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Separate bike paths will save lives in the ACT

By Anne Treasure 10 January 2017 64

Separated bike path on the Civic Cycle Loop

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.

Should the ACT Government build more separated infrastructure for cyclists ie dedicated bike paths/lanes around Canberra?

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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.

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64 Responses to
Separate bike paths will save lives in the ACT
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markb 10:36 am 23 Jan 17

If we accept that there will never be a single option that suits all people and places then we can consider a range of options. The laudable city loop is great for dense urban cycling but by definition is probably not the answer for the suburban commuter. Shared paths have a long and successful history but may be unsuitable when user density goes up when, for example, population or bike use increases.
My pet topic? Develop an infrastructure of bike roads that service the longer distances and take into account mobility scooter and electric bikes. These roads would not be pedestrian suitable but could be runner friendly and provide routes for special events. I’m not scared to share the roads (or paths) but know that one day my number will be up! It would be nice to push that time out beyond my natural term.

JohnH 4:33 pm 19 Jan 17

What research has been done on the success of separating walkers and cyclists on separate paths?

My observations from Melbourne, where I lived until recently, was that they were a complete failure.
Mainly because walkers take no notice of any signage and just wander wherever they like. I don’t blame or criticise walkers for this – walking is such a natural activity that it just does not occur to walkers that there is any need to read signs or check where you should walk.

Cyclists are a little better, but not much.

Melbourne has separate paths along the bay foreshore in parts of Port Melbourne and St Kilda, and a little bit in Southbank. The cycling paths always have walkers on them, completely unaware of the presence of cyclists.
I was in Wollongong recently, and noticed separate cycling and waking paths down by the bay. I watched for several minutes and sure enough along came the walkers on the cycling path, then some cyclists on the walking path.
I have seen separate paths work in Europe – Vienna, Munich and Amsterdam – but these are places with a much much stronger culture of cycling awareness. They also use a colour code system that people seem to be aware of. If you walk on a cycle path (I have done it) you can expect to be told off in minutes.

I ride on the Canberra shared paths regularly, and I find that they work surprisingly well. Most cyclists are polite and considerate, but a small number just ride much too fast with little consideration for others. There are a small number of walkers who are completely unaware of their environment, but most do the right thing.

I think it would be a more effective use of money to make existing paths wider rather than spend money on separate paths.

Maya123 10:48 am 18 Jan 17

Chris Mordd Richards said :

Can we get onto the real issue now of ppl not standing to the left on escelators so others can walk up faster if they want to. We all know to stay left on the road, this piece shows many don’t know to do this on paths though, and virtually no-one these days has the courtesy to stand to the left on escalators anymore, which in many parts of Europe is considered shockingly bad behaviour. In Canberra the me-first, screw you attitude seems to be prevalent almost everywhere you look though, on the roads, on the bike paths, and especially in the shopping malls.

Escalators: LOL, I’m one of the few people who do stand on the left to let people pass. Unfortunately, if you have someone with you, that’s usually then an invitation for them to stand on the right to continue chatting to you. Most times though, I walk up the moving stairs and pass people, and generally I find people will move to the left when they hear me coming; otherwise, a polite, ‘excuse me’ usually works.. If there is no-one on the escalator though, I am likely to run up the stairs. I don’t get enough exercise, and every tiny bit helps; plus it gets my shopping done faster, so I can leave the mall.

tim_c 4:44 pm 17 Jan 17

wildturkeycanoe said :

tim_c said :

Really?! They were taking up both lanes (ie. blocking traffic in both directions) on Lady Denman Dr (as many groups of pedestrians do on cycleways, or supposedly ‘shared’ paths)?

No, they were taking up the one lane, blocking cars from passing [this was before the law was changed that allowed vehicles to cross double white lines]. Also, oncoming traffic prevented a safe overtake so all the vehicular traffic was slowed to the same pace as the cycle group. There is a bike path running along this road too, so why not use it? Oh, maybe the pedestrians will get in their way and slow them up. Can’t have that now, can we?

Oh, so really very different to what many pedestrians (sometimes with their dogs and long leads, if at all) do on cycleways/shared paths where they occupy the full width of all lanes in both directions, obstructing all traffic in both directions, and preventing other users from overtaking/passing even when there is no oncoming traffic.

I think it would be unreasonable to expect pedestrians to not take up a whole lane (ie. one direction) on a cycleway/shared path (and unwise for a cyclist to attempt to pass/overtake in the same lane as a pedestrian), but I object to pedestrians taking up both lanes in both directions (unless of course they are different pedestrians travelling in opposite directions – in which case, if others have to wait then that’s just part of using public/shared infrastructure). Is that what you were getting at?

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