Section 7: Movement and Place

This section explains what the Movement and Place Framework means for cycling, and what the challenge is to implement the Movement and Place Framework in the ACT, as it will require the proactive collaboration of both ACT Transport and ACT Planning. This is something recommended in the ACT Active Travel Key Documents, but yet to be done.

7.1 Feels like home

For a few years now, the ACT strategies have promoted a Movement and Place Framework. The idea, best shown in pictures, is difficult to put into practice, as it presumes the ACT Planning and Transport directorates work together. And that there is a strong, visible and active sponsor!

Before going into some detail, let us set the scene.


Imagine your suburb – a landscape of our making and the place where we live our lives. Around our home, we move between the private and public spaces with little thought. The essence of “place” is that the community makes the public realm their own.

Figure 7‑1 Photo by Allan Mas on

When children play with a ball, at the front of the home, at some stage, the ball will shoot away. The children fetch the ball and start again. Fetching a ball could mean moving across both public and private realm. Human beings have no sense of crossing a boundary. This is the challenge of making place, as it presumes continuity. A good example of this is Vauban in Freiburg.

ACT Transport plans a large portion of our public space – about a third of the area of a new suburb (see below). ACT Planning plans our private space by zoning blocks on the Territory Plan. ACT Transport has a mandate for transport (movement) and ACT Planning for creating a liveable city (place). The implicit assumption here is that place and movement are separated fields of activity. They are not.

“The yield assumes a TCCS compliant 34% land take for local road reserves, but does not consider land take for higher order roads such as sub-arterial or IPT corridors.”[1]

The Movement and Place Framework is not a dichotomy. The local street is not just about movement. It is the place where we live, the place we call home, the place where we grow up, and a place where we meet our friends and stop to talk to the neighbours.

“We have a strong natural tendency to think in dichotomies: in-group or out-group, either/or, neither/nor, with me or against me, etc. Inclusive thinking – in terms of And – is learned behaviour and requires energy and focus.”

With a narrow view of local streets as “transport”, we alienate the people from public space and propel them behind fences and doors. The street is seen as a threat to our children and ourselves. We will then not venture out of our own private safety bubble without protection. The street becomes hostile territory – lonely, barren, and threatening.

Children will play in the public realm when it looks and feels like home. When it looks like a road, people driving cars will claim it.

The way government works

Let us contrast this with the way government works. The ACT Government is made up of 2 relevant directorates: one for ACT Transport and another one for ACT Planning. The two directorates report to different ministers, who work independently. The lack of cross communication and coordination between the two directorates is a weakness – it is easy to imagine the left hand not knowing what the right one is doing.

Silo thinking turns local streets into moats between local communities by failing to recognise the importance of streets as community places. The challenge for government is to see the local street as community space that is not separated from the surrounding buildings. Where we live is neither Place nor Movement, but both. In the area we call home, Place is more important than Movement. Movement is not neglected, but we want to create a space that promotes incidental interaction between people of the community.

This is the idea behind the Movement and Place Framework. Streets in the local community are much more than transport. The Movement and Place Framework permits us to see the Transport and Planning as one thing, as opposed to two separate things. We combine the two to make it home.

Looking through the windscreen

ACT Transport has grown up with cars and motorists in mind. Roads are about cars, not people. What has changed, however, is that other user groups that share the road (modes of transport).

“User groups – Pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians are made up of different groups of users that have different values and needs. Pedestrian user groups include walkers, joggers, people pushing prams or strollers and those using wheelchairs, both motorised or non-motorised. Cyclist user groups include primary and secondary school children, family groups / recreational cyclists, commuters, neighbourhood / utility cyclists, and touring and training cyclists (refer AGTM04 Table 4.12).”[2]

Figure 7‑2 The Movement and Place Framework, Moving Canberra 2019-2045 Integrated Transport Strategy, 17.

“Our network is composed of a range of street environments that have different “movement and place” functions that need to be considered:

Parkways/Motorways – strategically significant roads (such as Tuggeranong Parkway, Barton Highway, Federal Highway and Majura Parkway) that move people and goods rapidly over long distances and do not interact with the places the road passes through;

Movement Corridors – main roads (such as Belconnen Way, Parkes Way, Barry Drive and Canberra Avenue) providing safe, reliable and efficient movement of people and goods between regions and strategic centres;

Local Streets – part of the fabric of the neighbourhoods where we live our lives and interact with our communities;

Vibrant Streets -facilitate a high demand for movement as well as a sense of place, so need to balance varying demands within the available road space. They range in scale from the large boulevards of Northbourne Avenue to the smaller but lively Lonsdale Street in Braddon; and

Places for People – combined higher pedestrian activity and lower levels of vehicle movement, for example City Walk and Garema Place. They create streetscapes which attract visitors, where people can linger and are places communities value.”[3]

We need to change how we think.

Public realm, not roads

Transport has become dominated by an engineering efficiency paradigm focused on getting from A to B. The cost of congestion to the economy is calculated and monitored by government. Time is money. The car centric view of the city, that has dominated our thinking in the last century, is not going to serve us in the future. What got us here, will not get us there. We cannot build our way out of congestion.

The Movement and Place Framework supports the notion of a “slow city“. In a slow city, the travel times may not be longer than driving. For example, in heavy morning traffic it takes up to 50 minutes to get to the office (Belconnen to Civic, including parking), compared to 40 minutes by e-bike (door to door). Our experience of moving around the city and commuting is more than network efficiency. Moving around the city is an important part of our lives and should permit us to build relationships though incidental meetings. Our public spaces, which include all roads, need to be shaped for people.

Human beings are not logical or rational. We are irrational and ‘psycho-logical’. We love our cars, even though they make us lonely among all the other people, also lonely in their cars.

We prefer to live in cities

Cities are crowded places, but more people prefer to live in cities now than ever before. Moving around a city will take time, however, the experience is not always a pleasant one. Psychological studies have shown we are good at adapting, but never adjust to traffic noise or congestion. After driving to work, the body is physiologically stressed. We’ve overdrawn our ‘health account’ before the workday has even started.

The quotes below are from the psychologist Jonathan Haidt from his book The Happiness Hypothesis.

“Adaptation is, in part, just a property of neurons: Nerve cells respond vigorously to new stimuli, but gradually they “habituate,” firing less to stimuli, but that they have become used to.”[4]


“Research shows that people who must adapt to new and chronic sources of noise (such as when a new highway is built) never fully adapt, and even studies that find some adaption, still find evidence of impairment on cognitive tasks. Noise, especially noise that is variable or intermittent, interferes with concentration and increases stress.”[5]


“Even after years of commuting, those whose commute are traffic-filled still arrive at work with higher levels of stress hormones. It is worth striving to improve your commute.”[6]

There is abundant research that good relationships improve our wellbeing, and we never tire of them (adaptation). Building community through good urban design is a worthwhile goal.


“The condition that is usually said to trump all others in importance is the strength and number of a person’s relationships. Good relationships make people happy.”[7]

Why the joy of cycling matters

In contrast, the experience of commuting to work by bike is generally positive. The following is typical of what cyclists’ report of their experience. How we choose to move around the city – the mode of transport – changes how we experience it. We build our city, and the associated investment decisions, determine which options we can choose from. Remember that behaviour follows infrastructure!

“Cycling is the most delightful treatment for whatever ails you. Climate change, congestion, obesity, poor mental health. It doesn’t matter what your problem is, cycling’s your solution, for those fortunate enough to be able to ride.”[8]

Movement and Place in our strategy

In the latest ACT Transport Strategy 2020, Movement and Place is still interpreted as moving from A to B. The focus is on movement, whereas the vision for our city is most certainly place making. Engineers think in terms of hierarchies and categories. This serves well for the design of specifications and standards, but is far from the humanistic vision of place. We can see the simplification of the world that hierarchies and categories entail in the ACT Transport Strategy 2020.

Figure 7‑3 A network structure that focuses movement by place and location. ACT Transport Strategy 2020.

Hierarchy of travel

ACT Transport is responsible for movement and puts this aspect front and centre. The image below shows travelling through the city. The greater the distance, the more important movement is. The preferred modes of transport depend on the distance. We may choose to walk around the suburb, may ride to friends in the district, but we are likely to commute to another town centre by car or public transport.

A network structure that focuses on movement and place and location, ACT Transport Strategy 2020.

Every framework needs a 3 x 3 graph:

  • Place is shown from least important to most important, moving left to right along the bottom axis.
  • Movement is shown from least important to most important, moving from bottom to top on the vertical axis.
  • Urban environment is described as one of four types:
    • Movement Corridors
    • Vibrant Streets
    • Local Streets
    • Places for People
Figure 7‑4 A movement and place framework for Canberra. ACT Transport Strategy 2020.

Arterial roads such as Northbourne Avenue would be on the top left. This is consistent with the traditional view of transport planning. The bottom right quadrant is more at odds with traditional transport planning – here place making here overrides movement. In Places for People, kids can play on streets and drivers are guests. Cars are visitors in Places for People, as would be kids playing in a Movement Corridor such as Northbourne Avenue. Kids and cars do not mix – we all know that.

Austroads model

Austroads has a slightly different model for the Movement and Place Framework in the 2020 Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users (Austroads, AP-R611-20).

Figure 7‑5 Proposed Movement and Place framework showing road street families. 2020 Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users, Austroads, AP-R611-20, 4.

Austroads is the Australian national standards body. It conducts research to determine best practice. The Austroads Movement and Place Framework relates back to this work. Active Streets and Boulevards are described in other Austroads documents. For Austroads, Active Streets is something quite specific. Austroads documents are highly informative.

The Austroads` Movement and Place Framework defines six urban environments:

  • Movement Corridors and Connectors
  • City Hubs
  • City Streets
  • Local Streets
  • City Places
  • Active Streets and Boulevards

Architects and urban planners have long ago understood that their visions are better shown with pictures than words. Traditionally, they have drawn pictures and made meticulous models. Similarly, rather than defining the concept of City Places in words, photographs of good examples can say more. Photographs capture the essence of the idea and permit simpler comparisons. Below is the Austroads Movement and Place Framework in pictures.

Figure 7‑6 Movement and Place Framework. 2020 Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users, Austroads, AP-R611-20, 3.
Figure 7‑7 The power of pictures. Artist’s impression of place making from the Molonglo commercial centre and environs draft concept plan (ACT Government, June 2014).

The safety aspect

There are many good reasons for place making. The most important goal is to make cities more liveable (see ACT Planning Strategy) and to improve the quality of life, health and wellbeing. Physical activity, connections with the community, and an attractive environment (in which we feel safe) are most important.

When mixing cars with pedestrians and other vulnerable road users, the best way to make it safe is to reduce the speed limits. The chances of a pedestrian dying, when hit by a car, depends on the car’s speed, increasing from 10% at 30 km/h to over 90% at 50 km/h. A car’s breaking distance increases dramatically with more speed. Slowing cars down is the most effective way of improving the safety of vulnerable road users.

Generally, in Canberra, speed limits are set much higher than Austroads would recommend. Local Streets belong to people and should have a speed limit of 30 km/h. This is not the case in Canberra, even school zones have a speed limit of 40 km/h.

Table 7‑1 The recommended speeds and circumstances description are taken from the Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users (Austroads, 2020), 9.

Prioritising private motor vehicles

Generally, pedestrian and cycling infrastructure can be improved without works on the road. Paths are typically located away from the road on the verge or through parks. Building footpaths and cycling infrastructure are inexpensive compared to roads. Recent road duplication projects in the ACT would indicate that 30 km of cycle paths could be built for the same price as 1 km of newly duplicated road! Let us repeat that again: 30 km versus 1 km. And again: 30 vs 1!!
We need to advocate for Canberrans changing their mindsets.

Figure 7‑8 Oh, wow! Paradigm change!!

In recent years, local road upgrades were – and still are – driven by lobbying from private vehicle motorists, and by the construction of the light rail. Although the multiple benefits of better footpaths and cycling infrastructure are accepted, it has not changed the transport investment priorities. After the dust has settled, the road upgrades often provide minimal improvement of footpaths and cycling infrastructure. Sometimes cycling infrastructure even gets worse. Here are a few examples of recent and upcoming projects (Movement Corridors):

  • Gundaroo Drive (Federal Highway to Belconnen section) – no improvement to the cycle path (Principal Community Route)
  • Copland Drive roundabout – lack of priority crossing for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Flemington Road upgrade – cycle path removed (Principal Community Route)
  • Southern Cross Drive signalisation 2021 – cycle lane removed.

Between a rock and a hard place

The focus on car culture matters. Movement Corridors are all about Movement and not Place. We would expect the cycling infrastructure to benefit from upgrades to roads. This has often not been the case. Cycling has been marginalised by our ingrained car culture that drives road development.

One would then hope that cycling would get more attention by shifting to an example of place making. The Belconnen Town Centre upgrade, with the Belconnen Town Centre Place Design Brief (2021), has demonstrated that cycling might not fair that much better.

Belconnen Town Centre upgrade should improve active travel and create a sense of place. This must be welcomed. However, the consultations were never about cycling. The consultations were about place making and never queried the interests of cyclists directly. When creating place, urban planners still see bikes as means of transport. The assumption is that people park the car and walk, or take the bus. The neglect of cycling infrastructure investment would suggest that with ACT Transport too, bikes are also the poor cousins. In the ACT, cycling remains marginalised in the Movement and Place Framework, and fits uncomfortably in both movement and place. It should not be that way, and demonstrates how alien cycling is to most. For many people, cycling is a sport and not something you otherwise do. Many cyclists think that way, too. Our strong car culture is reflected in that cycling infrastructure is not given high priority.

In the image below from the Belconnen Town Centre Place Design Brief, the location of the Belconnen Bikeway is not obvious. The Belconnen Bikeway is part of the CBR Cycle Route C3a between Charnwood and the City – one of Canberra’s Principal Community routes. The colourful half-circle in the centre of the image is the Circus Site Precinct. The Belconnen Bikeway runs parallel along Joynton Smith Drive before turning into Emu Bank. The Belconnen Bikeway is largely neglected in the design, even though as a Principal Cycling Route it deserves careful attention due to obvious conflicts with local pedestrian traffic. The design does not make any attempt to mitigate the conflicts. There are always options, however, as the consultation never inquired about cycling, it has not been considered.

“If you think, plan, and design out of a windscreen paradigm,
everything will look like a road!”

The consultation showed little regard for the cycling connections east-west along Emu Bank (CBR Cycle Route C3a), and north-south along Benjamin Way (CBR Cycle Route C5).

Figure 7‑9 Circus site precinct, Belconnen Town Centre Place Design Brief, Suburban Land Agency, 2021.

Transformation of Government

Roads are not part of the Territory Plan. The location of John Gorton Drive Bridge is incorrect in the Territory Plan. The reason lies in the silo structures and thinking of the ACT Transport and ACT Planning directorates.

A good example of typical tribal human behaviour and attitudes was the reaction of a director from ACT Planning at a recent District Planning consultation (as part of the planning review). We were presented maps of the Molonglo district. When we pointed out that the spatial data for the road network was wrong, it was shrugged off with: “That’s Transport!” The willingness to ignore an error as the responsibility of another directorate, and to remain stoically indifferent, can only be described as learned behaviour. Our car culture eats Movement and Place for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

“Amend the Territory Plan, Estate Development Code, the Municipal Infrastructure Standards and relevant legislation to consider how planning controls can adopt the following principles:
• new developments have permeable street layouts that provide safe and efficient walk and bike routes to centres, schools, public transport and other local activities and are capable of accommodating buses.
• active travel infrastructure in all new and renewed developments, as well as support for emerging transport trends such as bike share and car share.”[9]

With a Movement and Place Framework mindset we are interested in both Movement (transport) and Place (planning). There is no hard border between leased blocks and road reserve. In the Movement and Place Framework, the local street and the surrounding housing combine to form a community.

By crossing the street, we traverse the invisible boundary between directorates, but it is not reasonable to assume that human beings care about it. The silo thinking of the directorates works against good outcomes and creating communities – and liveable spaces.

“– The Environment, Planning and Sustainability Development Directorate is not resourced to promote cycling.
 – There are no cycling targets in the ACT Transport Plan 2020 or the TCCS.”[10]

ACT Movement and Place Framework

The meaning of the Movement and Place Framework needs to be clarified in an ACT context. The Moving Canberra 2019-2045 strategy (TCCS) recognises that a Movement and Place Framework cannot be implemented by one directorate alone. It is going to be a group effort with collaboration between directorates, ideally with a ‘cross-over leader’ accountable for outcomes and benefits realisation. It will also require sponsorship, change leadership, and culture change.

“The ACT Movement and Place Framework requires Whole-of-Government awareness and buy-in.”[11]

“We propose to apply the ACT Movement and Place Framework to integrate transport with land use planning.”[12]

It is not clear what the ACT Movement and Place Framework will contain. Writing the ACT Movement and Place Framework will help reconcile conflicts between ACT Transport and ACT Planning. In some cases, it is reasonable to doubt that they are even aware of the issues. Everything looks rosy from within one’s comfort zone. The process of drafting a document will be eye opening and therapeutic. The Moving Canberra 2019-2045 Strategy currently provides the best description of the framework from any ACT document, but it is not all that recent (2018).

The Austroads Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users (2020) is a good example of two concepts – Safe Systems, and Movement and Place – that have been brought together in a way that is helpful for both practitioners and the public. Something similar for the ACT Movement and Place Framework would be ideal.

7.2 Moving Canberra 2019-2045 Integrated Transport Strategy

Moving Canberra 2019-2045 provides detailed explanation of concepts that are understandable to the uninitiated. Many of the things the ACT Government does, people do not know about, not least because it is explained in a way that is not engaging. What may be acceptable communication within a directorate will not echo with the broader community. We are all impacted by planning. The general population benefits from knowledge of the direction of the developments.

The ACT Transport Strategy 2020 is a much shorter document in comparison, but the concepts are sprinkled across it and poorly explained. A reader who shows first interest in urban planning, is likely to struggle to appreciate the content.

The Moving Canberra strategy document has the weakness that it does not explain how the goals are to be achieved or allocate the goals as a strategy should. This has been a major problem with strategies in the past, particularly in planning, where strategic documents had little effect on the day-to-day decision-making.

The intention is that the ACT Movement and Place Framework should be fleshed out in a guideline. This would be most welcome, but in the three years since the publication, a draft for the new framework is still missing. This delay could throw into question the priority of a Movement and Place Framework. Considering the rapid development in Molonglo, it would be better to have the guideline sooner rather than later.

Moving Canberra 2019-2045 is a strategy document authored by ACT Transport but recognises that a Movement and Place Framework cannot be implemented by one directorate alone. It is going to be a group effort with collaboration between directorates.

“The ACT Movement and Place Framework requires Whole-of-Government awareness and buy-in.[13]

We propose to apply the ACT Movement and Place Framework to integrate transport with land use planning.”[14]

The second concern is that ACT Transport has grown from a culture of traffic engineering, which has strived for decades to make the road networks more efficient. This paradigm assumes the primacy of the motor vehicle. The Movement and Place Framework assumes the primacy of the person and community. However, in this strategy, one has the impression that ACT Transport are reluctant to let go of that.

“Under a Movement and Place Framework, all road users will continue to have access to roads. However the severance created by road traffic will be reduced, and the integration with adjoining developments for local residents, businesses and their customers will improve. This ensures there is a closer relationship between traffic volumes and urban amenity along road corridors.”[15]

The way engineers have traditionally considered roads is in terms of “traffic volumes“. Movement and Place has the intention of shifting the focus away from traffic to place making. It is about people and community. Currently, in Canberra, nearly 80% of the households have at least one or two cars. If cities are built in a way that favours other modes of transport and walking, cycling and public transport become more common. Along Northbourne Avenue, in 2020, it had already shifted to 7% pedestrians, 7% cycling, 30%, public transport, and 56% private motor vehicle. This is the dramatic change since the launch of the light rail. Further shifts can be expected.

7.3 ACT Planning Strategy 2018

The ACT Planning Strategy 2018 addresses Movement and Place at a very abstract level. Movement and Place is subordinate to other planning objectives. From reading the ACT Planning Strategy 2018, it is not clear how it should be applied. One is left confused rather than empowered.

The following quote is for the strategic direction 5.2 which is to create walkable neighbourhoods that are inclusive and fair. While this is a desirable objective, the question remains what it means. Here is the text that explains it.

“Our city needs to be accessible to provide choice, access to services and facilities and to serve a diverse population including the needs of people living with a disability or disadvantage. Being able to access employment, education and essential services is key to people’s wellbeing, opportunities and social inclusion. We will provide services and facilities to support communities, and choices in housing, transport, employment and recreation.”[16]

We would understand from this that they want all services and facilities within a walkable distance, and the infrastructure built in such a way to be accessible to all, including the disabled. The ACT Disability Act provides from guidance on requirements (not mention in the text) and the Active Travel Guidelines further information on infrastructure and standards (not mentioned either). So far, so good.

From this quoted paragraph, I cannot imagine what such a street would look like. It does not help to balance movement and place in the design. Even if we presume to maximise place making, we still need to define what place making is. Place making can be many things and would look quite different for a retirement village, to office area, to school precinct. More information is required to make sense of the requirements of place. This seems to be generally true of working with the ACT Planning Strategy. In this case, it provides a vague notion that we should improve the inclusion and mobility of the disabled, it is, however, not clear what exactly is required.

The ACT Planning Strategy 2018 does not adequately link Place and Movement Framework with strategy. There is some danger that the Place and Movement Framework will be disregarded in planning.

Linking planning and transport

In the Place and Movement Framework, planning and transport are interdependent. We are required to reconcile planning and transport concepts. How two concepts can be successfully merged is demonstrated in the example below.

Transport practitioners use the concepts of Place and Movement Framework and Safe System. They are compatible. Knowing this, however, does not help us to combine the two. Austroads recognised this and did something useful. Austroads wrote a guideline to explain it and gave examples. It would be best if ACT Planning did the same for the planning system and the Place and Movement Framework.

7.4 Change management: welcome back the lily pond

The 2019 Monet Impression Sunrise exhibition was one of NGA’s most successful exhibitions ever. As we stood there and admired the beautiful flowers and leaves, we were looking at what Edgar Schein calls the ‘surface level of an organisational culture’. Like Monet, most people concentrate on the surface level of culture, because it is easy, because we can see it. For example, we naïvely think we can change our car culture by putting paint on the road! Let us explore the concept of culture change a bit more, and link it to active travel and cycling infrastructure examples.

The iceberg model of culture change

You might have heard of the iceberg model of culture. It talks about 3 distinct levels of culture:

  1. What is above the water level: The things we can see and touch and feel, like the roads around us, signage that is either there or not, pedestrian areas built for active travel, priority crossings – or the lack thereof – along main cycle ways, change rooms with big and ventilated lockers, bike sheds, unmaintained paths, road duplications, etc. This is the conscious level and what anthropologists call artefacts.
  2. Espoused values and beliefs: These are our lived and planned values, for instance safety or fairness, and also vision and value statements that are repeated at community meetings.
  3. Basic underlying assumptions: This is the deeply ingrained and unconscious level of lived behaviours that we typically are not even aware of. For example, these assumptions might have been conscious values that the ‘founding fathers’ of our Canberra transport culture believed in back then: enough room for parking, safety for cars and drivers, wide roads to ‘make driving safer and faster’. This is the level that needs to be targeted if you want to achieve transformational change, as these taken-for-granted beliefs and values determine our perceptions and behaviours. Add to this the fact that our deeply rooted personal values and character traits also lie here, and you will realise how complex and difficult culture change is.
Figure 7‑10 Bing: Edgar Schein iceberg model, All Creative Commons

The lily pond analogy

Edgar Schein has moved on from the iceberg and now proposes the lily pond analogy to capture a few more of the structural attributes of the 3 levels (Schein & Schein, 017, 6). Like with the iceberg, there is much more below the surface. The temperature and air might change (the climate), but the deep water below changes at a different and much slower rate.

On the surface of the lily pond, you have got leaves and flowers and things – the cultural artefacts. They are very visible and what a new visitor to Canberra would see. That is the “how we do things around here”: bike lanes, narrow shared paths, cyclists on Northbourne Avenue, wide roads, 80 km/h zones within the city, bus lanes painted in red (“Danger! Be careful!), slip lanes painted in green (“All good and safe! You are only crossing a bike lane and might encounter a vulnerable human being!!”). As all these things are visible, it is also the level where conscious role modelling and symbolism come to play, which is why active and visible top sponsorship is the number 1 factor for change success or failure. And why photos of the Dutch King riding to work went around the globe on World Bicycle Day.

Figure 7‑11 Lily model for culture change. The English translations are found on this graphic beside German words. Bing: Bernd Oestereich

We have a very strong car culture here in Canberra. Unless we tackle this very predominant culture with all its paradigms and habits, we will continue to make active travel related decisions through the “windscreen mindset”.

If you are interested in understanding WHY we do things the way we do, you are forced to look at the root system of your beautiful water lilies. What is feeding the roots? What is the DNA of the lily? Do the roots change if we prune the flowers and leaves? What is the history of the pond? Which environment is the pond in? Who planted what and how do those planters’ values and goals still impact on today’s decision?

If you do not dig down into the reasons for why we do things our current way, you have only looked at the culture at a very superficial level, and you have not really understood it. Lack of understanding then consequently means that all actions and interventions are purely tactical and not transformational.

Figure 7‑12 Fixes the past vs. Creatures of the future. Source: Facebook, Harlina Sodhi.

Building road duplications will lead to more people using the shiny new thing. Building bike infrastructure next to main roads means that only those who do not mind breathing in car fumes and stopping at every single traffic light – just like the cars do – will use it.

People always start at the surface level because it is the easiest. If you have an issue to solve you need to ask the question ‘Why’ and dig deeper. You might only see the surface phenomenon and realise that you have a culture problem, but you will not understand the reasons why, and you will not be able to come up with meaningful interventions to fix the problem.

Figure 7‑13 Source: Facebook; “Behaviour follows infrastructure!”

Edgar Schein tells this example, which I have paraphrased here: Your Sales are off and you think your Sales people are not collaborating enough. You decide to send them to ‘working together’ or ‘collaboration’ training, but notice after a few months that your problem has not gone away. Quite the opposite. Some of your high performers have realised that their market value has increased, and they have looked for – and found – new work.

After digging deeper, you realise that the reality is that your individualised incentive and reward system has developed a competitive culture. You now ask yourself: “How did we get to this state of being individually competitive?” You might find that the founders of the organisation believed in maximum individual competition (value statements), and that they built that into the reward, performance, and all other HR systems.

“OK”, you might think, “let’s change these HR systems”, but now you are trying to change all those structural things that have supported this value-based behaviour, and all of a sudden it is not so easy to anymore.

Figure 7‑14 Bing: Edgar Schein lily pond, the root system of the lily pond.

Cultural norms and differences are fascinating. As pointed out by Melissa & Chris Bruntlett in a recent Facebook post, standing at the border between the Netherlands and Belgium, you can literally take a photo to visualise the difference between a cycling and a car culture! Where would you rather live?

Figure 7‑15 Twice as many people buy electric bikes in the Netherlands (top) as opposed to Belgium (bottom).

Going deeper

We need to get down to the DNA and the roots of our car culture to evolve it into an inclusive active travel culture. For this to happen, we need to look at leadership, culture, and change at the same time.

As long as we are staying on the surface level of culture change, we will not achieve a real shift, as there are just simply too many forces pushing against it.

Figure 7‑16 Source: Facebook, The danger of doing a new thing that is still punished with the old “reward system” in place.
Figure 7‑17 Turn on its head: If we built bike paths like roads and roads like bike paths.


[2] Transport Canberra & Canberra City Services, Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05, 2019.

[3] City Services Directorate & Transport Canberra, Moving Canberra 2019-2045: integrated transport strategy, Canberra, ACT Government, 2018,, 17, [accessed 8 July 2021].

[4] J. Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis, 2006, 86.

[5] J. Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis, 2006, 90.

[6] Ibid., 92.

[7] Ibid., 93.

[8] Clay, J, ‘Jo Clay – Inaugural Speech to the ACT Legislative Assembly | ACT Greens’.in The ACT Greens, 2020, <; [accessed 8 July 2021].

[9] City Services Directorate & Transport Canberra, Moving Canberra 2019-2045: integrated transport strategy, 2018, 38.

[10] R. Bacon, ‘All quiet on the cycling front’.in Canberra Cyclist, 2021.

[11] City Services Directorate & Transport Canberra, Moving Canberra 2019-2045: integrated transport strategy, 2018, 17.

[12] City Services Directorate & Transport Canberra, Moving Canberra 2019-2045: integrated transport strategy, 2018, 38.

[13] City Services Directorate & Transport Canberra, Moving Canberra 2019-2045: integrated transport strategy, 2018, 17.

[14] Ibid., 38.

[15] Ibid., 17.

[16] ACT Government, ACT planning strategy 2018: future directions for a sustainable, competitive and equitable city, Canberra, ACT Government, 2018, <; [accessed 8 July 2021].

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