.4% of the vehicles involved in fatal pedestrian accidents and that 60% of pedestrian fatalities occur in in 50-60 kmph zones.

https://bitre.gov.au/publications/2015/files/is_070.pdf

Otherwise I’ll assume you’re okay with pedestrian deaths when it comes to not inconveniencing you and your personal choice of mode of transport.

11
Leon Arundell 4:32 pm
30 Mar 17
#

What priority should this section of path get, relative to the risks at the many other places where pedestrians and cyclists have _actually_ been injured, as indicated on the Government’s pedestrian crash map (https://www.data.act.gov.au/Transport/Pedestrian-Crashes-Heat-Map/9pg2-xhki ) and cyclist crashes map (https://www.data.act.gov.au/Transport/Cyclist-Crashes-Map/qf9h-86cj )?

12
jcjordan 4:50 pm
30 Mar 17
#

chewy14 said :

jcjordan said :

Chewy14 and i should be happy with millions being soent on car drivers infrastructure just so they dont have to change their driving style?

jcjordan,
where exactly do motorists ask for expensive infrastructure to be spent so they don’t have to alter their driving style (note style) for a minute? Driving to the conditions of the road is a fundamental requirement of driving.

And that’s not even to start on the taxation, funding and economics issues regarding infrastructure funding.

The major remodel of the roundabout on the Barton Hwy and the demand that it should be an overpass so that they are not forced to slow down is a good start. The double of the lanes along Ashely drive is another. Every one of these are so that drivers can drive at their preferred style of ‘high speed without interruption’

13
chewy14 8:23 pm
30 Mar 17
#

jcjordan said :

chewy14 said :

jcjordan said :

Chewy14 and i should be happy with millions being soent on car drivers infrastructure just so they dont have to change their driving style?

jcjordan,
where exactly do motorists ask for expensive infrastructure to be spent so they don’t have to alter their driving style (note style) for a minute? Driving to the conditions of the road is a fundamental requirement of driving.

And that’s not even to start on the taxation, funding and economics issues regarding infrastructure funding.

The major remodel of the roundabout on the Barton Hwy and the demand that it should be an overpass so that they are not forced to slow down is a good start. The double of the lanes along Ashely drive is another. Every one of these are so that drivers can drive at their preferred style of ‘high speed without interruption’

jcjordan said :

chewy14 said :

jcjordan said :

Chewy14 and i should be happy with millions being soent on car drivers infrastructure just so they dont have to change their driving style?

jcjordan,
where exactly do motorists ask for expensive infrastructure to be spent so they don’t have to alter their driving style (note style) for a minute? Driving to the conditions of the road is a fundamental requirement of driving.

And that’s not even to start on the taxation, funding and economics issues regarding infrastructure funding.

The major remodel of the roundabout on the Barton Hwy and the demand that it should be an overpass so that they are not forced to slow down is a good start. The double of the lanes along Ashely drive is another. Every one of these are so that drivers can drive at their preferred style of ‘high speed without interruption’

Haha, I was almost certain you were going to bring something like this up which I why I mentioned driving “style” and pure convenience.
Most large upgrades like the ones you’ve mentioned have a safety component yes, but they also have a large economic payback because of reduced accidents and because they allow workers to travel quicker between places of work and reduce CO2 emissions and fuel usage from cars idling in gridlock.

If they were simply about drivers not altering their driving style at all, they would never be built. For example, the Majura Parkway has a cost benefit ratio of over 5:1 for the money spent, it isn’t about drivers demanding that they not have to slow down.

The problem in the OP is mainly about cyclists being unwilling to ride to conditions, and is completely unreasonable considering there is an easy fix that costs $0 and has very little downside

14
jason.edu 12:35 am
31 Mar 17
#

why is this different to cycling on any other road? you get hit by a gust of wind, blown into traffic and the result will be the the same.

people need to take personal responsibility for their safety and not look to the Government all the time to solve the problem for them. do we really want to live in this type of society?

if you don’t like riding the bridge walk, go around the lake or better yet wrap yourself in cotton wool and stay at home.

15
wildturkeycanoe 7:29 am
31 Mar 17
#

The comment about the path around LBG being built for bicycles just goes to show the arrogance of cyclists. I counter with this – Commonwealth Avenue bridge wouldn’t exist except for vehicles and pedestrians, so why are cyclists allowed on it?
Jason.edu pretty much sums up the whole thing, take some personal responsibility and stop asking for the government to protect you from everything. If a gust of wind can push you over into traffic, what about all the other roads where you have no barriers? Ride to the conditions. If you have to keep close to the barrier due to pedestrian traffic, then logically you should also be going slower as a safety measure. It seems the only reason cyclists keep asking for safety infrastructure is so they can ride as fast as possible. Here’s a tip for getting somewhere more quickly, drive!

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