More investment needed in cycling infrastructure

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bike rider on bike path

“You won’t convince people to ride bikes to work or school to reduce traffic congestion, or environmental pollution, or even because it is healthy to do so. The reason that so many people cycle for transport in Amsterdam and in other famous cycling cities around the world is because it is easy and safe to do so. This is what all governments need to understand if they want to really change the way that people travel.”

This advice from Dutch active transport planner Alex Van Gent at Pedal Power’s “Why We Cycle” film night really highlights the importance of good quality cycling infrastructure as the key driver to getting more people riding. Cities like Amsterdam, Copenhagen with high cycling rates didn’t naturally evolve world class cycling infrastructure --it was planned that way, with set targets, met through ongoing strategic investment.

In the ACT we have set an active transport target of 7 % of people cycling to work by 2026. Given that we have not achieved more than 3% over the last 30 years we have quite a lot of work to do to achieve this goal, let alone the heights of a city like Amsterdam where in 2017 68% of traffic to and from work or school was by cycle and bikes account for 36 percent of all traffic movements.

We know that good quality, well maintained and well lit separated cycleways are the key to making cycling the safe and convenient choice. For over 40 years Pedal Power ACT has been representing Canberra bike riders, and advocating for initiatives to develop and grow cycling in our city.

In 2018/2019 we were pleased to see a strong budget for cycling, with the ACT Government announcing plans to extend the Belconnen Bikeway and construct a new separated path at Woden and Tuggeranong town centres. We look forward to the delivery of these projects and are working constructively with government to ensure the design meets the needs of cyclists. We now need to build on this momentum.

In our submission to the 2019/2020 budget, Pedal Power ACT has put forward our key priorities for the forward estimates.

Maintain our crumbling paths

Sadly, our community path network is ageing and in need of urgent attention. Many of our paths are cracked, crumbling and hazardous, and in some cases have become so degraded that the only option has been to rebuild them completely – a costly option that could be avoided through investment in ongoing maintenance. We estimate that the current level of investment (around $5.8 million per year) is less than half the amount required each year to properly maintain the network.

Pedal Power is seeking that the path maintenance budget in 2019-20 be increased to $10.5 million, and that funding should be increased each year after this by $1 million to reach $13.5m by 2022-23.

Continue to develop our infrastructure

Pedal Power has put forward an indicative list of prioritised projects that would improve our cycle network which includes:
• a bridge and path to connect Coombs to the Molonglo River path, and Stage I of the Molonglo to the City Bikeway;
• a program of upgraded crossings where main routes intersect with roads;
• the development of ‘active travel streets’ parallel to Northbourne Avenue;
• an expansion of the path upgrades program;
• a trial separation of cycling and walking along sections of lake paths;
• and design work to improve cycling connections at group centres.

Pedal Power ACT is seeking $2 million for the planning of high priority works, with $8m in 2020-2021 and $9m in 2021-2022 for the construction phase.

Education

To improve cycle safety and encourage more people to ride, we need to invest in resources to educate and inform the community about cycling through initiatives such as:

• updating the popular ‘The Canberra and Queanbeyan Cycling and Walking Map’;
• signs on rural roads about the minimum passing distance, as in Tasmania;
• and a mass media and education campaign about minimum passing distance laws

We look forward to working with the ACT Government on continuing to develop our cycling infrastructure to make cycling the safe, easy, and convenient travel choice, and to help realise Canberra’s untapped potential as the cycle capital of Australia.

View Pedal Power’s 2019/2020 budget submission.

Ian Ross is the CEO of Pedal Power ACT.

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