Pedal Power ACT is calling for a trial of infrastructure that separates bike riders from motor vehicles on roads, and pedestrians on paths.
Sharing the roads and paths around Canberra relies on the understanding and mutual respect of all users. Unfortunately there is a large amount of unpredictability inherent in human behaviour – and that applies to people driving, walking, riding bikes, roller-skating, skateboarding, walking dogs and children.
Accidents on shared infrastructure around Canberra in recent months have sparked discussion about how to make our roads and paths safer for all users. There is no doubt that infrastructure separating people riding bikes from people walking and driving cars will save lives in the ACT.
We should all keep left, slow down and give a wide berth to vulnerable users, keep control of children and dogs, and be vigilant and aware at all times – but even adult humans have a tough time maintaining focus and direction constantly, let alone expecting young children, dogs and ute drivers to obey the rules of polite society.
The Metre Matters trial in the ACT has so far demonstrated that motor vehicle drivers are willing to make room for people riding bikes on the road, and Pedal Power ACT members report feeling safer because of this rule. But only separated infrastructure can ensure the safety of vulnerable road users, with driver distraction or reduced vision most likely to cause an accident.
There have been calls to restrict speed to less than the current limit of 50km per hour on shared paths. This would limit their usefulness and reduce the number of bike riders who use the paths as a safe way to commute. Many people who ride bikes to and from work use the paths because they don’t feel safe on the roads. These people – including many women and parents riding with children – would not ride if roads were the only option.
The Government’s 2015 Active Travel Framework sets out a policy for separated cycle infrastructure. An initial trial in 2015 of low profile separators showed that they can change driver behaviour and help convince more people to use the commuter routes.
The ACT Government clearly recognises the importance of active travel in the creation of a sustainable city, and the role that urban planning needs to play. Separated infrastructure is a given to encourage as many people as possible to use bicycles as a primary form of transport.
Appropriate sites for the trials would need to be established through consultation with the ACT community. Proposed sites include heavily-populated roads around Civic and town centres like Belconnen, Woden and Tuggernong, and the paths connected with leisure areas around Lake Burley Griffin, Lake Tuggeranong and Lake Ginninderra.
Segregated bike paths along roads and footpaths are in use in the city on the Civic Cycle Loop, and this initiative should be extended into town centres across the ACT, with a long term view to joining up the separated infrastructure to make Canberra the best, safest city to ride a bike in Australia.