What began as a campaign for a safe bike and walking path for local children has culminated in the opening of the first stage of a major link between Weston and Woden.
The Heysen Street Link will eventually allow walkers and cyclists from Weston Creek and growing Molonglo to commute to Woden without having to deal with the main artery of Hindmarsh Drive.
The new $1.5 million three-metre wide asphalt shared path begins at the intersection of Heysen Street and Hilder Street, runs through the Oakey Hill Nature Reserve, ending at the intersection of Devonport Street and Derwent Street.
Work on Stage 2 of the Heysen Street Link started this week and will deliver by the middle of 2021 an off-road shared path from the underpass near the Lyons shops, along Launceston Street to Burnie Street.
The third stage, an on-road protected cycle path along Devonport Street between Derwent Street and the Lyons shops, is expected to start construction in the first half of 2021 and be complete by year’s end.
The two stages will cost a further $700,000.
Weston resident James Bain wrote to the ACT Government four years ago concerned at the dangers on Heysen Street as it went downhill towards Lyons and took a right angle into Devonport Street.
The next step was a Facebook campaign that gathered steam due to the many local people who were using the route to get to and from Woden.
Dr Bain said there had been an overwhelming community response and lots of support from people around Canberra.
The outcome was much better than anything the community could have expected and hoped for, he said.
”Initially we did it a bit selfishly for the safety of our children but as a whole community project, the amount of people who are now living in Wright and Coombs and Denman Prospect, and even Whitlam, they’ll be coming through here and it’s a much safer and a better pathway than what they have on Hindmarsh Drive.”
He praised the shortcut through the Oakey Hill Nature Reserve, a design improvement to remove the interaction with traffic on Heysen Street.
”It’s a cheeky little pathway through grassland, much nicer than going down to a right-angle hairpin turn,” Dr Bain said.
Also happy with the outcome is the ACT Equestrian Society, which was concerned about bikes colliding with horses at the Heysen Street equestrian crossing at the bottom of Oakey Hill.
The project also included stiles where the horses will cross the bike path in the Nature Reserve.
President Christine Lawrence said the path’s original route alongside the road would have been an accident waiting to happen.
”This outcome is just great,” she said.
Ms Lawrence said there were similar situations across Canberra where horses had to negotiate other paths and roads.
”We’ll be looking for solutions and we’ve got a model here,” she said.
City Services Minister Chris Steel said the path would connect two regions and provide a safe path for children and a fantastic commuter connection for cyclists.
“In addition to the new shared path, we’ve provided safer crossing points for pedestrians, cyclists and equestrian users as well as LED lighting along the route to make it safer to use outside of daylight hours,” he said.
“What is most pleasing about this project is that its construction was driven by the community. I’d like to sincerely thank and congratulate those members of our community who worked so hard to be heard and to get this project funded.”
He said it was community feedback that drove the design change that made for a much safer path.
Mr Steel said work was also well underway on the 1.1 kilometre protected cycleway through the Woden Town Centre on Corinna Street.
He said the government was looking at more bike barometers across the network to gather more data about how many people used the paths.