Lost Benjamin Way cycleway

Swing gate barrier, Belconnen Bikeway, Belconnen, ACT

The cycleway along Benjamin Way in Belconnen lost funding and now seems to have been forgotten 8 years after its conception. The development of Belconnen Town Centre was further complicated in 2021. Will we ever see a grade separated bike path on Benjamin Way?

Contents

  1. Benjamin Way as planned
  2. How much did the Belconnen Bikeway cost?
  3. 2021 Estimates: FOI 21-023
  4. SLA Belconnen land release
  5. Belconnen Master Plan
  6. 2004 Benjamin Way missing link
  7. Conclusion

Benjamin Way as planned

2016: vision

At the 2016 ACT Election, ACT Labor promised upgrades to the active travel infrastructure in Belconnen.

ACT Labor 2016 Election Belconnen Bikeway
ACT Labor 2016 Election Belconnen Bikeway leaflet advertising the Belconnen Bikeway including the path along Benjamin Way.

2018: funding

Funding was provided after the 2016 ACT Election for the Belconnen Bikeway. The 2018-19 ACT Budget provided $10.45 million over three financial years as part of the Town Centre Active Travel New Works Program. In the end, only $6.7 million of the $10.45 million was spent on the Belconnen Bikeway itself.

2019: project

The original TCCS project website (now taken down) included a map of the project and a cross-section of Benjamin Way showing the cycleway. Both can be seen below.

The segregated bike lane along Emu Bank was as completed in November 2020, officially, but open in early 2021. The project also included a bike path along Benjamin Way, as shown in the plan below. The Benjamin Way cycleway has never been built.

Original plan of the Belconnen Bikeway including the path along Benjamin Way. ACT Government.

Below, a cross-section of Benjamin Way showing the cycleway. The cycleway was planned as a segregated cycle lane and NOT a grade separated bike path.

A cross-section of the Benjamin Way showing the “cycleway” on the side. The design is similar to what we see on Emu Bank – a segregated, two-way bike lane. It is however not a grade separated bike path which is always better.

How much did the Belconnen Bikeway cost?

5 August 2021 Belconnen Bikeway Project Costs

Part 2C Capital Works, TCCS 2019-2020 Annual Report, 255.

Building a better city – Active Travel – Belconnen bikeway
Revised pratical completion date: Sep 2018
Total expenditure: $250,000
Comment: likely design work

Part 2C Government Contracting, TCCS 2019-2020 Annual Report, 268.

Belconnen bikeway – superintendency
Contractor: Cardno Pty Ltd
Value: $197,162.40
Period 24/7/2019 to 1/7/2021

Belconnen bikeway – construction
Contractor: Cord Civi Pty Ltd
Value: $6,218,631.36
Period 9/9/2019 to 9/7/2021

Total project cost: $6,665,793.76

2021 Estimates: FOI 21-023

The 2021 Estimates for ACT Transport were held before the Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services on the 4 March 2021. This Freedom of Information request (FOI) 21-023 provides more detail information than the Transcript Of Evidence from the 2021 Estimates, including information about Belconnen Bikeway.

Reduced scope

The first point is that the scope of the project was significantly reduced after the ACT Election. As the notes in the FOI 21-023 explain, the project was broken up into 3 separate projects. The project was carved up into smaller pieces.

  • Part A: The “Belconnen Bikeway” was now renamed to be just the bit along Emu Bank.
  • Part B: The missing link along Benjamin way was then referred to as the “Benjamin Way protected bikeway” has been dropped.
  • Part C: The new community path behind Belconnen Art Centre beside the lake.

Belconnen Town Centre: Active Travel Works (2018–2020)

Extracts from FOI 21-023 (the file can be download below).

Cleared as complete and accurate: 24/02/2021
Cleared by: Executive Group Manager
Contact Officer name: Jeremy Smith
Lead Directorate: Transport Canberra and City Services

Scope

There are three project parts:

Part A – Belconnen bikeway: Design and construction of a dedicated bikeway in the Belconnen Town Centre from Coulter Drive, along Joynton Smith, Emu Bank, Aikman Drive and College Street to Haydon Drive.

Part B – Benjamin Way protected bikeway: Design and construction of a protected bikeway along Benjamin Way from Emu Bank to College Street and improving pedestrian access and amenity in the adjacent public realm.

Part C – Belconnen Arts Centre foreshore path: Design and construction of a shared cycle and pedestrian path that will connect the commercial precinct to the east of the Arts Centre to the public parkland to the west and will complete the missing link in the Lake
Ginninderra foreshore path.

Belconnen Town Centre: Active Travel Works (2018–2020), Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services on the 4 March 2021. Source: FOI 21-023

Funding

The 2018-19 ACT Budget provided $10.45 million over three financial years as part of the Town Centre Active Travel New Works Program.

Belconnen Town Centre: Active Travel Works (2018–2020), Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services on the 4 March 2021. Source: FOI 21-023

Progress

Part A – Belconnen bikeway:
Construction of the Bikeway from the Coulter Drive through to Haydon Drive was completed in late November 2020. The Bikeway is now open to the public.

Part B – Benjamin Way protected bikeway:
Tender documentation was finalised in January 2021. Final review is required to complete the detailed design stage, this is anticipated to be complete March 2021. The budget allocated to construct the Benjamin Way protected bikeway was reallocated to the Belconnen Bikeway project in early 2019 to enable its construction.

Part C – Belconnen Arts Centre foreshore path:
Construction commenced on site November 2020 and remains scheduled to be completed in June 2021.

Belconnen Town Centre: Active Travel Works (2018–2020), Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services on the 4 March 2021. Source: FOI 21-023

SLA Belconnen land release

The SLA announced in 2020 the land release on the corner of Emu Bank and Joynton Smith Drive, Belconnen, and carried out a series of “discovery phases” before releasing a Design Brief in 2021. The proposal aims to activate Emu Inlet Parkland and connect the area with the parkland adjacent to Lake Ginninderra to the north.

The goals of the land release conflicts with the existing Belconnen Bikeway and Lake Ginninderra shared path feasibility study. The Benjamin Way cycleway is also impacted as proposal includes Margaret Timpson Park on Benjamin Way.

The discussion is complicated by Westfield that will block anything that is not in its interest.

The area of the SLA land release on the corner of Emu Bank and Joynton Smith Drive, Belconnen. Map: OpenStreetMap and contributors.

Below, the SLA Belconnen Plan Design Brief (10 June 2021) and Belconnen land release Discovery Phase Engagement Snapshot (19 February 2021) that preceded it.

Belconnen Master Plan

Most town centres have seen many master plans and most of them have been forgotten and never realised – Belconnen is no exception. The reason lies with the disconnect between the Territory Plan and the master plans. Master plans will be replaced with District Plans in 2023 which will be embedded in the new Territory Plan. This means that the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan 2016 will most likely be scraped in 2023 when the Belconnen District Plan is reviewed.

The Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan 2016 page is found here.

The Benjamin Way cycleway can be seen down the centre of the next figure (map 26) showing Belconnen Town Centre “future cycle connections”.

Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, September 2016, 98.

We can break the area up into precincts. First on map 19 is Emu Bank lakeside promenade.

Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, September 2016, 75.

Map 20 shows the Lathlain Street precinct map. Lathlain Street run parallel to Benjamin Way on the high side of Westfield.

Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, September 2016, 79.

The SLA would like to develop are Block 1 Section 151 and Block 26 Section 52. They are considering selling Block 30 Section 52 too, where the Belconnen Bikeway is currently located.

Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, September 2016, 81.

Map 9 shows the cycle network as it existed in 2016. The Belconnen Bikeway along Emu Bank has been added since then.

Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, September 2016, 35.

The Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan makes it obvious that it is not so easy to get around Belconnen due to the poor layout.

Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, September 2016, 58.

The Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan identified opportunities, which include the bike path along Aikman Drive (CBR Cycle Route C7) that has since been finished. The Lathlain Street connection is still awaiting development. The cross connection between Page and Aikman Drive seems to have been dropped.

Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, September 2016, 63.

2004 Benjamin Way missing link

The CBR Cycle Route C5 is the new name for a cycle path built by the predecessor of the NCA between Belconnen and the Lake Burley Griffin and provides a Principal Community Route between Belconnen Town Centre and the City.

The CBR Cycle Route C5 infamously ends halfway along Benjamin Way. This is typical of the bike infrastructure built in Canberra – the bike paths generally stop at the edge of the town centre. A more recent example is the Principal Community Routes to Gungahlin Town Centre (C7 and C1). The Molonglo Group Centre Concept Plan also has bike paths stopping at the edge of the Molonglo Town Centre precinct. We have learnt nothing in 40 years of building town centres.

The Belconnen public consultation, 16 February 2004, requested the completion of the bike path along Benjamin Way to Emu Bank. This request has been echoed in every consultation since, including the consultation for the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, the consultation for the Belconnen Bike Way, the SLA “Circus Precinct” consultation from 2020.

Why is 18 years not enough?

Benjamin Way missing link (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.
Benjamin Way missing link (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.

Conclusion

Belconnen is a mess for active travel and not because of space, as the roads are wide enough, but rather the design. Big buildings such as Westfield (but not only Westfield) reduce the permeability of the town centre, to the detriment of pedestrians and cyclists.

Even in 2022, we do not have a coherent plan how to cross the town centre from north to south, and east (UC) to west. The existing network is piecemeal. Benjamin Way is a must, however. Due to conflicts between the Benjamin Way cycleway proposal and the Emu Bank Inlet proposal, we will need to wait many years still.

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