By Robbie Slape
My experience biking in subtropical Brisbane is comparable to other Australian cities – subpar. There are some decent recreational paths in the suburbs and along the river that evaporate when and where you need them most: on the mean CBD streets. It is very frustrating to get where you want to go safely, comfortably and quickly.
Under the COVID shadow of 2020, the Brisbane City Council finally dialled into their more enlightened side and started planning the CityLink Cycleway pilot, a 12-month trial of separated bike paths through the CBD to connect with the river paths. It has heavily borrowed from what the local group Cycling for Brisbane had been advocating for since 2016.
In March 2022, I was excited to give it a test ride (well, scoot) and see if all the fighting was actually worth the wait!
[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”18″ display=”basic_thumbnail”]The Good
- Despite being a trial, street treatments are tidy and functional, including signage and bike signals.
- The paths have been designed with scooters in mind – the orange and purple fleets have been similarly popular in Brisbane. These paths have helped alleviate conflict on footpaths, and scooters easily outnumbered bikes on my test ride. The paths also seemed well used by the fleets of e-bike delivery services as well. – The pilot took advantage of the Brisbane Metro project, by including a path across the Victoria Bridge when it closed to private vehicles (after a bit of a push from advocates), connecting the pilot to South Brisbane.
- Overall, the paths get you comfortably through the city and are a big improvement on my memories of riding through the city amongst heavy traffic and slowly along cluttered footpaths.
- The paths are great until you want to ride on another street. A big improvement to cross the city – it doesn’t necessarily make your whole journey better. If you avoid riding because you want to avoid trucks and buses on your entire commute, the bare minimum won’t shift that.
- Similarly, as a pilot, it stopped dead at the edges of the project area. Legacy shortcomings such as narrow paths, poor paving, obstacles and lack of connectivity beyond (and within) the CBD weren’t treated..
- The after-effects of recent flooding still scarred the city and rendered significant parts of the regional bike network unusable indefinitely – as do several large-scale construction and transport projects across the inner city. A narrow pilot can’t solve systemic issues and my ride was much clunkier after I left the CBD.
- There are many crossover points that would be less fun during a weekday peak hour. This was not Paris or London undergoing their respective bike renaissance, or even Sydney’s recent road to Bike-mascus conversion. A positive change but at the end of the day, it’s not magical. There’s still hard work to build a robust, dynamic biking culture.
[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”19″ display=”basic_thumbnail”]Lessons for Canberra
Brisbane and Canberra are very different cities, and in important ways we are starting from a better foundation for biking here. That said, we can learn plenty from this pilot in our quest for happier, friendlier, safer streets.
- Trials are good! Teething issues can be addressed before a ‘final’ design is implemented. Retrofitting is more expensive to fix a completed project.
- Trials should be integrated thoughtfully into what already exists – even the best implementation can’t be transformative in isolation.
- Make use of other large projects to demonstrate new ideas. The Woden light rail extension, like Brisbane Metro, is a huge project that presents an excellent opportunity to reimagine how we can repurpose streets.