History of Sulwood Drive 2003-2022

Athllon Drive cycleway looking north from Sulwood Drive. c1989

The missing cycle path along Sulwood Drive between Tuggeranong Parkway and Athllon Drive has a long history. Letters to the Minister and Roads ACT go back as far as 2003. Labor promised a path for Sulwood Drive at the 2019 Federal Election, and ACT Labor reaffirmed this at the 2020 ACT Election. Funding was included for the path in the ACT 2021-2022 Budget.

2003: Minister and Roads ACT requests

Ten Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure 2004-14 was published in 2004.

In November 2003 W P Brown and Partners Pty Ltd, now Brown Consulting (ACT) Pty Ltd (Brown) was commissioned jointly by Roads ACT and the ACT Planning and Land Authority (ACTPLA) to undertake a study and produce a master plan for trunk cycle and walking path infrastructure in the ACT. The requirements for the consultancy were set out in the Study Brief (Brief No: AC03-25, Tender No: T03346) dated August 2003.

The objectives of the assignment can be summarised as:
o To provide a 10-year master plan that will guide prioritisation of capital works budget expenditure on trunk cycle and walking routes, and
o To assist in updating a GIS database of trunk cycle paths.

Ten Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure 2004-14, Roads ACT, 2004, 1. EPSDD FOI 22-27383.

The study compiled a list of comments and complaints to the Minister for Urban Services or to Roads ACT and included them in the report.

Roads ACT also processes comments and complaints relating to cyclepaths and footpaths which have been submitted to either the Minister for Urban Services or to Roads ACT itself.

Ten Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure 2004-14, Roads ACT, 2004, 24. EPSDD FOI 22-27383.

Sulwood Drive comes up twice in 2003!

Table 3: Comments/Complaints to Minister and Roads ACT

21/3/03 Cycle path along Sulwood Drive between Tuggeranong Parkway and Athllon Drive connecting existing off road cycle paths.

4/2/03 Cycle path along Sulwood Drive between Tuggeranong Parkway and Athllon Drive connecting existing off road cycle paths.

Ten Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure 2004-14, Roads ACT, 2004, 25. EPSDD FOI 22-27383.

The missing links in Canberra come up regularly in correspondence and consultation with the ACT as discussed here.

2019 Sulwood Drive bike path announcement

At the 2019 Federal Election, Federal Labor pledged $5.8 million for active travel infrastructure. One of these projects was the Sulwood Drive bike path in Kambah.

The $4 million Sulwood Drive project will link Sulwood Drive between Drakeford Drive and Athllon Drive by constructing a four-kilometre off-road walking and cycling path, along with an east-west connection between two existing cycle routes following Drakeford Drive and Athllon Drive.

Government pledge $5.8 million to continue bike and footpath upgrades, The Riot ACT, 12 May 2019

The article in The Riot ACT mentions other projects in Kambah, Mitchell, Lyons, Belconnen and the Inner North.

2020 Sulwood Drive ACT Election

With the excitement about Athllon Drive Duplication project, many have great hopes something would be done about Sulwood Drive. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

Sulwood Drive has the potential of closing a missing link between north/south routes on Athllon Drive and parallel to Tuggeranong Parkway. That has got to be good. Some things make it unlikely.

Urban development life cycle

The time from the birth of a suburb to its renewal is the urban development life cycle. When a suburb is built the ideas reflecting urban development of the time are set into stone (concrete). The wave of urban renewal is swinging south with major investment by the ACT Government in Woden Valley, but this wave has not reached Kambah yet. Perhaps at the next Federal Election, this will change or the ACT Election after that but the last ACT Election was a fizzer for Kambah.

2020 ACT Election

We are 20 years into the 21st century. That is quite a bit already and one would hope that there are great ambitions to build bike paths over the next decades, but there is not.

ACT Labor is pursuing the light rail with passion, and it is an important step forward as Canberra nudges a population of 0.5 million. The approval process is slow but progress has been made. The CIT and light rail station in Woden has been approved and should be finished by 2025. Light rail will reach Commonwealth Park and Lake Burley Griffin with Stage 2A by 2025. This is progress. However, it will be a long wait then until the light rail arrives at Woden. Approximately $1.9 billion later and by 2035 we may get there. Labor is preoccupied until then.

ACT Greens came out of the gates at the 2020 ACT Election with a good offer for a cyclist, should it ever be built. Up until now, they have been completely silent on the subject, so it does not appear to be at the top of their election list promises. I hope there will be a positive impact on the 2021-2022 ACT Budget, but I am not getting my hopes up. My concern at the time of the election is that the ACT Greens have ambition but not a plan. How long will it take them to get their ideas to mature in notably groundswell movement is hard to say. The communal nature of their approach would suggest 2022 could be promising. The ACT concrete plans do not go past Woden.

Sulwood Drive is not on the map of ACT Labor or ACT Greens at this time.

Athllon Drive Duplication Project

The great south hope is the Athllon Drive Duplication Project. It is currently in an early stage of planning. It appears a feasibility study has been completed, that is something.

John Gorton Drive Bridge is at a later stage. The detailed planning is yet to be begun, but soon, However, a development application has been released and in the last weeks approved. That is something. Most telling is that the last budget allocation $174 million for the construction. Money talks.

The “road that should not be named” is a road duplication in Belconnen between Ginninderra Drive and Barton Highway. It is a bit hard to find on the ACT Government website as the road does not have a name. However, it does have funding and gone to tender for construction. Within the next few years, it should be finished and then it will be called the Gundaroo Drive.

It should be noted here that for Sulwood Drive we have neither political promises, feasibility study, development application, tender or money.

Update 16 June 2021 Sulwood Drive

ACT Transport has proposed a bike path along Sulwood Drive. ACT Labor had discussed this during the 2020 ACT Election. That they have already moved to a consultation on YourSay is a surprise, but a pleasant one. Read more here.

Sulwood Drive proposal on YourSay. TCCS, accessed 16 June 2021.

Sulwood Drive 2021-2022 Budget

The shared bike path along Sulwood Drive will be built over the next four years and finished around 2026-2027. The average delay for TCCS project is 6 months. The 2021-2022 Budget contains the funding. The path itself is expected to cost $4.7 million and signalisation of the Mannheim Street intersection will cost $4.97 million – more than the bike path itself.


The feasibility studies consider 6 options (number 1, 2, 3, 4, 4A and 5). Option 5 along the south of Sulwood Drive to the north of the earth embankment was chosen as the preferred option. The decision was turned by the YourSay consultation (including a pop-up on Saturday, 19 June 2021). Local residents did not want a bike path and path lighting at the back of their house. Those with environmental concerns did not want the path on the edge of Mount Taylor Nature Reserve. Many were averse to cutting down trees – anywhere. Finally, TCCS wanted space left for the duplication of Sulwood Drive in 20+ years. As usual, the bike path drew the last straw. The project closed on the 21 September 2021.

The good news is that the Sulwood Drive bike path made it into the ACT 2021-2022 Budget.

The feasibility study explains that the gradients along the chosen alignment will not be compliant with ACT MIS05 Active Travel Standards that stipulate a maximum 5% gradient.

The vertical grades were modelled to match the existing vertical alignment (of the road). This results in two areas that the vertical grades exceed the 5% maximum stipulated in the design criteria. The maximum vertical grade experienced on this option (5) is 6.75%

SMEC, Mount Taylor Feasibility Report, Mount Taylor Design Services, ACT Reference No 35496-NCT-100, Prepared for IDPG on behalf of TCCS, 14 April 2021, 32. Obtained through FOI 21-065 Sulwood Drive part 1 (attached).

This gradient is less than Aranda Hill on the CBR Cycle Route C5 but not advisable, nevertheless. The options for the Sulwood Drive bike path with gradients of 5% or less gradients were rule out after consideration of objections raised in the consultation process.

Minister Steel, TCCS, 2021-2022 Budget Briefing Pack

Section: Connected and sustainable Canberra – Active travel investments (TCCS CW26), FOI 21-11, 47.

The Government will deliver a city-wide package of active travel projects to increase opportunities for walking and cycling across Canberra. This will include the construction of an off-road cycle path along Sulwood Drive between Drakeford Drive and Athlon Drive and
improving access to the Mount Taylor Nature Reserve with works on the Sulwood Drive/Mannheim Street intersection and car park entrance.

Connected and sustainable Canberra – Active travel investments (TCCS CW26), FOI 21-11, 47.

Component Breakdown

Connected and sustainable Canberra – Active travel investments (TCCS CW26), FOI 21-11, 47.

Business case details

Sulwood Drive shared path and intersection signalisation (Sulwood Drive /Mannheim Street) – construction funding over four years will also cover improvements to the entrance and egress of the existing carpark at Mount Taylor Nature Reserve.

Connected and sustainable Canberra – Active travel investments (TCCS CW26), FOI 21-11, 48.

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