Cycling lobby group Pedal Power has taken aim at the ACT Government’s latest infrastructure announcement, criticising the width of cycle paths included in the $5 million swag of projects.
Upgrades and extensions to footpaths and cycleway networks are part of a raft of new infrastructure projects being rolled out to maintain jobs during the COVID-19 contraction.
The extra $5 million in projects announced on Wednesday (22 April) adds to the already announced $20 million program of so-called ‘screwdriver-ready’ works.
Transport Canberra and City Services Minister Chris Steel said these fast-tracked projects would help local construction businesses keep more Canberrans employed while renewing local infrastructure across the city.
Pedal Power praised the government for using part of this stimulus package to create some small sections of path but said very few of these improvements would be built to cycle path standard.
”The majority of new paths will be 1.5 to 2-metres wide, whereas cycle paths or shared paths should be at least 2.5-metres wide,” it said.
“We remain hopeful that further stimulus funding will be used on much larger and more strategic missing links, path upgrades and separated cycleways.”
Pedal Power said it had written to Mr Steel in March and provided him with a list of road and path projects from across Canberra which would most improve the safety and convenience of cycling in the ACT but none of these projects were included in the stimulus package.
”Unprecedented numbers of Canberrans have taken to riding again as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown,” Pedal Power said. “The government has a wonderful opportunity to invest money into improving our existing cycling infrastructure and to build new cycle paths as a way to encourage people to keep using active travel once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.”
Mr Steel said the program had focused on screwdriver-ready works that could start immediately so local businesses could keep workers employed now, with works scheduled to be completed by 30 June 2020.
“While our primary aim is to support jobs, we are taking this opportunity to bring forward projects which deliver much-needed upgrades and maintenance to public spaces and community facilities.”
Among the projects is more than $9 million in works to upgrade and build new footpaths, improve road safety, upgrade waste and transport facilities and undertake landscaping in open spaces.
“Path and crossing improvements have been requested by members of the community or have been identified as missing links in our shared path network that will help to encourage walking and cycling,” he said.
This includes over 4 km of new and improved cycleways and footpaths across the city, such as a 1500 metre footpath in Belconnen from the southern side of Southern Cross Drive, and an 800 metre footpath between Streeton Drive and the corner of John Gorton Drive and Cotter Road, connecting Weston Creek with Molonglo.
The government was also investing in recycled products in city infrastructure by installing bollards made of recycled plastic bags throughout Canberra.
“The government will also be funding work to repair pavers, undertake mulching around trees and garden beds and refreshing shade structures and seating in open spaces.”
Other projects include new pedestrian crossings in Narrabundah and Belconnen, the installation of traffic calming measures in Weston, improving facilities for staff at Transport Canberra depots, and deep cleaning and repainting bus shelters across the Territory.
Mr Steel said the government would be funding further projects to be announced in the coming weeks as contracts are signed.
“Importantly the Government is also getting on with delivering existing infrastructure program, with construction work underway on projects like the Tuggeranong Laneways project and the Belconnen Bikeway,” he said.
Mr Steel said governments shouldn’t be stepping back from delivering infrastructure during the pandemic as it was going to be so important for the recovery.
”Government is taking up the slack where the private sector is not putting a lot of work to market, so the government is increasing the amount of work it’s doing with existing construction partners,” he said. ”They may end up employing more people, particularly where private projects have stopped.”