1 July 2020

Path pressures: push for more data to improve network safety

| Ian Bushnell
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ACT's shared paths

Busier than ever: more data is needed on who is using the ACT’s shared paths, says Pedal Power. Photo: Facebook, Pedal Power.

The ACT’s cycling lobby is pushing for the government to gather more up-to-date information on who is using the Territory’s increasingly congested shared paths as pressure points build between cyclists and walkers.

Canberrans have taken to the ACT’s path networks as part of a cycling and walking boom during the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown, and the familiar tensions have become heightened with the increased numbers competing for space on the city’s popular routes.

Pedal Power ACT CEO Ian Ross made a point of posting a blog noting the anger that was infecting the paths.

”People walking are frightened and angry about the speed and behaviour of people on bikes and scooters. Riders are angry about the behaviour of people who are walking and not paying attention, or not looking out for their animals,” he wrote.

He urged people to be more considerate so everyone could use the network safely but also said the problem was also one of design, and one that had been building for years.

He pointed to narrow paths and a lack of maintenance and planning.

While acknowledging the new paths and upgrades the government has embarked on as part of the COVID-19 infrastructure program, Mr Ross told Region Media that the city’s growing population and the need to reduce transport greenhouse emissions meant the government should get an accurate picture of the network and plan for a city with fewer cars on the roads.

”The first step is that we need some good monitoring on our paths network so we have some solid data about congestion,” he said.

The government needed to expand its monitoring and this could be done with sensors, video, or an annual headcount so the increasing variety of users, which also included e-bikes and skateboards, could be captured.

At present, a bike barometer using a ground sensor is located at the intersection of the Sullivan’s Creek shared path and MacArthur Avenue in O’Connor, but it only counts cyclists.

Ian Ross

Pedal Power ACT CEO Ian Ross: ”The first step is that we need some good monitoring on our paths network so we have some solid data about congestion.” Photo: File.

Mr Ross said getting more people on bikes was not the whole answer to cutting emissions but it was definitely part of the solution, and the cycling network had not kept pace with Canberra’s growth.

”There are parts of the network that have not been upgraded since they were first built in the 80s and 90s and some parts are really badly crumbling,” he said.

”We need a more consistent treatment, a rolling maintenance, not waiting till people fall over.”

He said the network had come to the point in the more popular areas, such as around Lake Burley Griffin, where separate bike and walking routes should be considered.

He said the central path of the lake route was also a principal bike route and part of the transport corridor but also one of the most delightful places to walk and sightsee.

”We have to make sure that our paths network accommodates all those things, and if they can’t then you need to provide people with separate routes,” he said.

But wider paths, particularly on principal routes, would make a difference.

The standard is 2.5 metres but three metres would be preferred on the principal cycling routes.

”For busy routes we should be looking at expanding them to four metres,” Mr Ross said, so a person riding a bike can pass walkers without ”freaking them out”.

”People still have to slow down and take care but it’s quite possible to have two people sharing a lane in both directions.”

Mr Ross said the government was setting people up to fail if the path networks were not designed to cater for multiple uses, including transport.

”We want them to be fast transport corridors so people can get to work in a timely way and we want people to feel safe when they are walking so we need to make sure of that when we’re designing these things,” he said.

Mr Ross said proper planning would mean infrastructure was already built into new suburbs and not have to be retrofitted. A case in point was Wright where there are no underpasses beneath John Gorton Drive.

He said the Belconnen cycleway project showed what could be achieved and Canberra had a good foundation to support cycling but the ACT could not rest on its laurels.

”We need a planned approach to maintain and expand our network as our city grows,” Mr Ross said.

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As a regular user of the shared paths network, and a coordinator of a walking group my experience of cyclists is not good. They rarely use their bell, IF they have one, and are too often rude and aggressive. This government’s cozy relationship with cyclists needs to change. Bicycles and cars on freeways isa DUMB idea. ? Physics.

As a regular user of the shared paths network, both walking and cycling, I’ve never had a problem. There doesn’t seem to be any real statistics to back up the people complaining here, just their “feelings” – 0000h I think cyclists are rude! Really?

ChrisinTurner5:14 pm 18 Jun 20

Around where I live we have one metre footpaths that are often partly overgrown because they are at the property boundary. We have to walk single file and step aside if someone comes in the other direction. In some streets there are no footpaths on either side and gardens have been extended to the kerb, which is not legal but is unenforced.

Stephen Thearle2:12 pm 13 Jun 20

As both a walker and a cyclist I am increasingly concerned about the proliferation of electric bikes. Not only do some inconsiderate riders tend to speed but they are quieter than normal bikes. Having had a few near misses during the lock down I wonder if they are being considered in the future planning proposals.

Capital Retro6:19 pm 14 Jun 20

National regulation is required starting with mandatory registration and annual inspection of all electric and e-assist bikes. The dangers have already been revealed: https://www.bicyclenetwork.com.au/newsroom/2019/07/31/regulators-getting-a-grip-on-throttle-e-bikes/

It’s only a matter of time before another Canberran gets maimed.

I’d like to see a trial of a ‘cyclist only’ track around Lake Tuggeranong. If successful, then I’d add the much bigger Burley Griffin and Lake Ginninderra.

Let’s make our Lakes a great place for Walkers, Cyclists and those seeking outdoor spaces.

You can all calm down, the crowding has completely fallen away now and there is plenty of space again. . I think all the extra walking and cycling Canberrans were doing is over.

Consider changing shared path guidance for pedestrians and joggers to use on right hand side towards oncoming cyclists? A safer and more considerate use of shared paths.

Dangerous and inconsiderate, because they can’t see what’s coming from behind them, and that the path isn’t clear for anyone to pass them. Some people who rudely walk on the right, also don’t move over quickly enough. This works with cars, because pedestrians will hurry to get out of the way with cars (or be killed), but bikes pose less danger, so they don’t consider the move to get out of the way as important.
If a person cycling can’t go around someone walking on the wrong (right) side of the path they will need to stop. If they can’t go around someone walking on the left, they don’t need to stop, only slow.
I bet you wouldn’t like to have to break when driving and come to stop on your commute to work, the shops, etc, because some pedestrian is walking towards you on the road, so why expect someone commuting by bicycle to do so.

Maya123 I agree with you, the right of way remains with the pedestrian, however, with the proposed move (peds on right, cyclists left), the sight lines for both would be improved, and contact points reduced. Again I agree, if someone won’t move then there will be a compromise regardless of transport mode. This was a suggestion to improve what we have without having to spend. There will be pro’s and cons to any proposal. PS I cycle/walk/jog/drive and was suggesting potential travel improvements from a variety of perspectives. All the best. Dthet

Capital Retro10:16 am 12 Jun 20

Mr Ross uses the word “we” no less than nine times in this article. What he really be saying is “cyclists”. How much more financial cosseting can these people get?

They can only dream of getting as much as motorists do.

Exactly, way too much closeness with the cyclists. I’m a former cycle-to-work chap and came to avoid riding on roads unless I had to. Why? Physics! The behaviour of too many cyclists on the paths network reflects a self-righteous arrogance that has been encouraged by this government.

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