Section 8: Cycle Corridors

Cycle corridors are the mechanism by which strategic assets (public realm space) can be secured for good, fast cycling infrastructure between town centres for commuting cyclists, thus providing an alternative to driving. Cycle highways will not be finished quickly and they do not have to be. However, they will never be built unless the corridors are reserved and preserved.

8.1 Riding today but planning for tomorrow

When talking about cycle infrastructure in Canberra it is easy to mix up three different discussions. The past perspective is the network that we have inherited. The reasons for the design are often lost. Those going for a ride want to know how to get around. They need a safe network, that is well maintained, and equipped with wayfinding signage. Maintenance and signage are short term, ongoing, and tactical. The focus is on the here and now. Canberra is expected to have a population of over 700,000 by 2058, a 75% increase on 2017. We need to future proof the network. The discussion is about the network we need but do not have. We have three different perspectives for the same network.

Canberra is expected to have a population of over 700,000 by 2058, a 75% increase on 2017. ACT’s population is expected to grow steadily at an average annual rate of 1.3 per cent. ACT Government, ACT Population Projections 2018 to 2058, January 2019, 17.

Demographics of the Molonglo Valley in year 2041

Residents 58,648
Employment 7,955
Retail Space 43,000 [m2 GFA]
Education (Enrolments) 5,300
Tertiary Enrolments 0

WSP, Molonglo 3 East Planning and Infrastructure Study Transport Modelling Report, January 2021, 6.


Since 1988, Canberra has had a territory government. Before that the territory was administered by the National Capital Authority (NCA). Most of the bike paths in Canberra were built by the NCA. It is noticeable that the suburbs built after 1988 have very few bike paths. This continued until the noughties, when the ACT Government seemed determined to correct the error in Gungahlin.

Below is an example of a sign for a CBR Cycle Route (C4) at the Yarra Glen crossing, in Woden Valley from around 1989 (ACT Archives). In the old suburbs, CBR Cycle Routes are nothing else but the existing decades old network… rebranded.

Figure 8‑1 Way sign at Yarra Glen crossing, Woden Valley. c1989. ACT Archives, (CC BY-NC 2.0)


Making the existing infrastructure work today, no matter how poor it may be, is the reason behind the CBR Cycle Routes. People cycle more if they know where they are going. Waysigning paths increases the use of the paths, and it is also relatively inexpensive. In 2020, most of the CBR Cycle Routes were retrofitted with way signs. The network has become more welcoming, but some problems remain. CBR Cycle Routes can still be very confusing at intersections or where multiple routes share a corridor.

The idea of rebranding 1970s shared cycle paths as CBR Cycle Routes came from the development of local active travel standards, including on-road and off-road cycle infrastructure mostly between 2015-2018 (but starting in 2008).

The thinking of a cyclist is simple. We just want to ride and need to know how to get to our destination. We ride on what is available, whether commuting to work or visiting a friend. Wayfinding signage make the existing infrastructure much more useful.

For those who would like to take advantage of the hidden paths in Canberra, you will need the help of an app. Many routes are not marked and, although they may require frequent turns, can be more direct.

Figure 8‑2 CBR Cycle Routes wayfinding signage, Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05, ACT Standard Drawings.


It is quickly apparent that the existing active infrastructure in Canberra falls far short of the minimum standard prescribed in the Active Travel Standards (Section 5). This applies both to the requirements of pedestrians and cyclists, which are in many ways quite different and therefore poorly served by shared bike paths (accidentally) conceived in the 1970s.

The focus of this article is cycling, so let us put the requirements for pedestrians to one side for the moment. Active travel encourages all modes of transport, many of which are underutilised in Canberra due to poor infrastructure. Walking is often the simplest way to get anywhere.

People will cycle more often with better infrastructure. The CBR Cycle Route to Tuggeranong is typical of many CBR Cycle Routes, with the path characteristics changing within a kilometre from good to bad and back again. Our cycling network is a patchwork quilt made from Canberra’s planning legacy. Cycling remains unattractive on paths with frequent sudden changes in direction, when the quality of the infrastructure is poor, when they are poorly lit and maintained, or intersections across busy roads are laid out to the detriment of the safety of cyclists.

The Active Travel Standards point the way to what is acceptable and good. The ACT standards make frequent reference to Austroads which are often more detailed and there may be little reason to deviate from them. Austroads provide several options and often local authorities will favour a specific approach.

Building new cycle infrastructure versus replacing an old one is quite a different proposition. The design for new greenfield suburbs can be optimised to encourage cycling. In old suburbs, the only space for new and better cycling infrastructure may be within the existing road reserve. Adding new cycling infrastructure to existing suburbs can be challenging due to the urban planning legacy.

Building a good cycle network can take decades to build. Funds and other resources are finite. It is worthwhile taking a strategic approach. The aim should be to develop a cross-city network of cycle paths. Paths suitable for commuting need to be straight, direct, consistent, safe, and standardised.

For strategic and design purposes, refers to the desired cycle infrastructure as cycle highways. Cycle highways connect town centres with fast and direct off-road routes. By optimising planning and investment, the cross-city cycle network can be realised quicker. It all starts with reserving and protecting cycle corridors.

Cycle corridors

Light rail corridors are a good example. Light rail has specific characteristics. The corridors must be chosen so that they are suitable for light rail. Light rail is prescribed in the Planning and Development Act 2007 (Part 7.2A Capital Metro facilitation) and other Codes. One document worth mentioning is Guidelines for Light Rail Planning: 01 Corridor Preservation. It ensures that public land is reserved and protected and fit-for-purpose.

Cycle corridors, too, need to be reserved and protected public land that is fit-for-purpose. The construction of cycle highway may take decades. Without a network plan and space allocated for that purpose, it will never be built.

Cycle corridors are currently called Active Travel Route Alignments in the ACT Active Travel Standards. Active Travel Route Alignments are not a statutory instrument and the poorly considered in new developments. The current planning process still favours the long tradition in the ACT of building cycling infrastructure where it does not bother anybody. Driven by a changing political wind, this approach begets inconsistency. Furthermore, the ACT planning apparatus functions largely independently of the ACT Legislative assembly, with direction of the Territory Plan. Without statutory instruments, direction and strategic significance are lacking. The battle must be then won one street at a time, which is neither effective nor efficient.

“Active Travel Route Alignments (ATRA) – The spatial alignment datasets of the five Active Travel Route types.”[1]

Perspectives differing

The Active Travel Standards defines a hierarchy of cycle path types. At the top of the hierarchy are cycle highways, the motorways of the cycling world. refers to them as cycle highways to capture the strategic and aspirational ambition. The ACT Active Travel Standards refer to them Principal Community Routes (PCR), which are in turn fed by a network of Main and Local Community Routes (MCR and LCR respectively). Local Community Routes may already exist in a suburb and are commonly proposed in new suburbs. CBR Cycle Routes are a subset of all paths that have wayfinding signage required for daily navigation.

CBR Cycle Routes, Principal Community Routes , and Cycle Highways are different perspectives of improving and promoting cycling in Canberra.

  • CBR Cycle Routes serve our needs today for getting around the city.
  • Principal Community Routes (PCR) are part of a technical framework and standards for active travel that can be referenced in the ACT urban planning codes (statutory documents).
  • Cycle Highways is a term used in the context of a strategic discussion to improve the ACT planning instrument to better include the needs of cyclist in the reservation and preservation of corridors for the construction of a fast, cross-city cycling network.

8.2 Public realm spaces and cycle corridors

Cycle corridors are reserved for future cycle highways. A cycle corridor is a type of public realm space. This section introduces public realm spaces and where cycle highways fit.

The stages of the planning process

Cycle corridors reserve and preserve space for the later construction of safe and direct cycle highways. There are several reasons for this. First, the urban planning cycle is long, and it is necessary to make planners aware of the cycle corridors so that they can be considered in the concept plan and detailed designs. The cycle corridor is chosen, because it provides the characteristics that fast, safe and direct cycle highways require. The actual construction comes later and may be done in stages, such as for a greenfield estate.

There are different types of PUBLIC REALM in the Estate Development Code. Each type has PRIMARY FUNCTIONS. The code defines when they should be identified (STAGE IDENTIFIED).

Here is a rough timeline for the planning stages. Everything is calculated backwards from when we expect it to be finished.

  1. Structure Plan (30 years out)
  2. Concept Plan (20 years out)
  3. Estate Development Plan (10 years out)
  4. Development Application (2-3 years out)

30 years may seem a long time, but it is not really. Since its conception, light rail was planned for the Molonglo Valley, too. Infrastructure, such as the John Gorton Drive Bridge, is being made light rail ready. RobertsDay designed the Concept Plan with light rail in mind. The group centre in Molonglo 3 East is also designed for light rail. Sure, at this stage, the ACT Government has not committed to light rail for the Molonglo Valley, but everything is built on the presumption that it will come one day.

The types of public realm

The Estate Development Code includes many types of public realm, but most are of no relevance to cycling. The priority here is to identify those types relevant to the cycle corridor concept.

Public realm space types and the stage identified.

TypeStructure PlanConcept PlanEstate Development Plan
Town parkyesyes
District parksyesyes
District sportsgroundsyesyes
Neighbourhood ovalsyes
Neighbourhood parksyes
Heritage parksyes
Lakes and pondsyesyesyes
Broad scale open spaceyesyesyes
Habitat sitesyesyesyes
*Pedestrian parklandyesyes
*Access waysyes
*Pedestrian lanesyes
*Street verges and mediansyes
Table 8‑1 Derived from the Estate Development Code (4 October 2013), 46-49

The last four public realm space types are marked with *, as they belong to the “movement network“. Every development application includes a plan for the movement networks.

A cycle corridor should be identified in the Structure Plan or Concept Plan stage. Of the current movement network types, pedestrian parkland comes the closest. It would be feasible to define a new type of public realm space – a cycle corridor – that is identified at the Structure Plan stage.

Definition of Pedestrian parkland

“Pedestrian parkland
Movement network

Concept Plans/Estate Development Plans

Corridors providing for pedestrian and cyclist routes within and between suburbs and linkages with parks, schools and workplaces.

May include playgrounds and fitness stations in suitable locations.

Often co-located with waterways for urban stormwater management and treatment and may contain small ponds and wetlands.

Often includes remnant vegetation and other natural features, may provide wildlife habitat conservation and/or connectivity.

Generally, the dominant surface treatment is dryland grass as dominant ground surface unless otherwise specified for the conservation of habitat, with planted vegetation to enhance shade, shelter, character, seasonal diversity or wildlife movement.”

8.3 The curious case of rapid transit

This case study of rapid transit in the Molonglo Valley shows that corridors for vehicular traffic and light rail may have something in common, but public transit corridors are poorly suited for a cycle highway (transit). Cycle networks are different.


A case study for rapid transit in the Molonglo Valley (Molonglo: A case study in transit-friendly suburban structure, Human Transit, Jarrett Walker, 2011), was sent to by Ryan Hemsley, Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR). This case study outlines the design principles behind the Concept Plan for the Molonglo Valley. The 2004 Canberra Spatial Plan identified the Molonglo Valley as a Future Urban Area. Public transport was recognised around this time as an important part of the future transport network, which led to the introduction of the “rapid” bus network and light rail. The curved John Gorton Drive is optimised for rapid transit.

Mechanics of rapid transit

Rapid transit is public transit at speed. The presumption of rapid transit is that distances are large and not walkable. Rapid transit seeks to lure people out of their cars and into buses and the light rail instead. Rapid transit must be fast so that travel times are competitive with driving a private motor vehicle.

For rapid transit, travel time depends on both route distance and service frequency. We are all familiar with waiting for the bus. The waiting times are shorter if the service frequency is higher. During periods of low service frequency, such as on weekends, we can wait a long time for the next bus. Walking to or from a bus stop adds further to the travel time. The walking time is reduced when more people live closer to rapid transit stops, and the wait time reduced by a more frequent service.

ACT Transport is a complex operation. A balancing act between service, infrastructure, personal, and commercial considerations. There are limits to the number of buses that can run. Transport Minister, Mr Chris Steel, stated recently to the Molonglo Valley Community Forum that every single bus available is running during peak periods. More buses could be purchased, but every bus needs a driver and a bus depot to keep it operational. There are other restraints. It costs money to buy and run a bus. As with cars, we can consider the total cost of ownership over the asset’s life. The more buses you have, the greater the cost. Alternatively, we could have better buses, but run them more regularly rather than have them stand around. The demand for a bus service varies with the time of day and day of the week. At peak periods, ACT Transport does not have enough buses, and at night too many.

Other ways to improve service frequency are less obvious. The easiest way is to decrease the total route distance and have the existing bus fleet travel these routes more frequently. The network is redesigned from having many short routes, to fewer routes that service a large portion of the population more regularly. Most are now better off, but those living on the edge of Canberra may be disappointed.

Rapid transit works best if the population lives closer to the routes. The concept is ill-suited to a sprawling city (low density housing), but works well with medium density housing that is built close to the rapid transit corridor. This is not typical for Canberra, where low density housing prevails, but we will see this along John Gorton Drive.

Molonglo C-shaped corridor

The concept plans for the Molonglo Valley were shaped by the characteristics of rapid transit. The location of the Molonglo Valley, west of Canberra, suggest that people will travel north to Belconnen, south to Woden and east to Civic. A direct route to the Parliamentary Triangle was discarded early in the planning as unworkable.

The Molonglo Valley is clearly segregated by the river into north and south sections. The rapid route to Civic starts in the north of the development, rather than from the district centre. Effectively, Molonglo Valley is built along a north-south corridor connecting Belconnen with Woden.

Figure 8‑3 Molonglo: A case study in transit-friendly suburban structure, Human Transit, Jarrett Walker (2011), 203.

The rapid transit route through the Molonglo Valley is a C-shape between William Hovell Drive, in the north, and Tuggeranong Parkway, in the south. It is part of a large loop from Civic to Woden and returning through the Molonglo Valley, and back to Civic. Rapid transit would run in both directions at regular intervals, and works best when the majority of the population lives close to the corridor.

It might seem strange that we travel first to Woden or towards Belconnen to go to the city, but, due to the mechanics of the rapid transit, the route permits a more frequent service and avoids the wait times from having many scattered routes.

“If you are thinking like a motorist, this is silly. Why would we carry people to their destinations by the most direct possible route, which in many cases would be east-west? The answer: because transit travel time includes the waiting time imposed by frequency, and to maximise frequency, we need to run the fewest possible route miles of rapid transit service. The more distance we need our lines to cover, the less frequently we can afford to run them.

Approaching only via the ends of the C means that our transit lines can run along the spine of the C, serving many parts of Molonglo without having to branch. That means, in turn, that our frequency remains concentrated, instead of being dissipated as branching would require. In short, you may have to travel a slightly longer path than you would go if you were driving, but only with this patter can we ensure that you will have services coming whenever you need it.”[2]

Impact on cycling

The C-shaped design route for the Molonglo Valley makes sense for rapid transit. Driving the extra distance may not bother the commuting motorist with high travel speeds of 80 km/h. The Molonglo Valley is not that far from Civic or Woden, so a circular route is workable.

Cycling is different. A cyclist may achieve an average speed of 20 km/h. The average speed depends on many factors, including the quality of the paths, the frequency of road crossings and, to a lesser extent, the hilliness of the terrain. At low gradients, the hilliness of the terrain is not as important as one would first think, as the time lost riding up a hill is recovered riding down. The most important factor to shorten cycling travel times is directness.

The C-shape design of John Gorton Drive is not ideal for cycling, as the route to Civic is longer. Assuming a direct distance of 10 km, the circular route would be 15.7 km – 57% longer. The travel time increases accordingly from 30 to 47 minutes. Compare this to driving at 80 km/h with an increase in the travel time from just 7.5 to 11.8 minutes. The time savings with a direct route is only 4 minutes by car, but 17 minutes by bicycle. Except at peak periods, a bike is disadvantaged by C-shape designs.

An indirect route could be made sustainable with electric vehicles – both buses and cars – and the travel time will be about the same. Bikes, however, are human powered and there is no way to shorten and quicken travel times other than making the route more direct.

Rapid transit routes are circular. Cycling networks are hub and spoke, or grids.

Figure 8‑4 Source: Facebook, Urban Cycling Institute, 2021.


Driving 15.7 km to the city will take longer than 11.8 minutes predicted due to congestion. In Canberra, the average commute to work is less than 10 km[3] and the average time commuting to work was 51.5 minutes in 2017.[4] Cycling helps reduce congestion, as it frees up roads. However, it is hard to make cycling attractive to people, despite all its benefits, without direct routes that are safe and of a perceived good quality. Canberra’s cycling infrastructure is currently inadequate – due to both design flaws and years and years of neglect. Back in the 70s and 80s, we made a good start, but the 40-year-old infrastructure is no longer fit for purpose. While the roads have improved, the cycling infrastructure generally has fallen behind.

The premise of rapid transit is that a bus can travel at high speed over the length of the route. Without dedicated bus lanes, a bus will only be as fast as the rest of the traffic. Do we then prefer to sit in a car or a bus? The car is more private and comfortable, but also more expensive. The bus is cheaper but slower overall, when we factor in the walking to the bus stop and wait times. Without bus lanes, public transport is unlikely to be the first choice of many motorists, who have not grown up as regular users of public transport.

Canberra light rail is a rapid transit option, providing a high speed service on dedicated infrastructure. Referring to the light rail as a tram is incorrect, as a tram shares the road with the cars and ends up stuck in congestion.

Marginalisation of cycling

Cycling is marginalised by the dominant thinking of our city planning. Cycling, as transport, is sidelined in place making as it could conflict with pedestrians. Place making is about making desirable destinations. Schools, shops, and town centres are destinations, and we would like to ride to them.

Cycling is also seen by some to be at odds with motor vehicles. Bicycles are permitted on roads (as a vehicle), but the cyclist is a vulnerable road user, too. A cyclist travels much slower than a motor vehicle and is hard to see on a busy road due to cognitive limitations. Collisions between a high speed motorist and a cyclist will almost certainly lead to serious injuries to the cyclist, and possibly even death. Cyclists do not seem to belong on the road, either.

“Paint isn’t bike infrastructure. Paint doesn’t protect. Paint will never change our urban mobility choices or improve our cities.

Paint is just paint.[5]

This article reveals that the design principles of rapid transit are at odds with the cycling transit networks. Rapid transit networks for future urban areas, such as Molonglo, will be different to that required for a good cycling transit network.

Cycle corridors are rapid transit routes for cyclists. Cycle highways are trunk routes for commuting cyclists between town centres. To be able to build them, we must reserve and preserve cycle corridors. The cycle corridor is the foundation of a plan that may take decades to build.

Designing cycle corridors

We would conclude that if direct routes do not work for rapid transit but, on the other hand, rapid transit meshes with an arterial road network, that road and rapid transit corridors could be combined. Here we must conceptually separate the idea of sharing a corridor and sharing infrastructure. Light rail will always have facilities designed for it, as will cars have facilities designed for them (roads).

Similarly, within a suburb, Local Community Routes (LCR) may be shared by pedestrians and cyclists – but may still have separated paths (facilities), depending on the urban context, and the speed of movement.

Commuting cyclists, who travel greater distances between town centres, must have dedicated bike paths to cover the distance quickly and economically. Cycling corridors need to be reserved and preserved for the construction of cycleways for high speed cycling. Cycle highways are at the top cycle route hierarchy and require their own infrastructure. Corridors optimised for cars and light rail will most definitely not do.

8.4 Reserving cycle corridors: à la light rail

The cycle network can only be built if we reserve and preserve cycle corridors. The precedent was set by the light rail project and requires changes to the Territory Plan and Planning Act. The ACT Government could copy/paste this approach for cycle corridors.

The light rail way

This section serves to demonstrate how light rail was first built into the ACT’s DNA. This was the first step, long before the construction began. Light rail is a 40-year project. Anything lasting that long needs to be envisioned, secured, and planned out for the long haul.

Systems thinking

The statutory nature of the light rail development triggers reservation of corridors that are then automatically included in statutory documents, thereby protecting the light rail corridors. The effect was demonstrated in August 2021 in a tender for Molonglo 3 East Future Urban Area. Statutory status for cycle corridors would mean automatic protection – just like light rail.

Details of width requirements for the reservations for key roads and future light rail for inclusion on relevant official plans including the Territory Plan and ACTmapi.

Major Projects Canberra, Infrastructure Delivery Partners, Molonglo 3 East, Preliminary Roads and Earthworks Design, Urban Water Management Strategy and Concept Plans, 4 August 2021, 18.


To build the light rail, we did several things: developed design guidelines specific to the ACT, added the corridors to the Territory Plan, amended the ACT Planning Act, and built capability for its design and construction. All these things together made it possible (systems thinking).

Design guidelines (code)

Light rail has a guideline for corridor design. We have had design guidelines for roads for decades! Guidelines and standards are typical for transport networks. Light rail required it, too.

Reserve and preserve in the Territory Plan

A great deal of effort will go into designing corridors. For rapid transit, routes are not taken lightly. The origins of the routes are found in the 2004 Canberra Spatial Plan. Once this work was done, the corridors must be reserved and preserved.

Amend ACT Planning Act

Planning in the ACT is regulated by the Planning and Development Act 2007. If light rail was not in the Act, it would not have happened.

Build organisational capability

Building light rail is more than construction. To roll out a city wide network requires resources to plan, organise, and manage its realisation: organisational capability. The ACT Government recently awarded an $163 million contract to an engineering consultancy to shepherd Light Rail Stage 2B to completion. Due to the delay between Stage 1 and Stage 2A, the ACT Government admitted it was difficult to keep the capability for the project.

Code for corridor design

Few Canberrans would know that we have design guidelines for our light rail planning in the ACT. The relevant section for corridor planning is Guideline for Light Rail Planning 01 Corridor Preservation (attached). Here is the introduction.

“This document is prepared by Transport Canberra & City Services (TCCS) to assist Government, developers and institutions to prepare for the future implementation of light rail by providing design principles to inform conceptual planning and ensure that light rail can appropriately integrate into the urban environment. It is noted that spatial allowances for light rail are determined through detailed analysis. To avoid redundant work Transport Canberra should be consulted as part of any planning activity.

The ACT Government is committed to developing a city-wide light rail network, with construction of the first stage from the City to Gungahlin well underway. The Light Rail Master Plan identified
potential future light rail corridors to connect town centres via a hub and spoke network.
The ultimate design of any future stage is established through an options selection process that involves
corridor analysis followed by a route options analysis and alignment refinement. Light rail is predominantly located within the road reserve.

Preserving corridors for light rail means that provision is made for future implementation of light rail infrastructure. There are significant costs associated with relocating assets such as utility infrastructure, outside of a light rail corridor. Hence, construction in these future corridors should aim to minimise installation of services, street furniture, structures and trees to avoid expensive relocations during subsequent light rail delivery. Third-party assets should be located away from rail infrastructure to minimise access issues during light rail operation.

Spatial requirements of the light rail system varies with the local environment. The City to Gungahlin light rail route operates using overhead line equipment (OHLE). TCCS is investigating use of wireless technology. This may improve options for urban planning, however would require TCCS consent. Accommodation of OHLE within the corridor increases spatial requirements of light rail.

The following principles should be considered as indicative minimum provisions only. Actual design dimensions are developed in detailed design. Design for any particular stage of the network will only occur after an investment decision by the ACT Government.”[6]

Light rail corridors in the Territory Plan

The following map (figure 8-6) shows the light rail route (Intertown Public Transport Route) through the Molonglo Valley. The Territory Plan refers to the light rail corridor as an Intertown Public Transport Route (ITP). By adding the routes to the Territory Plan, they are reserved and preserved. Cycle corridors are currently missing from the Territory Plan.

Figure 8‑5 Legend, Territory Plan, Zones and Overlays Molonglo, 4 June 2021, accessed 21 June 2021.
Figure 8‑6 Territory Plan, Zones and Overlays Molonglo, 4 June 2021, accessed 21 June 2021.

Planning and Development ACT

Light rail was added to the Planning and Development Act. This includes light rail planning in the Territory Plan and defines how it is to be handled. The following text is a copy of the first few paragraphs of the section Part 7.2A Capital Metro facilitation, Planning and Development Act 2007 (attached), 138-154.

“Part 7.2A Capital Metro facilitation

Division 7.2A.1 Preliminary

137A Meaning of related to light rail

(1) For this Act, a development proposal is related to light rail if—
(a) the development to which the proposal relates may facilitate the construction, ongoing operation and maintenance, repairs,
refurbishment, relocation or replacement of—
(i) light rail track; or
(ii) infrastructure within, or partly within, 1 km from—
(A) existing light rail track; or
(B) proposed light rail track; or
(b) a declaration under section 137B is made in relation to it.”[7]

“(2) In this section:
proposed light rail track means—
(a) light rail track identified in a development proposal in a
development application that includes the construction,
extension, refurbishment, relocation or replacement of light rail
track; or
(b) light rail track identified in a development approval that
authorises the construction, extension, refurbishment, relocation
or replacement of light rail track.

Division 7.2A.2 Light rail declaration

137B Authority may declare development proposal related to
light rail

(1) The planning and land authority may declare that a development proposal is related to light rail (a light rail declaration).
(2) The planning and land authority may make a light rail declaration only if satisfied on reasonable grounds that the development proposal is a development described in section 137A (1) (a).
(3) The planning and land authority may make a light rail declaration on its own initiative or on application by the proponent of the development proposal.
(4) A declaration is a notifiable instrument.”[8]

Next steps for cycle corridors

By understanding how the ACT Government made it work for light rail, we understand how it can be duplicated for cycling. Light rail is the carbon copy for how it is done.

The requirements for a cycling network are different in the planning stage, but similar in terms of the legislative requirements. To build a good cycling network, changes are needed for both the Territory Plan and the Planning Act.

It is as easy as 4 steps:

  1. Add a section to the Planning ACT for cycle corridors, like that for light rail (Part 7.2A).
  2. Plan an overarching network of cycle routes across Canberra, particularly between town centres. In some cases, the light rail corridors could be followed.
  3. Include the cycle corridors in the Territory Plan.
  4. Write guidelines for the design of cycle corridors.

Notes for cycling

Design Guidelines for cycle corridors

In recent years we now have guidelines for active travel but none for cycle corridors. A great amount of the detail for the design of bike paths is found in the Austroads Standards and not the ACT Active Travel standards. Design guidelines added to the Territory Plan become a General Code (an example would be the ACT Crime Prevention and Urban Design Resource Manual 2000).

Preserve and reserve corridors in the Territory Plan

Construction of a large network takes time and a lot of thinking and analysis. If the corridors are not reserved and preserved, they may be built over in part. Destroying a short section of the corridor through careless planning is enough to destroy most of the benefits of the corridor alignment. An example of this was land set aside in Gungahlin for a cycling path that was sold for unit development. Over long periods of time, the ACT Government are likely to make planning errors, unless the corridors are anchored in the Territory Plan.

Amend the ACT Planning Act

If light rail was not in the Act, it would not happen. The same is true for cycle corridors. The provision of a cycling network must be added in the Planning and Development Act 2007.


The ACT Government should start with the statutory reforms immediately. A great deal of the corridor design work could be outsourced. In this way, we would have the resources required to move the planning forward quickly.

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

[2] Walker, Jarrett, Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives.Sydney, Newsouth Books, 2011, 202.

[3] ACT and Queanbeyan-Palerang Household Travel Survey, ACT Government, 2018, <; [accessed 7 July 2021].

[4] Wilkins et. Al., HILDA, Melbourne Institute, 2019, 79.

[5] Brent Toderian, ‘Still don’t get why bike-lanes need to be separated, with real protected bike infrastructure, & why paint isn’t real infrastructure since “paint doesn’t protect?” Watch this great before-&-after video of Lansdowne Street in #Melbourne via @MelbourneWay’.in @brenttoderian, , 2021, <; [accessed 8 July 2021].

[6] ACT Government, Guidelines for Light Rail Planning 01 Corridor Preservation, ACT Government, 2019.

[7] Planning and Development Act 2007 (ACT) R103, 138.

[8] Ibid., 139.

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