It’s a sign of these more active times and hopefully of more to come.
Four Canberra suburbs are now adorned with road safety signs warning motorists to slow down because of cyclists and pedestrians using the street.
Part of the Slower Streets initiative, the signs acknowledge how much active travel in local neighbourhoods has increased since the COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions were introduced.
The ACT Government Active Travel Office is working with walking and cycling groups such as Pedal Power, community councils and residents’ associations that wish to take part in the initiative, with Aranda, Crace, Downer and Farrer the first to take up the signs, with their non-enforceable guidance for drivers.
Aranda Residents Group committee member Richard Lansdown says that with people working from home and children learning remotely there had been a lot of adults and young children cycling around the streets during the week.
Although there had not been any particularly dangerous incidents, some had reported instances of drivers, some probably visitors to the suburb, taking corners too fast without realising there might be cyclist or walkers on the other side.
”People say it’s good to get that sign up because there are lots of kids out playing on the streets,” Mr Lansdown said.
”A lot of our quieter streets don’t have any footpaths so the only place to ride a bike is on the road. It is good to have a reminder about sharing the roads and keeping an eye out for each other.”
Minister for Roads and Active Travel Chris Steel, who launched the initiative in Aranda on Monday morning, said that an upside to the pandemic restrictions had been the boom in active travel throughout Canberra.
But he said with more people sharing the road it was important motorists were mindful and slow down.
”That’s what the Slower Streets initiative is all about – local communities coming together to encourage local residents and drivers to slow down because there are more pedestrians and cyclists using our streets,” he said.
But that won’t mean extending 40 km/h speed limits to suburban streets.
He said that although 50 km/h was the current standard for most suburban streets, drivers were also lawfully required to drive to the conditions.
”It’s not feasible to have variable speed limits across every street in Canberra, so a sensible approach is to encourage Canberrans to drive a little slower, share the road and be mindful of their neighbours who are walking and cycling,” Mr Steel said.
The increased activity is something the government wants to encourage and see happening beyond the pandemic.
Mr Lansdown said he expected the surge in cycling and walking to continue.
”I think a lot of people have thought, that idea of cycling down to the local coffee shop as a family, we should do more of that,” he said.
With children returning to school and workers to the office, Mr Steel said it was the perfect time to launch the initiative.
”We’re starting to see more motorists using the roads after a 30 per cent drop in April, starting to see small numbers using public transport again as people go back to the workplace,” he said.
Mr Steel said the government did not want to see congestion return to the ACT’s roads.
”It would be a very bad outcome if after the pandemic we had more motorists using roads and private vehicles creating more congestion, that’s why we want to encourage more people to be walking and cycling, and at an appropriate time getting back on public transport,” he said.
The government was fast-tracking new and upgraded paths throughout the Territory and will soon be licensing e-scooter share schemes to give people another travel option, Mr Steel said.