Canberra’s 3190 kilometres of paths are set to get a million-dollar makeover in the coming financial year, as part of a push to get more travellers and commuters active.
The ACT Government has allocated more than $26 million in the upcoming 2023/24 Budget for upgrades to Canberra’s walking and cycling network, and the largest chunk will go towards a project jointly funded by the ACT and Federal governments – the Garden City Cycle Route.
The local government’s contribution of $10.4 million will fund Stage 1 of the new cycle path, which will run through the suburbs of Watson, Downer, Hackett, Dickson, Ainslie and Braddon through to the city loop on Bunda and Allara Street.
It’s said to “better connect inner north suburbs on the eastern side of Northbourne Avenue to Canberra’s main cycling network”, without taking away existing vehicle and pedestrian space.
“What we’re attempting to do with these new cycle path connections is provide safe, separated or protected cycleways,” Chief Minister Andrew Barr said.
“Depending on the street, there will be different treatments. It could be a protected cycle path that has a small barrier in between the road and the cycleway. It could mean a totally separated path that’s a couple of metres away from the roadway, or it may mean a shared active path on particular streets where there isn’t the room to put in that particular or separated infrastructure.”
The community will be consulted on the plans for the expanded loop in July.
More than $5 million will also boost the amount of funding usually set aside for footpath maintenance by nearly half, and target cracks and wrinkles in the network identified during a recent audit.
According to the City Services directorate, maintenance is a “high priority” across the ACT, but especially in the inner south and Tuggeranong. The suburb of Farrer was singled out for the “volume of requests”.
Minister for Transport Canberra and City Services Chris Steel said it’s a “very significant” increase of 46 per cent to the government’s usual path maintenance budget.
“It will address many of those higher risk defects across the network to make sure that it’s safe and accessible for people to use in the future.”
The path around Lake Ginninderra in Belconnen will also receive $3 million to improve connections between the playgrounds, picnic areas and parks on the lake’s edge, with works to start near Emu Bank and include new and wider paths, better drainage, more lighting and seating.
Kingston is next, with $2.6 million going towards upgrades to the shared path between Cunningham Street and Bowen Park.
More than $1 million will then fix missing links and gaps in the community path network “where there is a need identified by the community”. This includes more street lighting in a bid to make them safer too.
Also in the name of safety, several roads around Canberra’s schools will receive $2.4 million for new pedestrian crossings.
Three pedestrian crossings will be installed near Canberra High School in Macquarie, two raised crossings at St Mary MacKillop College in Isabella Plains and a raised crossing near Gold Creek High School in Nicholls.
The government is also looking at installing a controlled pedestrian crossing on Canberra Avenue near the St Edmund’s and St Clare’s colleges in Griffith (similar to the one near the Manuka Oval), even if the road’s speed limit of 60 km/h remains the same.
“We’re not supportive of reducing the speed down to 40 km/h on a major arterial road into Canberra from NSW,” Mr Steel said.
“However, we have indicated that we’re willing to look at the feasibility of what a controlled pedestrian crossing could look like across Canberra Avenue .. and we’ll continue to work with the schools as we design the appropriate infrastructure that will keep students safe, but also people moving.”
Up to $2.1 million will cover feasibility studies to look at ways to improve active travel options in the Gungahlin Town Centre, and the cycle loops around Marcus Clark and Rudd Streets, Lake Burley Griffin, and Cotter Road, Mulley Street and Melrose Drive, as well as the crossings of Athllon Drive and Parramatta Street in Phillip and Miller Street in O’Connor.
To support the works, $785,000 will be invested in community campaigns to “strengthen safety for vulnerable road users and encourage uptake of active travel amongst school students and the broader community”.
The budget announcement comes after Canberra’s peak cycling body Pedal Power joined several other local organisations to petition the government to fast-track its plans to expand and upgrade the cycle network.
“If we do not implement the Active Travel Plan, and soon, Canberra will become a more car-centric environment, spread out, and hostile to active travel alternatives,” the petition read.
“As the top priority we call on the Government to design, build, and upgrade Canberra’s active travel and cycling network within the next five years and build upon this network through invited feedback from the community to identify additional missing links.”
Mr Steel said he hoped the group would be pleased with the increased investment.
“We really do think in places like the inner north, that are close to the city, we will see large numbers of people using [cycleways] once the infrastructure is there.”
Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.