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Lives are at risk on Commonwealth Avenue Bridge

By Anne Treasure - 30 March 2017 35

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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Lives are at risk on Commonwealth Avenue Bridge
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mjconley 5:55 pm 25 Jun 17

As ‘Acton’ stated, as i have stated so many bloody times,

“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’.”.
mark

dungfungus 9:05 am 30 Apr 17

Leon Arundell said :

Thanks to Pedal Power, the government has made Commonwealth Avenue Bridge’s western path a 10 km/h shared zone. Any cyclist who exceeds 10 km/h can be fined for speeding.

Let me know when the first offender is fined Leon. The ACT Labor/Green government isn’t about to offend one of its largest voting blocks.

Leon Arundell 12:47 pm 29 Apr 17

Thanks to Pedal Power, the government has made Commonwealth Avenue Bridge’s western path a 10 km/h shared zone. Any cyclist who exceeds 10 km/h can be fined for speeding.

BlowMeDown 10:44 am 07 Apr 17

jcjordan said :

Cycling infrastructure for instance has a proven benefit when invested in , not only in terms of transport but also in terms of health and productivity. http://atrf.info/papers/2011/2011_Yi_Feeney_Adams_Garcia_Chandra.pdf

This study relates only to inner sydney, a generally overcrowded and toxic environment for anyone. It lists numerous benefits many of which appear to be double-counted and some appear to be contradictory. Some are completely nefarious like “Journey Ambience”. It’s all based on people saying they would ride more if … etc. It doesn’t attempt to list downside issues.

You have to do a lot of riding to get health benefits. You have to push yourself to your limits often. This isn’t your average adult recreational or commuter cyclist. Most users of dedicated cycleways will be recreational cyclists who live nearby, who drive to and from work and have the time to get out on the bike for a leisurely amble, which will not make one iota of difference to road or public transport congestion, energy use, polution. or most of the other benefits listed.

In Canberra what were originally dedicated cycleways became shared access infrastructure. Why? Because as dedicated cycleways they were grossly underutilised for the cost. We’ve done that experiment and it failed to deliver.

OpenYourMind 5:58 pm 06 Apr 17

I find it interesting that bicycles doing 30km/h around walkers is seen as such a crime, yet we allow 2 tonne cars to do 40km/h in school zones and 50 in residential areas. We also allow cars to pass cyclists with just 1mtr of space at up to 80km/h and that is ok.

Here’s an extract of a 2011 NSW report:
A recent study by the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority with Taverner Research [14
the actual risks of bicyclists and pedestrians on shared paths. They observed only five
near miss incidents and no actual contact between bicyclists and pedestrians.
],
where a total of 672 observation hours at 10 shared path locations in Sydney,
Newcastle and Wollongong were carried out observing 51,031 pedestrians and 12,319
bicyclists, concluded that the perception of danger is much greater than
Drummond [15] concluded in his report that the problem of casualties due to collisions
between cyclists and pedestrians on footpaths was of very small proportions such that
it need not be considered in the formulation of policy. Moreover, a report on
Pedestrian and Cyclists Safety from the Legislative Assembly of Queensland (1993)
concluded that collisions with motor vehicles caused the vast majority of cyclist deaths
and injuries [16].
Trevelyan and Morgan [12] found pedestrians were more likely to be injured in
bicycle-pedestrian collisions with the severity depending upon age. They added that
the integration of cyclists and pedestrians on shared user paths would largely protect
cyclists from vehicle impact injuries without unreasonably enhancing the risk to
pedestrians. They proposed that there were no major reasons to justify the exclusion of
cyclist from pedestrian areas. It was found that pedestrians do not alter their behaviour
in the presence of cyclists but cyclists do adjust appropriately to pedestrian density.
The report concluded that collisions between cyclists and pedestrians seldom occur
and that a great variety of regulatory and design measures

Mysteryman 10:27 am 03 Apr 17

Maya123 said :

Mysteryman said :

chewy14 said :

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.

You’re absolutely right. Motorists are expected to slow down and wait until it’s safe to pass cyclists when they are sharing the same stretch of road. Cyclists can do the same for pedestrians on the bridge. And if it’s too windy, slow down. Just like motorists do when the environmental conditions aren’t suitable for driving as fast as legally possible.

As for the barrier – in the 20+ years I’ve lived in this city, despite seeing numerous accidents on that bridge, I’ve NEVER seen a vehicle cross those barriers.

It’s not the vehicle crossing the barriers that is under discussion above, but a strong westerly hitting a person on a bike and hurling them over the low barrier into the path of vehicles.

Mysteryman said :

And if it’s too windy, slow down. Just like motorists do when the environmental conditions aren’t suitable for driving as fast as legally possible.

Glad we got that sorted.

wildturkeycanoe 8:26 am 02 Apr 17

Leon Arundell said :

wildturkeycanoe 9:06 pm 31 Mar 17 said:
“My experience today must have been totally out of the norm then. I came across a person walking their dog on a leash, using up both sides of the path, indeed probably more of the right hand lane than the left. Then a parent pushing a stroller, again right in the middle of the path. After passing another couple of cyclists coming the other way, staying nicely in their lane, I had to again go out onto the grass to pass a couple walking side by side and taking up the whole path.”
The road rules for shared paths require cyclists to pass to the left of oncoming cyclists. While it’s good practice for pedestrians to keep left, it’s not a legal requirements. Perhaps one day the ACT Government will give us some separated paths, which are a better solution where there are lots of pedestrians and lots of cyclists.

So where does the government find the land for these separated paths? In built up areas such as town centers, there is little space left to build another separated pathway, without either narrowing the frontage of businesses or encroaching on the roadway. Basically, they’d need to shut down a whole lane of traffic to enable segregation of cyclists and pedestrians. Some areas it will work, but we will need to duplicate so many paths it’d be a mammoth task. Then you have the pinch points such as overhead pedestrian bridges and underpasses. Build another bridge? Dig another tunnel? In the case of Commonwealth Avenue, I can see the left vehicular lane being reallocated for cycling. But when the tram project to Woden has commenced, no doubt another lane will be stolen, in preference to building a whole new bridge. So three car lanes becomes one. Oh the chaos.
Then we need to consider the costs. Shared paths cost anywhere from $33k to $244k per kilometer to construct, depending on the materials used. With perhaps hundreds of kilometers? of shared paths and footpaths to duplicate, you can imagine the dollars involved. Is it really worth investing so much just to account for the reckless actions of some individuals who haven’t got any respect for other users?

Leon Arundell 6:08 pm 01 Apr 17

wildturkeycanoe 9:06 pm 31 Mar 17 said:
“My experience today must have been totally out of the norm then. I came across a person walking their dog on a leash, using up both sides of the path, indeed probably more of the right hand lane than the left. Then a parent pushing a stroller, again right in the middle of the path. After passing another couple of cyclists coming the other way, staying nicely in their lane, I had to again go out onto the grass to pass a couple walking side by side and taking up the whole path.”
The road rules for shared paths require cyclists to pass to the left of oncoming cyclists. While it’s good practice for pedestrians to keep left, it’s not a legal requirements. Perhaps one day the ACT Government will give us some separated paths, which are a better solution where there are lots of pedestrians and lots of cyclists.

jcjordan 11:53 pm 31 Mar 17

chewy14 said :

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

chewy14 said :

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

Ah here we go once drivers realise that they do not have a monopoly right to the ‘style’ or objective of wanting to travel from A to B as quickly as possible without interruption they throw out the economic argument. The problem with that is that every method of transport infrastructure improvement has a measurable benefit to society.
Cycling infrastructure for instance has a proven benefit when invested in , not only in terms of transport but also in terms of health and productivity. http://atrf.info/papers/2011/2011_Yi_Feeney_Adams_Garcia_Chandra.pdf

The problem is that most times that the benefits of any infrastructure is installed they only do so against an already determined transport method. Both the Barton and Ashley road works were never compared against the same investment in other transport infrastructure solutions.

When car related infrastructure investment is put up against other methods it quite often looses in terms of cost benefit analysis. Take for instance the decision to take lanes away from cars in the CBD of Adelaide and give priority to public transport. It does impinge on the ability of drivers to move in their preferred style and hands it to public transport. In that case it was decided that the investment and cost to South Australia was of more value in public transport. We don’t know if this would have been the case in either of the two examples that we have been discussing because the analysis was never done.

wildturkeycanoe 9:06 pm 31 Mar 17

Maya123 said :

I stated if one keeps left we should all have no problems sharing the path. I walk on the paths, but make sure I keep left; fast cyclists, slow cyclists pass me and there is no problem regardless of speed, because I am keeping left and when I change direction I look behind me to check the traffic; just as I do when driving. Why do some people (a minority) have such a problem doing this!

Most joggers stay left and are not a problem, as do most walkers. It’s only a few who don’t know to stay left.

My experience today must have been totally out of the norm then. I came across a person walking their dog on a leash, using up both sides of the path, indeed probably more of the right hand lane than the left. Then a parent pushing a stroller, again right in the middle of the path. After passing another couple of cyclists coming the other way, staying nicely in their lane, I had to again go out onto the grass to pass a couple walking side by side and taking up the whole path. Now I don’t mind doing this and always go off the path to give sufficient clearance so that I won’t accidentally clip them with my handlebars or surprise them if they haven’t heard me coming.
I am not a fan of ringing the bell as usually the other users panic, if they haven’t got their headphones plugged in. If they see me coming in the left lane, they jump into the right lane to get out of the way, unless they evacuate the path entirely. I don’t want or need this, just for them to be aware of my presence and not make sudden changes. Unfortunately that usually isn’t the case. They have as much right as me to be using the path, remembering that pedestrians have right of way over all other traffic.

gazket 7:25 pm 31 Mar 17

There should be a set of quick fit training wheels at either end of the bridge. Cyclist could just snap them on then ride across to the other side safely. Unclip the traning wheels and leave them on a rack for the next cyclist who crosses back the other way.

Acton 6:26 pm 31 Mar 17

Maya123 said :

Acton said :

Maya123 said :

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.

Thank you for illustrating my point so well about the lack of courtesy, common sense and safety exhibited by certain cyclists who insist on their ‘right’ to travel at high speed on a shared community path.

A pedestrian passing another, a visitor who steps back to take a photo, a jogger, two young mums pushing prams together, the young child, the exuberant dog…. All at fault and all at risk from the selfish cyclist.

To use your words – it’s not rocket science. SLOW DOWN! Easy.

I didn’t illustrate any point about your claim, “about the lack of courtesy, common sense and safety exhibited by certain cyclists who insist on their ‘right’ to travel at high speed on a shared community path”

I stated if one keeps left we should all have no problems sharing the path. I walk on the paths, but make sure I keep left; fast cyclists, slow cyclists pass me and there is no problem regardless of speed, because I am keeping left and when I change direction I look behind me to check the traffic; just as I do when driving. Why do some people (a minority) have such a problem doing this!

Just as I wouldn’t ride a bike over the centre of a shared path, if cycling with another person, so foot traffic, such a pushing two prams, shouldn’t go over the centre of the path (whether lined or not), but unfortunately some do, such as the example of two prams (probably most of these), which often fill the whole path, leaving no room for others to pass on the path. How would it go if two cars drove down a two way road, side by side, ignoring other traffic, the car on the right in the oncoming traffic lane. By your logic, that is okay and the oncoming traffic and other traffic that wants to get around, is selfish.

Most joggers stay left and are not a problem, as do most walkers. It’s only a few who don’t know to stay left. Children should walk on the left of their parents and dogs should be kept under control on a short lead. If the dogs are so “exuberant” they can’t be properly controlled, they should be walked away from a path. As should children too young to understand path rules. You give examples of pedestrians are at fault, but then state it is the person cycling who is selfish. So, it seems that although the examples you gave they are at fault in, they are not selfish for being so. Interesting logic.

Explain your logic to the police when you hit and kill a child who was in your way.

Maya123 5:37 pm 31 Mar 17

Mysteryman said :

chewy14 said :

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.

You’re absolutely right. Motorists are expected to slow down and wait until it’s safe to pass cyclists when they are sharing the same stretch of road. Cyclists can do the same for pedestrians on the bridge. And if it’s too windy, slow down. Just like motorists do when the environmental conditions aren’t suitable for driving as fast as legally possible.

As for the barrier – in the 20+ years I’ve lived in this city, despite seeing numerous accidents on that bridge, I’ve NEVER seen a vehicle cross those barriers.

It’s not the vehicle crossing the barriers that is under discussion above, but a strong westerly hitting a person on a bike and hurling them over the low barrier into the path of vehicles.

Mysteryman 2:59 pm 31 Mar 17

chewy14 said :

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.

You’re absolutely right. Motorists are expected to slow down and wait until it’s safe to pass cyclists when they are sharing the same stretch of road. Cyclists can do the same for pedestrians on the bridge. And if it’s too windy, slow down. Just like motorists do when the environmental conditions aren’t suitable for driving as fast as legally possible.

As for the barrier – in the 20+ years I’ve lived in this city, despite seeing numerous accidents on that bridge, I’ve NEVER seen a vehicle cross those barriers.

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