ACT Labor 2020 follow up

There was little cycling in the lengthy 2020 ACT Labor Policy Position Statement (no longer online) and most concerning was lack of specifics. ACT Labor did poorly on active travel in the 2016-2020 legislative term, however, seem to be doing better since. Minister Steel speech reaffirmed the pledges before the ACT Legislative Assembly (7 May 2022). This article compares ACT Labor’s progress on active travel between 2016-2020 and 2020-2022.

Contents

  1. Progress: Ministerial speech, 7 May 2022
  2. ACT pledges at the 2020 ACT Election
  3. Weaknesses of ACT Labor
  4. 2004 Benjamin Way missing link
  5. ACT Labor: achievements 2016-2020

Progress: Ministerial speech, 7 May 2022

Delivering on pledges from the 2020 ACT Election. The progress ACT Labor has made between 2020 and 2022 (stand 7 May 2022).

ProjectTypeStatus
Sulwood Driveconstructiondetail design phase
Garden City Cycle Routefeasibility studyprogressing
Belconnen Bikeway extensionconstructionstarts in 2022
Lake Ginninderra studyfeasibility studycompleted
Gungahlin Town Centrefeasibility studyprogressing
Adelaide Avenuefeasibility studyno progress
Movement and Place Framework revisionpolicyannounced 2022
Active travel design reviewpolicyannounced 2022
CBR cycle routes planningpolicyannounced 2022
Active Travel Frameworkpolicyannounced 2022
The progress ACT Labor has made between 2020 and 2022 (stand 7 May 2022). canberra.bike, stand 7 May 2022

The good news is that Minister Chris Steels announcement in 2022, has reaffirmed the intent to progress with most of the ACT Election pledges. Some progress has been made with construction of the Belconnen Bikeway extension gone to tender and starting in 2022. The Lake Ginninderra feasibility study is completed but the next step – the construction – is a long way off.

The downside is that much of the work is more planning. Paralysis from analysis has be a problem with cycle infrastructure in the ACT for the last 20 years. Many segregated bike paths identified back in 2004 have still not been built.

Adelaide Avenue is a project that everybody agrees should have been address long ago but we have heard nothing of it, even in the most recent announcement from Minister Steel in the ACT Legislative Assemble.

In conclusion, ACT Labor is progressing with their plans. The problem lies with the lack of urgency, tendency to want to rely on continuity, and finally the lack of any real ambition. ACT Labor are waiting and seeing – more thinking but little action. This is the pattern of behaviour that we have seen over the last 20 years and it has resulted in not improvement in the cycling mode share (ABS statistics). We know we are not doing enough, but the status quo prevails.

ACT pledges at the 2020 ACT Election

1st announcement: 9 September 2020

The first announcement by ACT Labor (9 September 2020) lacked detail. Cycling did not feature prominently. Reading the cycling section creates a sense of déjà vu. It all seemed so familiar. Their plans for cycling in Canberra lack ambition. The ACT Labor Policy Position Statement document was available online to download but has since been removed.

Active travel
A re-elected ACT Labor Government will:
Update the Active Travel Framework to provide coordinated active travel networks across the Territory.
• Build new, strategic cycling and pedestrian connections.
• Invest in maintaining the existing trunk cycle path network to ensure that these ‘cycle highways’ receive as much maintenance as our roads.
• Build all new major roads with either on-road cycle paths and/or off-road shared paths.
• Continue supporting school communities with funding for the Physical Activity Foundation (PAF) and the Active Streets for Schools program.
• Continue to support the role of the ACT Government’s Active Travel office and develop a public education campaign about the practical measures people can take to get started.
• Trial new ways of using roads that most efficiently move people and goods, while better supporting sustainable transport modes. This work will also look at best practice road intersection design and protected cycle way design from around the world, to inform trials in areas supported by the ACT Movement and Place Framework that prioritise walking and cycling.

ACT Labor Policy Position Statement, 9 September 2020, 15. (no longer online)

ACT Labor final made a statement “Labor’s city-wide plan for active travel” after the polls had opened. The offer is underwhelming. $20 million funding is not enough and considering their COVID-19 stimulus pot is worth $4.9 billion, the $20 million offered for cycling is a rather insulting (0.4%).

2nd announcement: 3 October 2020

Two weeks out from the 2020 ACT Election, ACT Labor made a second announcement (3 October 2020) with interesting details.

Labor’s city-wide plan for active travel, 3 October 2020

Our $15m active travel plan will include:

– Design and construction of an off-road shared path along Sulwood Drive between Drakeford Drive and Athllon Drive ($4.7m)
– A route planning study and start of construction on the Garden city cycle route, likely to start in Watson and continue Dickson, Ainslie and Braddon ($5m)
– The extension of the Belconnen Bikeway from Haydon Drive to CIT Bruce to create over 5km of protected cycle paths through the Belco town centre ($1.2m)
– A feasibility study to widen the paths around Lake Ginninderra ($0.2m)
– A route planning study to improve cycling connectivity in the Gungahlin Town Centre ($0.3m)
– A feasibility study to construct an off-road cyclepath along Adelaide Avenue – Part of Light rail to Woden

ACT Labor Government will invest more than $3.7m in cycle path maintenance.

ACT Labor Government will also enhance our policy framework to encourage active travel.

– Adopting a Movement and Place Framework for Canberra
– Considering new, best practice design for intersections that prioritise walking and cycling
– Developing the CBR cycle routes network
– Updating the Active Travel Framework

Labor’s city-wide plan for active travel, 3 October 2020, 2020 ACT Election.

Weaknesses of ACT Labor

1. Little progress on climate change

ACT Labor make vague statements about cycling and climate change, as they have done for the last 20 years. During this period, the mode share for commuting to work has remained constant at around 3%. As far as cycling is concerned, ACT Labor has not succeeded in addressing climate change concerns.

“We are committed to tackling climate change by investing in public transport transitioning to zero emissions, plus more footpaths and bike paths to help make the switch to walking and cycling easy for as many people as possible.”

ACT Labor Policy Position Statement, 9 September 2020, 13. (attached below)

2. Physical Activity Foundation program in doubt

The contracts with the Physical Activity Foundation (PAF) for the Ride or Walk to School (RWTS) and It’s Your Move Safe Cycle (IYMSC) program expired 31 December 2021 (TCCS FOI 22-036). Both programs may have been forgotten by TCCS. Minister Steel requested funding in the 2021-22 budget to bring these matter in house. Has this been done? What is happening with the programs right now?

3. ACT Labor has a poor record

Fast Track produced little infrastructure that is suitable for cycling.

“At the current rate, it will take 166 years to double the length of off-road paths suitable for cycling. The investment in Fast Track is welcome but is too little, too late.”

Fast Track is too slow, canberra.bike, 8 August 2020.

The big projects pledged back at the last ACT Election were delayed and not completed before the 2020 ACT Election (read ACT Labor: achievements 2016-2020 below). Belconnen Bikeway was reduced in scope, with the Benjamin Way cycleway now uncertain (read 2004 Benjamin Way missing link below).

The capital expenditure on transport has largely continued the historic trend of building more roads. More recently, light rail has picked up. Of those transport projects currently on the table, only about 1% of the expenditure is cycling related and MOST of those projects were promised in 2016. The Conversation recently noted this is not untypical for Australia, but hopelessly inadequate.

Executive Officer at Pedal Power ACT John Armstrong, described Labor’s plans for Canberra as not big enough, saying, “If we want to be better than the rest of Australia, we have to take some bigger steps. Hanging your hat on what [the rest of Australia already has] is not big enough, is not strong enough, won’t make it, it won’t cut the mustard, we need to be able to be bigger, bolder and stronger.”

The RiotAct, 28 September 2016

2004 Benjamin Way missing link

The CBR Cycle Route C5 is the new name for a cycle path built by the predecessor of the NCA between Belconnen and the Lake Burley Griffin and provides a Principal Community Route between Belconnen Town Centre and the City.

The CBR Cycle Route C5 infamously ends halfway along Benjamin Way. This is typical of the bike infrastructure built in Canberra – the bike paths generally stop at the edge of the town centre. A more recent example is the Principal Community Routes to Gungahlin Town Centre (C7 and C1). The Molonglo Group Centre Concept Plan also has bike paths stopping at the edge of the Molonglo Town Centre precinct. We have learnt nothing in 40 years of building town centres.

The Belconnen public consultation, 16 February 2004, requested the completion of the bike path along Benjamin Way to Emu Bank. This request has been echoed in every consultation since, including the consultation for the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, the consultation for the Belconnen Bike Way, the SLA “Circus Precinct” consultation from 2020.

Why is 18 years not enough?

Benjamin Way missing link (CBR Cycle Route C5). Public consultation notes, Belconnen Session, Monday, 16 February 2004, Ten Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure, Roads ACT, 2004.
Benjamin Way missing link (CBR Cycle Route C5). Public consultation notes, Belconnen Session, Monday, 16 February 2004, Ten Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure, Roads ACT, 2004.

ACT Labor: achievements 2016-2020

ACT Labor, with a soft glove, can be seen to have good intent but very slow with the delivery. This is demonstrated when we look at the election pledges from the 2016 ACT Election. By the time of the 2020 ACT Election, the projects were not finished. The only one that was, was an interesting case. Flemington Road bike path was destroyed building the Gungahlin Light Rail and afterwards they forgot to rebuild it. Only after an embarrassing reminder from the ACT cycling community was it fixed.

Active travel (2016-2020 achievements)
We have invested in walking and cycling as a key way to make our city more liveable, by:
• Expanding the role of the Active Travel office and schools-based active travel initiatives.
• Introduced school crossing supervisors to make it easier for kids to walk or ride to school.
• Investing in key missing links across our shared path network through major investments in cycling infrastructure, including the Belconnen Bikeway, Heysen Street link, Corinna Street separated cycleway, Flemington Road shared path extension and Tuggeranong Town Centre cycle improvements.
• Building new signalised intersections and crossings to support pedestrian and cycle priority and safety.

ACT Labor Policy Position Statement, 9 September 2020, 15. (no longer online)

The missing links here were largely promised back at the 2016 ACT Election, but four years later, remained unfinished.

Project FinishedHistory
Belconnen Bikewayno2016 pledge
Heyson Streetno2016 pledge
Flemington Roadyesreconstructed after a road widening (light rail)
Tuggeranong Town Centreno
Kuringa Driveno2016 pledge
canberra.bike, 2020

The projects have not been completed in a timely way and it demonstrates a lack of ambition.

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