As bike riders we know better infrastructure makes cycling safer and more convenient. It encourages more cycling particularly among cautious riders who, understandably, refuse to ride on roads with fast-moving vehicles. Parents too are keen to see safe cycling facilities before allowing their children to cycle alone.
The benefits to be derived from modern infrastructure design are highlighted in two recently completed projects in Canberra – the Heysen Street (Lyons/Weston) path and the crossing at Melrose and Theodore in Curtin.
Heysen Street Path
Heysen St is a two lane road over the top of Oakey Hill between Lyons and Weston. It carries a good volume of traffic as it links the northern sections of Woden and Weston Creek and the rapidly expanding Molonglo. The road had no path or sealed verge so people riding bikes had to ride in the traffic lane and people walking used a very uncomfortable rough verge. Moreover, the blind hill and slow-moving bikes pushing up the hill made for a dangerous situation – an accident waiting to happen.
The makeover of Heysen St involved the construction of a shared path separated from the traffic by a ‘castellated’ curb – so-called for its battlement-type profile. The path meets all the current standards – it is 3m wide, has smooth bitumen and lighting. At the Lyons end, the edge of the path is lit by pavement solar lights. To shorten the route and improve the gradient, a route change was negotiated with Park authorities to allow for a transit though Oakey Hill Nature Reserve. Even though the traffic is close through the cutting at the top of the hill the curb provides and effective barrier and gives path users a sense of separation. The 3m width also allows for a safe free-wheeling downhill run with reasonable separation from pedestrians.
The key difference is that bike riders no longer have to ride in the traffic lane with cars queuing behind on the uphill section (with the inevitable temptation to cross the double line), or speeding past them on the fast downhill section.
All in all it’s a win-win result and one which Pedal Power hopes will be replicated elsewhere.
Intersection re-design – Melrose Drive and Theodore Street
The crossing of Theodore at Melrose was a notoriously difficult one. Being a typical 1960s Canberra design it had sweeping corners and a slip lane allowing vehicles to negotiate the turn at up to 40km/hour. No priority existed for path users. The crossing was too close to the intersection such that vehicles waiting to enter Melrose would block the crossing requiring path users to dodge around in front or behind vehicles. Path users needed to watch for oncoming traffic from three directions.
The Government allocated money for active travel improvements in Woden in a recent budget. Federal money was also available. Pedal Power urged the Government to add the upgrading of this crossing to the package of projects. It has been a very worthwhile exercise.
The designers incorporated a ‘bent’ crossing which means the approaches were modified to direct path users away from Melrose Drive and cross Theodore a short distance from Melrose. This allows for vehicles entering Melrose to queue without blocking the crossing. A red, raised zebra crossing was installed and traffic was restricted to one lane each way. Overhead lighting ensures good visibility at night.
So people on bikes can now approach the crossing with confidence they have priority and knowing that vehicles will stop or slow for them, not least because of the raised road section. Far better sight lines are available to both path users and people driving. Quite often a vehicle need only slow to allow a bike to cross so that both parties are able to roll through the intersection. The contrast with the old dysfunctional crossing is marked. Again, this is a win-win result.