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.