Safer streets for all Canberrans
Safer streets make it possible to ride, walk and scoot in our suburbs. Even if we travel by path, we all need to cross a road at some point. When we step or ride onto a road, we are vulnerable to harm.
Vulnerable road users are a distinctly at-risk group, requiring a higher level of protection than other road users; laws are our only protection.
Pedal Power has joined with community partners to campaign for stronger laws to protect vulnerable road users from negligent drivers.
Risks to vulnerable road users are amplified, facing the likelihood of serious injury in any collision involving a car. Outcomes for vulnerable road users involved in a collision with a car are significantly worse than outcomes for occupants of vehicles involved in similar collisions.
Existing offences and penalties do not recognise the unique status of vulnerable road users, nor the serious consequences that can occur. They do not meet community expectations.
An ongoing and systematic program of path maintenance is needed across the entire ACT path network.
The ACT’s path network totals around 3000 kilometres. It is a significant public asset, highly valued by the community. However, it is rapidly aging, with many sections in need of urgent repair. Many of our paths are cracked, crumbling and hazardous. Pedal Power urges the ACT Government to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the condition of the whole path network, and to introduce a rolling Strategic Asset Management Plan for shared paths (similar to that existing for roads). This plan should inform a rolling program of proactive maintenance.
The majority of Canberra drivers do the right thing and share the road. However, on our trunk roads in particular, about one in 10 car drivers pass bike riders too closely. This is why laws which protect bike riders are so important. Minimum passing distance laws have been in place in the ACT for about three years. During this time, we have seen driver behaviour improve, but there is still work to be done.
Pedal Power is contacted about once a week by a bike rider who has been either passed too closely, or abused in some way by a motorist, or actually hit by a car. This is why we are advocating for stronger penalties for negligent driving which injures a vulnerable road user.
To improve cycle safety in Canberra, we call for:
- a new offence to be created under the Road Transport Act for negligent driving which harms a vulnerable road user
- a community education campaign to educate all road users about safely sharing the road.
We were successful in our call for minimum passing distance laws in the ACT. We hope the next step towards safety is additional protections for all vulnerable road users, through adequate negligent driving laws with appropriate penalties.
Infrastructure and planning
With a growing population, road congestion is an increasing problem in Canberra. We are lucky not to have the congestion of cities like Sydney or Melbourne – yet. The traditional approach to reducing congestion is to build bigger roads, but city planners now understand that in the long term, adding more lanes simply leads to more traffic. Progressive cities around the world are proving that building good quality cycle infrastructure is a key driver to getting more people riding. If you build safer paths that keep people on bikes away from cars, more people will cycle.
The ACT needs real investment in dedicated cycle infrastructure and planning. Immediate priorities include:
- Delivery of a community-driven 10-year walking and cycling infrastructure priority plan
- Construction of an off-road shared path along Sulwood Drive
- Design and construction of the Garden City Cycle Route from Watson to Braddon
- Design and construction of a Woden to city separated cycleway
- Extension of the Belconnen bikeway
- An enhanced active travel policy framework – a Movement and Place Framework; best practice design for intersections that prioritise walking and cycling; developing the CBR cycle routes network; and updating the Active Travel Framework.
In addition to these major projects, Pedal Power is advocating for a sustainable and robust network of paths and cycleways. This work should include:
- Completion of various ‘missing links’, particularly safer off-road arrangements along major routes/corridors
- Cycleways which separate bikes from fast-moving traffic, and separate bikes from pedestrians in areas such as popular lake routes
- An ongoing program of upgraded crossings where significant path routes intersect with roads (extended beyond the Principal Cycle Routes)
- An expansion of the Path Upgrades programs (community paths and age-friendly suburbs)
- Works to improve rider safety on ACT country roads, including signage on passing distances, shoulder widening, etcetera
- Design work to improve cycling connections at a number of smaller/outlying group centres and service trade areas.
A connected path network
Anyone who cycles in Canberra will have experienced the frustration of riding on a path that comes to a dead end or being stuck in dangerous traffic when a bike lane disappears. For cycling to appeal to more than just hardened riders, we need to make it as easy as possible for people of all ages and abilities to get from A to B, with a planned and connected path network that is well signed and easy to navigate. This means filling in the missing links in the network, particularly to town centres.
We know Canberra is a great place to ride a bike, and we’d like to spread the word. With our temperate climate, open roads, extensive path networks, and off-road facilities like Stromlo Forest Park and Majura Pines, we are well placed to develop Canberra as a cycle destination and tap into a growing and lucrative domestic and international cycle tourism market. After many years of advocacy by Pedal Power, the ACT Government released its cycle tourism strategy in 2019. We hope that the upcoming budget will see further investment in implementing the strategy and investment promoting and developing our cycle facilities.