Maintenance on bike paths lacking – still!

Back to bike path maintenance. Over the last 20 years, path maintenance has been a weak spot in the ACT. TCCS is responsible for “presentation”, which includes lawn mowing and the maintenance of public space. It seems that bike paths don’t even get the most basic attention. Here are recent photos from 2022.

This article contains images taken around Canberra in the summer of 2022.

What is bike path maintenance?

  • Paths should be swept off grass clippings and gravel.
  • Paths should be adequately drained so that water does not pool on them.
  • Cracks should be sealed before they get larger.
  • Potholes should be filled.
  • Bike paths are not for motor vehicles. Motor vehicles are too heavy for bike paths – particularly trucks – and damage them. The damage from this misuse of paths needs to be repaired.
  • Vegetation growing over the edge of the paths needs to be clear to about 400 mm from the edge.
  • Grass should not be permitted to grow over the path.
  • At intersections, the rest poles (bent over by cars colliding against them) should be replaced.
  • Grass and plants should not be permitted to grow in the middle of the bike paths.

What is wrong with Fix My Street?

Apart from an average waiting time of 52 days, reporting issues via Fix My Street are not that effective due to the poor design of the system. Fix My Street requires a street address, which is only available along suburban streets with house numbers. Reporting paths faults on Fix My Street fails as most of the CBR Cycle Routes are not along suburban streets. Fix My Street has a map with a marker, but does not save the GPS coordinates of the marker, rather it save the closest street address. This can be hundreds of metres away on a local street for CBR Cycle Routes. TCCS routinely sends people out to that street address, only to find nothing. The poor system design of Fix My Street not only makes reporting faults difficult and slow, but also wastes the time of the TCCS staff due to the lack of precision in communicating the faults location.

Problems like this can be reported to MLAs, but they might do little. It must seem to them rather trivial, but then few MLAs are known and actively visible cyclists here in Canberra. Cyclists that ride over the same bumps and around the same hazards every day will quickly tire of them. After that, cyclists get annoyed. Or hurt.

Dr Marisa Paterson’s day off

We congratulate Dr Marisa Paterson for being one of the first MLAs to get on an electric bike, try it out and share her joy. We can’t express how much we hope that more do the same. There will be no transformation without top down change sponsorship.

It has opened up a world that was inaccessible for me.

Dr Marisa Paterson, ACT Legislative Assembly, 6 April 2022.

Dr Marisa Paterson was given the tricky task to put women in Canberra on bikes. This has never been successful in Canberra, so the task must have seemed daunting. Dr Marisa Paterson researched the problem for 6 months, then submitted a report to the ACT Legislative Assembly. As an academic, she knows how to lead research projects. Knowing everything about the problem does not mean that you have experienced the feeling of riding a bike on ACT bike paths. If you want a transformation lived experience is a requisite, as it shapes the way we think about a problem. And solutions. And priorities.

Recently, Dr Marisa Paterson reported on her experience to the ACT Legislative Assembly – she was delighted! Dr Marisa Paterson’s reaction shows that we can study the problem of active travel for months but we can only gain the lived experience by riding a bike. Borrowing an e-bike from the e-bike library is good enough as a start.

Dr Marisa Paterson MLA – a non-cyclist – reported on her first experiences commuting to work from Weston on an e-bike. “I could not have imagined that I could ride 15 km.” “It has opened up a world that was inaccessible for me.” ACT Legislative Assembly, 6 April 2022.

Damage from trucks

Bike paths are not designed to carry the weight of a truck and when a truck drives on a bike path it can look like this one in Mawson.

Your driveway is design to carry a weight of around 3000 kg. Any truck is heavy than that. With concrete and pavers, the weight will cause cracking. Asphalt is formable with plasticine. This makes asphalt easy to lay but, as a material, asphalt is poor at bearing weight. Roads can have 500 mm depth of compacted roads base (gravel) beneath the asphalt. Even then the asphalt wears quickly on roads to form potholes. Bike paths are build for lightweight bikes (only 20 kg) not trucks (30,000 kg). One carless truck driver can destroy any bike path.

Mawson bike path. Bike paths are not designed to carry the weight of a truck and when a truck drives on one it can look like this.
Mawson bike path, 2022. Bike paths are not designed to carry the weight of a truck. The damage from a truck driving on one looks like this. Photo Jonathon Troy.

Motor vehicles should park on the road

The photo below shows a truck false parked on a bike path in Belconnen. Parking on bike paths is illegal but the law is not enforced. Sure, police would have driven past this spot. Parking on the footpath has never been legal in the ACT but rarely enforced.

The road, Joynton Smith Drive, has two lanes but this truck choose to park on the “footpath”. The path is a section of the Belconnen Bikeway and parking here blocks the path. With this treatment, the path is not likely to last long.

Truck false parked on a bike path, Belconnen. Parking on bike paths is illegal but the law is not enforced. Sure police would have drove past this.
Truck false parked on a bike path, Belconnen. Parking on bike paths is illegal but the law is not enforced. Sure police would have drove past this.

Grass grows over paths

A common problem in the ACT is to find grass growing over the edges of the path and narrowing what was otherwise already a narrow path. This would not be acceptable on the roads and should not be accepted on bike paths either.

Path overgrown, buy grass. Edges of roads are trim and freed from overgrowth but bike paths are not.
Path overgrown, buy grass. Edges of roads are trim and freed from overgrowth but bike paths are not.

Local street paths

Paths adjacent to local streets and collectors can look light this (see photo below). The most common width of any path in the ACT in 1.2 m. Many paths are narrower than that. TCCS lists these concrete paths in their database as “footpaths” as they were not especially built for bikes, nevertheless, as shared paths cyclists can use them too. Scooters and shopping trolleys are commonly left on these paths. Usually, there is enough room to leave the scooter and shopping trolley beside the path on the grass. We would all be grateful for those that use hire scooters and shopping trolleys, if they could show the courtesy of stowing them safely at the end of the trip.

Shopping trolleys on a path. As with scooters, they could be parked on the gras but this is rarely the case. The is not compliant with current ACT Standards.
Shopping trolleys on a path. As with scooters, they could be parked on the grass but this is rarely the case. The is not compliant with current ACT Standards.

CBR Cycle Route C5 – Aranda hill

CBR Cycle Route C5 is very popular with commuters riding to civic. The route has few road crossings and is scenic in the mornings when the mist is lifting off Lake Burley Griffin. The path is old and in need of repair. The section was marked for repair but still nothing has been done. Facebook style comments are now being added to the paint markings around the bumps and cracks on the path.

damage path, Aranda hill, CBR Cycle Route C5
Damaged path, Aranda hill, CBR Cycle Route C5

Below, a bump on the path marked with white paint for repairs.

damage path, Aranda hill, CBR Cycle Route C5
Damaged path, Aranda hill, CBR Cycle Route C5

“I want to be as smooth as that”

Path marking on the CBR Cycle Route C5 – Aranda hill.

Below instructions left for TCCS, regarding the required standards for bike path in the ACT.

damage path, Aranda hill, CBR Cycle Route C5
Damaged path, Aranda hill, CBR Cycle Route C5

” The ants of Belconnen – undermining active travel”

Path marking on the CBR Cycle Route C5 – Aranda hill.

The paths are popular with ants too. Ants will happily make home between the cracks.

damage path, Aranda hill, CBR Cycle Route C5
Damaged path, Aranda hill, CBR Cycle Route C5

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