Aranda CBR Cycle Route C5: falling short of expectations

Aranda hill, CBR Cycle Route C5, Belconnen, Canberra

The ongoing saga of Aranda bike path. Maintenance is sorely needed, but despite the newest promises, nothing had been done. ACT Labor’s cycling ambition is underwhelming which leaves them on the back foot and it takes years to organise routine maintenance. Here is an example.

Contents

  1. Updates
  2. Where is it?
  3. The site visit
  4. What is wrong with this path?
  5. What causes cracks?
  6. Priority crossings
  7. 2004 Priority crossings on local roads in Aranda on the CBR Cycle Route C5
  8. Muddy paths
  9. One of many

Updates

Update 13 February 2021 Aranda

The lower section of the Aranda bike path (C5) has been resurfaced following the 2020 ACT Election but is already cracking due to tree roots. The root cause of the cracking previously was also the trees. This problem is well understood as asphalt reshapes itself to the underlying ground like a glacier. Asphalt is more like plasticine than concrete. If we built better quality bike paths to the prescribed standards (ACT Active Travel Standard Drawings and Austroads recommendations), we could avoid such issues.

Where is it?

The Aranda hill bike path connecting Belconnen with Lake Burley Griffin is a Principal Cycling Route (PCR) between Belconnen and Civic, Woden, Molonglo Valley and Weston Creek. In the new nomenclature, it has been named the CBR Cycle Route C5. More about this here and here.

The site visit

We got there and nothing had been done. That was a disappointment. Five warning signs had been put up, paint had been splashed around to mark the worse spots but no repairs have been made. 

The email is written as though the problems are recent. The maintenance issues with the Aranda hill go back years. We have reported them last year after a couple of near crashes coming down the hill in the dark. At about the same time, I read a comment on the RiotACT from one man that complained he had reported the faults now with Fix My Street for two years and nothing had been done. We have been riding the hill since 2014 and have no memory of any maintenance work being carried out. Now Tara’s email suggests that repairs could wait for another “12 to 18 months subject to funding and competing priorities.” The prediction here is that the repairs could be finally made up to 8 years after it was obvious that the path had become unsafe.

CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Aranda, Canberra
CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Aranda, Canberra

What is wrong with this path?

The path has a number of faults:

  • undulations, where the path sinks and rises over a few metres to ground level changes 
  • cracks along the length of the path, typically caused by water 
  • cracks across the path, typically caused by roots from trees
  • drainage of water across the path
  • sediment deposits from storms on the path
  • road crossings that are inadequately signed and no traffic calming on a Principal Community Route.

What causes cracks?

More about cracks along the length of the path typically caused by water, and cross the path typically caused by roots from trees, is discussed here

The crack will be small at first but over time they get bigger and dangerous. Some are now big enough to comfortably stick your finger into. On the edge of the paths, longitudinal cracks will cause the edge of the asphalt to break up and fall away, leaving a jagged edge. 

The path is washed away at the edges in places and just drops off. In other areas, silt has built up to a considerable thickness on low lying sections of the path, particularly behind path damage from roots. These sections are muddy and slippery and a hazard. In some places for some distance is actually an intermittent creek. Water from the surrounds flows down the path as it provides the least resistance. All these drainage issues need to be fixed. 

Priority crossings missing in Aranda

Two roads cross the CBR Cycle Route C5 on Aranda hill: Redfern Street and Lyttleton Crescent. Redfern Street gets a lot of traffic as it connects Hawker to Jamison. Lyttleton Crescent is quieter but the motorists do not have good visibility of the bike path. The rider needs to take care crossing both roads. What we need here is a well lit and marked priority crossing, as is required in the ACT Active Travel Standards. 

Street crossing, CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Aranda, Canberra
Street crossing, CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Aranda, Canberra
Street crossing, CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Aranda, Canberra
Street crossing, CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Aranda, Canberra
Safety and hazards on CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Belconnen, Canberra
Safety and hazards on CBR Cycle Route C5, Aranda bike path, Belconnen, Canberra

Information box

2004 Priority crossings on local roads in Aranda on the CBR Cycle Route C5

CBR Cycle Route C5 crosses Catchpole Street, Redfern Street, and Lyttleton Crescent. According to the ACT Active Travels Standards, priority crossing are required where Principal Community Routes crosses streets that are lower in the hierarchy. This makes sense. For cycle infrastructure to be attractive, trunk cycle networks must have priority over local streets and minor connectors for the same reasons that arterial roads do. Pedal Power ACT said as much back in 2004. At the Belconnen public consultation, 16 February 2004, for the (ACT) Ten Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure 2004, the wombat crossings were requested on Catchpole Street, Redfern Street, and Lyttleton Crescent. 18 years later, they have not been built.

Wombat Crossing Missing on Aranda hill bike path (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.
Wombat Crossing Missing on Aranda hill bike path (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.

Muddy paths

When silt builds up to form a layer on a bike path it represents a hazard for cyclists. This usually happens due to poor drainage. We often see drainage ditches beside roads, but bike paths are all to often painted onto the contours of the landscape and have not been designed or built with measures to prevent runoff water following across the path or leaving storm deposits. The sandy and clay soils of Canberra are easily dislodged in heavy rains. These mud deposits on bike paths are slippery, and when dry they form a loose layer which impairs braking. 

It may not be obvious to some that bikes have limited traction. Bike tyres are designed for a hard, smooth and abrasive surface that is typically concrete or asphalt. Bike tyres are often very narrow particularly on city bikes and road bikes. Some of these bikes do not have tyres without tread which makes the tyre slippery in wet weather. Most tyres have some tread so that it has good traction even when the surface is wet. The tyres are not designed for torrential rain or mud. Mountain bikes are different. They are designed for dirt, sand and mud and have been fitted tyres for these circumstances.

One of many

Aranda Hill is one bike path of many that need maintenance. We should not accept that bike paths in Canberra are poorly maintained. Chris Steel boasted the intent to resurface 6 million square metres of roads in 6 months coming up to the election and that TCCS is working overtime filling potholes in the roads. Well and good, but bike paths have been in dire need of maintenance and get very little attention. We should demand this to change.

“To all those complaining about this much-needed cycling infrastructure improvement, I say, get on your bike and try to ride it, in safety, in the Belconnen Town Centre area and then get back to me. I won’t start on the cycle/shared paths I used for many years commuting from Evatt and McKellar other than to say they appear to have received little to no maintenance since I started using them in the late 1970’s. You need a dual suspension MTB to cope with the bumps and cracks!”

Klaus Popp 9:21 pm 09 Oct 19, The RiotACT

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