We must remain sceptical of the impact and effectiveness of consultations. The consultation for (ACT) Ten Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure 2004 shows us that – 18 years later – the recommendations have still not be implemented. The process used in 2004 rings eerie bells about the 2021 District Planning consultations.
Ten Year Master Plan 2004
The consultation for (ACT) Ten Year Master Plan 2004 followed the trodden path and the well known process: the participants from the public wrote their comments onto a large map. The map was later scanned and added to the report. Through FOI 22-27838, canberra.bike obtained a copy of the document.
Below we have included close-ups of the map from the public consultation, Belconnen Session, held on Monday, 16 February 2004. We have chosen 3 select examples where major cycling infrastructure has not been completed 18 years after Canberrans prioritised their needs, as follows:
- bike path along Benjamin Way
- priority crossings of local roads through Aranda on a trunk path (C5)
- the bike path along Kuringa Drive.
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?
2004 Priority crossings on local roads in Aranda on the CBR Cycle Route C5
CBR Cycle Route C5 crosses Catchpole Street, Redfern Street, and Lyttleton Crescent. According to the ACT Active Travels Standards, priority crossing are required where Principal Community Routes crosses streets that are lower in the hierarchy. This makes sense. For cycle infrastructure to be attractive, trunk cycle networks must have priority over local streets and minor connectors for the same reasons that arterial roads do. Pedal Power ACT said as much back in 2004. At the Belconnen public consultation, 16 February 2004, for the (ACT) Ten Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure 2004, the wombat crossings were requested on Catchpole Street, Redfern Street, and Lyttleton Crescent. 18 years later, they have not been built.
2004 Kuringa Drive
Kuringa Drive has a long history going back to 2004 and possibly earlier. At the Belconnen public consultation, 16 February 2004, for the (ACT) Ten Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure 2004, a bike path was requested along Kuringa Drive from Barton Highway to Tillyard Drive, Fraser.
18 years later, only half the length is completed between Barton Highway and Owen Dixon Drive. The section half is not currently planned between Kuringa Drive and Tillyard Drive. It took us 18 years to build 1.3 km of bike path.
2004 Missing link to Hawker
The bike path from the city along Belconnen Way ends at Coulter Drive. Since 1992, the ACT Government knows that it should continue along Belconnen Way to Kingsford Smith Drive, to provide an off-road cycle connection between Hawker Shops and schools. At the Belconnen public consultation, 16 February 2004, for the (ACT) Ten Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure 2004, the route was marked as a missing link. 18 years, the bike path is still not built. Worse still, TCCS currently has no intention of building the bike path. The road reserves in Hawker and Weetangera are very wide but both suburbs were built without off-road bike paths. How do we forget cycle infrastructure.
Are consultations are waste of time?
We need to question why we are doing these public consultation year after year, project after project, budget after budget? canberra.bike has participated in many consultations and acknowledges how much time and effort are needed. These examples from the Belconnen public consultation for the Ten Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure 2004, demonstrate that the ACT Government has ignored public requests repeatedly over an 18 years period.
Fixing cycle infrastructure in Canberra appears to be a low priority for the ACT Government. Once built, the town centre is likely to remain that way for decades, and a whole generation will grow up not knowing any difference. TCCS can not claim they are not aware of these things. They were reminded through consultations, again and again, and over decades, yet the cycle infrastructure is still missing.
What can be done?
The ACT Planning Review and a recent TCCS tender (2021) acknowledged that there is no “line-of-sight” between strategies and day to day planing. For this reason, ACT strategies are largely ignored.
Gungahlin Community Council demonstrated that master plans for town centres are ignored in development approvals. The main street of the town centre has been rebuilt twice since its initial construction and still lacks any infrastructure for bicycles. Strategies and master plans will not work unless measurements are in place and the directorates will be held to account. In an ingrained car culture, safe and fast cycling infrastructure is still perceived as optional rather than the transformation prerequisite of active travel.
The new ACT Planning bill may help. The new District Plans will be included in the Territory Plan. The Territory Plan cannot be ignored. If we see missing links, and cycle infrastructure is included in the Territory Plan, we may see some tangible outcomes.