Walkers fear upgrade plan leaves them out
Kevin Gill on the Parkes Way pedestrian bridge. Photo: Colleen Petch
Canberra's pedestrian group says the ACT government has overlooked walkers in its $40 million upgrade plan for the territory's walking and cycling network.
Living Streets Canberra wants the government to include the word ''walking'' in its draft plan to reduce reliance on cars, currently titled the ''ACT Strategic Cycle Network Plan''.
Living Streets chairman Leon Arundell said the territory could end up with a network that benefited only cyclists because references to walkers were almost completely absent from the plan.
Former president of the Inner South Canberra Community Council Kevin Gill also expressed concerns.
''The terms of reference seem to focus on motorised or pedal-powered stuff on paths … all users' needs [must] be taken into account when considering the future of commuter paths in the ACT,'' he said.
''There's a lot of mixed use of a narrow, single path. Pedestrians can be at a disadvantage if something bigger and faster is coming at them.''
But Environment and Sustainable Development Minister Simon Corbell said walkers had not been neglected.
Mr Arundell said that he feared pedestrians would not comment on the plan, submissions for which close next week, because they had been mentioned in the draft only five times.
''All of the advertising of the consultation process has talked about it as a cycling network,'' he said. ''The general public would have the impression that this is only about cycling and not about walking.
''If the only people commenting on the plan are commenting from a cycling perspective, this $40 million plan will only benefit cyclists.''
Mr Arundell said he had tried, without success, to persuade the government to include the word ''walking'' in its invitations for comment on the plan. He said the government was insisting on calling it a cycle network, despite a cordon count in March showing that three-quarters of the people that used the network were walkers.
''I primarily want them to consult with the walking public on the basis that it's a walking and cycling network, not just a cycling network,'' he said. ''If we build the network to suit cyclists, there'll probably be things we could do to make it better for people who walk but we won't be doing it.''
Mr Arundell said the plan was flawed because it looked at all of the routes connecting the ACT instead of using a suburb by suburb approach.
''There are very important pieces of walking and cycling infrastructure that are not being considered,'' he said. ''Streets that don't have any footpaths, where people have to walk on the nature strip - that's a quarter of Canberra streets - and there's a sub-class of those where it's impossible to walk on the nature strip because it's obstructed with landscaping or parked cars.
''That's a particular problem for children and a quarter of Canberra cyclists are aged under 10.''
Mr Corbell said the government's plan recognised that many of the paths were shared paths and it was seeking feedback from all users, not just cyclists.
''During the public displays on this project all the participants, including the pedestrians, were encouraged to provide feedback to make sure that the shared paths support all users,'' he said.
''An outcome of the study may result in upgrades to 'shared paths' in areas and this will result in improvements to paths for both pedestrians and cyclists.''
Mr Corbell said that, in addition to the study, planning work was proposed that specifically focused on improving walking infrastructure within town centres and to bus stops.
''This work will identify specific needs of pedestrians that are different from the cyclist,'' he said.