Active travel: pop-up on Commonwealth Avenue

Active travel comes up in the ACT Legislative Assembly and is worth watching out for. This is the first post of a series tracking this conversation.

This article quotes the active travel discussion in the ACT Legislative Assembly from the first week, 2021.

Active travel in week 1, 2021

OK, it was just week 1 and the discussion is a little thin on new information. We would hope it will be more feisty in the future.

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 1 Hansard (2 December) . . Page.. 153 ..

Transport—active travel

MS CLAY: My question is to the Minister for Transport and relates to cycling and walking numbers during COVID. Minister, has the ACT government undertaken or commissioned a count of pedestrian and cyclist numbers on key active travel routes since the beginning of the COVID period to get a better understanding of shifts in transport patterns over the past year, and to get a better understanding of how we can use this opportunity to increase active travel?

MR STEEL: I thank Ms Clay for her question and for her genuine interest in active travel. … The ACT government have been very closely monitoring—as far as we can—the amount of activity that has been occurring, particularly through walking, cycling, running and forms of active travel during the pandemic. …

We have seen a marked downturn in the overall travel of Canberrans. We saw an 80% decrease, at the lowest point, in the number of public transport patrons. We saw a 40% drop in the number of people using private vehicles around Canberra at the height of the pandemic. What we have seen, through sources like the app Strava, Google mobility and Apple travel data, is a huge increase in the number of people cycling and walking around our community. But the nature of those trips has been quite different. One of the data sources that we use … is the bike barometer on Sullivans Creek, which is a popular travel route, particularly to go through to the ANU. That has seen a decrease during the pandemic in the number of people cycling through the area. That is still down, at the moment, by about five to 15% on last year’s numbers.

So the nature of the travel has been different for local travel and for recreational travel by cycling and walking. We want to make sure that people continue this trend of cycling and walking beyond the pandemic. That was the focus of the ACT government’s transport strategy (2020).

MS CLAY: Minister, in the context of increased walking and cycling since COVID, and the different travel patterns that we have seen, has the government considered installing pop-up cycle lanes in areas with high cycling activity, which is something that occurred in other places?

MR STEEL: I thank Ms Clay for her supplementary question. The ACT government’s focus has been on building new cyclepaths and augmenting our existing 3,000 kilometres of cyclepaths (false) and footpaths around Canberra. That has been a focus of the many screwdriver-ready and stimulus packages that we have fast-tracked through the pandemic. Certainly it has been the focus of groups asking us to focus on those areas as a way of making sure that, beyond the pandemic, in this new normal, we can support more people to cycle and walk around our community, beyond just a pop-up or a temporary structure that could have been put up during the pandemic period. (ed. fast track produced little infrastructure for cycling)

We did, particularly in one area, try to establish a pop-up cyclepath on Commonwealth Avenue. We were in discussions with the NCA for a period of time in relation to that, because it is one of those areas where people are cycling and walking for recreation as well as for commuting to work. Unfortunately, ultimately that was not approved by the National Capital Authority, … .

the Slower Streets initiative, which has been implemented in about 11 suburbs around Canberra to try to slow traffic and get neighbours to understand that there are more people out walking and cycling in the community. That has been very successful and is something that we want to continue in the future. …

MR DAVIS: Minister, what new cycling and walking infrastructure was delivered as screwdriver-ready projects completed as part of the government’s response to COVID?

MR STEEL: I thank Mr Davis for his supplementary question. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACT government has had a focus on active travel through each fast-track stimulus package that we have brought forward, as well as the funding that the Commonwealth has brought forward for projects that we have proposed.

Those have included $10 million for new active travel paths around Canberra. We have done that based on community feedback. They are footpath priority projects that have been put up by the community, as well as stakeholders, across a range of different areas for walking and cycling. That has included 60 projects, including cyclist priority crossings and bike-and-ride facilities, to facilitate the connection with public transport.

There have been quite significant projects in my electorate of Murrumbidgee. One of those is the further kilometres of shared path that we installed on the Cotter Road, connecting the Molonglo through to Curtin and the city, and also through to Cooleman Court. …

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 1 Hansard (2 December) . . Page.. 153 ..

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