Every motorist should be outraged at the ACT government's Active Travel Plan.
Canberran who worries about climate change and wants better health outcomes for our community should be furious at the ACT government's Active Travel Plan, finally released last week.
Our anger should start with the title on this glossy brochure, which would have you believe this is a plan that is encouraging our community to commute in active ways, specifically walking and cycling.
Travel is a synonym of commute, meaning we are off to work, to school, to the shops. It is about how Canberrans get themselves from A to B.
What commuter wants to travel, actively or otherwise, along the longest most disruptive route to get to their destination? What motorist doesn't want less congestion on their morning commute?
The ACT government's about-face on infrastructure they themselves stated was necessary back in 2018, means that people won't feel any safer to actively travel to work along principal routes like Northbourne Avenue which is the one thing identified as a barrier by people who would consider cycling to work. Those people will stay in their cars no matter how many glossy brochures are printed.
Protected on-road cycle lanes on the principal routes around Canberra are the only way motorists and cyclists are going to feel confident commuting.
The government will argue that their new Garden City Cycle Route, which they've stated runs parallel to Northbourne Avenue, is the alternative. I do question if they know what parallel means.
Putting lipstick on a pig and giving it a nice name it not an idiom for "new", either. This route is the existing shared pathway that weaves through the suburbs and is great for a leisurely ride or walk around your neighbourhood.
Although they are planning to add and widen some sections, this will not address the needs of the commuters they claim to be encouraging to actively travel.
Do we expect a car driver to take the longest route to get to work? Would that same driver be happy to benefit from each cyclist relieving their commute of one less vehicle, and that they are at a much-reduced risk of a collision?
Canberrans were sold the GDE, Majura Parkway and light rail as diverting vehicle traffic from Northbourne Avenue, and that has been successful. There is now scope to have a protected cycle lane along the length of Northbourne Avenue, identified as our most dangerous road for cyclists.
But the ACT government has not only made it magically disappear from any past plans and framework, it seems as though they have also tried to distract us with a proposed trial of a protected cycleway from the Kings Avenue underpass to Bowen Park that aligns Lake Burley Griffin.
A section of road less than a kilometre long that has not been identified as dangerous to cyclists and, although welcomed, is at risk of being seen as another piecemeal, inconsistent approach to cycling infrastructure.
I think all road users, commuters, and people who believe we live in a progressive territory that cares for the environment and health of their citizens are owed an explanation, or at least I am.
You see, I helped deliver a petition for action on the draft version of this plan alongside Pedal Power last year because my husband had been hit by a car while cycling along Northbourne Avenue, Lyneham, in September 2022. Had the ACT government put that protected cycle lane in at the logical and cost-effective time, during the building of the light rail, then our family wouldn't have had to go through that.
Everyone wants to commute safely and return home to their families each day. Everyone has a right to do that in the most direct route available. No motorist wants to be responsible for killing a cyclist and protected cycleways on major roads would make this less likely as well as giving more people confidence to leave their car at home. For those that need to drive, less congestion.
It is a win-win so why is the government back-pedalling on this?
- Jo Pybus is a member of Pedal Power ACT.