18 February 2020

When it comes to event road closures, Canberrans are bad sports

| Tim Gavel
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Are we tolerant when it comes to road closures for sports events? Photo: Supplied.

As the ACT Government prepares for Stage 2 of light rail, fasten your seatbelts because it promises to be a wild ride.

No, I’m not talking about the cost or the speed of light rail, it’s more to do with the reaction from Canberrans when there is even the slightest impact on travel time.

There is already disquiet at what can, at best, be termed moderate travel delays. Not surprising really in a growing city, and minor when compared with daily traffic jams experienced in Sydney or Melbourne.

The low tolerance level among Canberrans is probably best exhibited when roads are closed for sporting events such as cycle races or triathlons. We see this lack of tolerance when impatient, self-righteous motorists force cyclists off the road.

That frustration has reached Olympic proportions a couple of times.

It reached its zenith during the three-year duration of the Canberra 400 V8 Super Car race between 2000 and 2002.

It was the time to be alive, as the Parliamentary Triangle was closed off before, during and after the race.

Morning talkback radio and letters to the editor became consumed with disgruntled motorists impacted by the road closures.

There was a suggestion that the significant cost of hosting the event determined its demise, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the disruption created by the road closures and the subsequent outrage was at least a contributing factor.

Another in my top five was the reaction when parts of Civic were blocked off for a criterion as part of the Commonwealth Bank Cycling Classic.

The race, which took place several times during the 1990s, featured a street leg in Canberra.

The inconvenience, as you can well imagine, didn’t sit well with plenty of Canberrans.

There seems to be something about Canberrans and cycling. You either love the use of roads for cyclists and wish there were more roads closed, and if this happened, believe it encourages more people to cycle; or you don’t! I confess I am firmly entrenched in the cyclist camp.

I can envisage Canberra being the home of major road cycling events in Australia.

Then there is a section of the community who deplore everything about cyclists and cycling events, resulting in high blood pressure at the mere mention of cycling and, heaven forbid, road closures.

As I said at the start, if the tolerance level among Canberrans to cyclists and cycling races is anything to go by, it’s going to be a wild couple of years.

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HiddenDragon8:24 pm 21 Feb 20

“Not surprising really in a growing city, and minor when compared with daily traffic jams experienced in Sydney or Melbourne.”

Canberrans who would rather be living in Sydney or Melbourne, or some other much larger city, might think that this is another example of Canberra losing the benefits of a “small town” without gaining (local hype and boosterism aside) the real benefits of larger cities.

rationalobserver11:38 pm 20 Feb 20

I am very much in favour of road closures for bicycle races.
Let them race up Northbourne Ave and onwards deep into NSW.
Then close the road.

ChrisinTurner10:37 pm 19 Feb 20

The signage warning of an upcoming closure is put up about one week in advance. Why do some Canberrans take so long to work out how to detour? Perhaps TAFE could run a course on route planning.

Because we are not all Canberrans, and sometimes we might take that route once every couple of weeks. And when I am driving, I prefer to concentrate on the road and the current traffic rather than suddenly trying to navigate a new route into unfamiliar surrounds (especially when there is no clear indication of a viable detour).

As an out of towner, I am always amazed by the ACT’s ability to close main thoroughfares during busy times to pander to the lycra brigade (sorry: sports cyclists undertaking a competitive event). There was one occasion where not only was Parkes Way closed, but so was Anzac Avenue and parts of Northbourne Avenue. As an out of towner I had no real idea of where to go and ended up getting lost in the back streets of some university somewhere. So – yes – I get frustrated by a lack of planning, clear detours and options for those who only know the main thoroughfares. Especially at known busy times like a Saturday morning! Compound this with the ACT’s inability to do roadworks in a timely fashion and the traffic chaos that ensues. Roadworks and road closures for sporting events combined!

Capital Retro11:21 am 19 Feb 20

“I confess I am firmly entrenched in the cyclist camp.”

Many of us do not share your enthusiasm, Tim.

Yes, lets completely close of Parkes Way, one of the major thoroughfares into the CBD and the airport, for a bike race. Or, you know, not shut off one of our most heavily used roads and have the bike race somewhere more sensible.

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