24 April 2020

Pedal Power puts spoke in government's infrastructure wheel

| Ian Bushnell
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Four kilometres of new and improved cycleways and footpaths across the city will be built. Photo: File.

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.”

Upgrade cycle paths

It’s a good time to upgrade cycle paths to standard, says Pedal Power. Photo: Supplied.

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.”

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Heavily used shared pathways like between the Kingston Foreshore and Kings Avenue bridge need to be much wider to cater for a wide variety of traffic- pedestrian (some with prams and dogs) and cyclists of varying speeds. Standard width shared pathways are often too narrow for mixed traffic. Cyclists should keep a mandatory 1 metre away from pedestrians and paths should be wide enough to allow that. As an occasional cyclist I would feel safer if I could pass with more distance.

ChrisinTurner4:47 pm 30 Apr 20

Footpaths around Reid are mostly not wide enough for two people walking together, much less sharing with bicycles and scooters. Lack of maintenance means older footpaths are left uneven and not safe for older people. We should “Move People Not Cars”.

Canberra made an excellent start on suburban and connecting paths many decades ago. But now those old paths don’t meet the needs of an expanding population and range of users. Pedestrians, cyclists, scooterists, mobility devices, adults, children..all sorts of people benefit from safe and efficient paths separate from roads and motorised traffic. The modern standards and best practices are known, we should insist on our money being used to employ them in bringing up our network to a 21st Century standard of which we can be proud.

Beware of elitist lobby groups cynically using COVID-19 to push their own agendas at the expense of the community. In its 2019-20 budget submission Pedal Power wanted an additional $71M over four years spent on its pet projects.

rationalobserver10:00 am 27 Apr 20

pedal power is more about wielding the power than it is about the pedal.

Please remember that for every cyclist we have out there, that’s way less spent on health care! Yes, some ‘accidents’ happen (particularly when surfaces are not ideal) however, on the whole, regular cyclists are way, way healthier & happier than Joe average!

Where’s your evidence?

According to the government report i read (into a proposed cycling network in Sydney), in economic terms health benefits from cycling were [slightly] outweighed by deaths and injuries.

That’s not collisions with motor vehicles necessarily. Single bicycle accidents and collisions with other cyclists and pedestrians are common. Even the odd heart attack.

Effectively, a very small increase across all cyclists at the expense of the few who are injured or die. This is the exact opposite to the way we’re currently dealing with COVID-19, which is to all take a little pain to save the lives of the relative few.

There are other more effective ways to get healthy.

The average adult derives little benefit from commute cycling. Unless you’re very unfit to start with, you have to push a lot harder than that. Cycling is too efficient mechanically unless you’re doing a hard several hundred kilometers per week.

Cycling is a very enjoyable buzz, but unless your into it as a sport or it’s your only practical form of transport that’s all it is. Pedal Power want to make it the only practical form of transport for most, but making driving impractical as much as possible, and that is unacceptable.

Capital Retro7:18 am 27 Apr 20

“Some of the lanes are filthy and full of glass poses a danger to everyone on the roads”

How about all you Pedal Power people clean it up then? In my neighborhood there are few footpaths and shared paths but every time I go for a walk I always collect rubbish and broken glass so how hard is it for you cosseted cyclists to dismount and do the same?

We can’t expect the government to do everything you know.

What would people driving to work say to the suggestion to stop their car and pick up debris on the road and then be late for work. And yet you are suggesting that people on bikes should do exactly that on their ride to work.

The glass, etc on roads is usually put their by car driver chucking thinks from their windows.

Capital Retro4:15 pm 27 Apr 20

Do you really expect me to answer that?

Capital Retro8:47 am 26 Apr 20

I thought Pedal Power was the government.

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