Bicycle Network: Funding & Budgets
Healthy New Suburbs in Urban Growth Zones
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Our new suburbs can be healthy, vibrant places planned and built so everyone can ride and walk. But currently very few people ride their bikes in our outer suburbs and we run the risk building suburbs where children do not ride or walk to school.
Battle for bikes in new suburbs rolls on
27 November 2013. Bicycle Network has challenged two major planning schemes for new suburbs on the Werribee River with concerns that Melbourne's burgeoning new suburbs are not getting the bike routes needed that would allow children and families to ride and stay healthy.
And the interim recommendations of the Planning Panel Report, released this week, signal that better designs are coming for future new suburbs - in particular off-road paths on 80km/h roads instead of on-road lanes. Already there has been some movement - see the East Werribee Employment Precinct story below that shows what is possible - but the default position has still not changed.
Bicycle Network had become concerned in recent years that a number of new suburbs, that were supposed to comply with planning rules that were meant to encourage cycling (rather than just allowing it), were being fitted out with infrastructure that did no such thing.
Extravagantly wide streets that were then fitted with both on-road and off road bike routes were appearing. The infrastructure might have technically complied with requirements, but was never going to be attractive to riders as the on-road lanes on high speed roads only suit a very small percentage of potential riders and the off-road paths did not get priority across minor intersections.
Worse, these bad designs were costly. Developers were having to cough-up land and financial resources to build bike routes that few would use while they could have been building really attractive routes at considerably less cost.
Authorities seemed to recognise the problems but would not act decisively to fix them.
So with the support of legal firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Bicycle Network challenged planning scheme amendments to create two new suburbs in Wyndham—the Ballan Road Precinct and the Westbrook Precinct.
These two developments cover more than 1,100 hectares.
All of the developments between The Princes Highway and the Melton Highway will accommodate more than 337,000 people. The Wyndham West growth front, in which the two developments challenged are located, consists of 3,300 hectares of future urban land around 87,000 people.
It is critical to the health and mobility of the people in these new suburbs that they are designed to encourage riding, especially to schools, railway stations, and local facilities.
Of major concern to Bicycle Network is that many of the streets in these suburbs are unjustifiably wide and fast. Seeking to understand why this was so, the answer was usually "that's what the modelling says". When asked to see what the modelling actually said, the answer was "we can't show you that".
The Planning Panel did not find in our favour over the traffic modelling because they believed that even if the results were made public so they could be interrogated, the design of the roads may not change.
However it is inconceivable that such a major planning tool can remain hidden from scrutiny for much longer.
The Planning Panel was more sympathetic to our general case that these massive new developments must comply to planning laws and government strategies that say that riding and walking has to be encouraged by the inherent design of the neighbourhoods.
Our submissions to the Planning Panel are here, here and here. Click on the embedded links for an alternative cross section and plan for connector streets that provides separated off-road paths for bike riders rather than the current default cross section with on-road lanes that is more expensive and suits only a few adult riders.
The Planning Panel report is available here. See pages 51-55.
Big tick for East Werribee plan
15 October 2013. There are signs that we are starting to get it right for the design of new suburbs, with the recently gazetted East Weribbee Employment Precinct setting the example for bike-friendliness.
The new suburb, which will take some years to develop, is between Hoppers Crossing and Weribbee on the site of the agricultural college.
The plans for the Precinct provide a model for the 2050 "20 minute city" detailed in Plan Melbourne. It's a model for a healthy, vibrant community with local jobs, good access to public transport and, importantly, convivial for walking and cycling. Families, children and other potential residents and visitors (oh, and businesses) will be especially pleased with:
- off road bike paths on major roads including "Copenhagen" style bike paths along tree lines boulevards (an updated, improved version of St Kilda Rd, Royal Pde and Flemington Rd)
- well spaced crossings of major barriers to allow access to neighbouring areas. This includes new crossings of the Maltby Bypass (Princes Fwy). The exception is a crossing for the Skeleton Creek path to the east which was missed in previous structure plans which must now be retrofited at some cost.
- separated off-road paths on some connector streets though some still retain the old on-road bike lanes that will not suit non-adult riders
- local jobs, services, schools, community facilities, activity centres and parks, including proximity to the existing Werribee and Hoppers Crossing town centres and train stations - this puts most daily destinations within an easy bike ride or walk and help to dramatically reduce the reliance (and cost) on motor vehicles. Many families will only need one car thus saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions over their working lives. Money that could be spent locally.
- the improved liveability and "social-bility" of the community with more people able to share experiences and each other's company in public spaces not dominated by motor vehicles. Having the main bread-winner back before the evening news and spend extra time with their family rather than stuck in a car or train coming back from the city has much wider benefits for everyone.
Well done to Wyndham City Council and the Growth Areas Authority (now Metropolitan Planning Authority who are responsible for implementing Plan Melbourne) and others involved for making this important step toward a more liveable city with more people riding and healthy.
New western plans fail bikes
5 August 2013. Children and family groups would be denied trips to the shops on bikes under a plan for the latest new suburbs in Melbourne's west.
The vast new development in Truganina is expected to house 26,500 people and it is vital that the community has a choice to ride bikes rather than be forced to be car dependent.
The Truganina Precinct Structure Plan includes three town centres but many of the roads into and through the centres do not provide off-road paths that suit non-adult riders. Parks and schools are well connected as are the proposed new train stations along the Regional Rail Link.
But until infrastructure is built to make families feel comfortable riding, the chronic lack of physical activity undermining the health of the community won't be addressed.
Our detailed submission makes it clear what is needed - a focus on planning for more riding and walking and provision of paths that allow everyone to ride without worrying about mixing with fast moving motor vehicles or buses.
Remarkably, its actually cheaper to build off-road bikes lanes than on-road in new suburban developments. An on-road bike lane costs at least $500 extra per block in new suburban development compared to off-road.
And the extra riding an off-road lane delivers (as opposed to on-road) generates health benefits worth millions to the community.
Healthy built environment builds cycling
22 July 2013. The better designed and more attractive your suburb is, the more you will ride your bike, and the more new riders will try it out, researchers have found.
In a groundbreaking study from Western Australia the habits of 1400 participants were tracked before and after they moved into new suburbs with good connectivity.
It showed that, in well connected suburbs, the rate of cycling by people increased up to 7% after they had relocated.
The study is one of the very few to specifically study the link between built environment and cycling behaviour and confirms the importance of providing streets and parks that encourage cycling.
Published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, the study aimed to determine how changes in objective and perceived environment determined the uptake of cycling among formerly non-cycling adults.
The objective environment was determined as connectivity – or how well streets linked – and residential density, while perceived characteristics included traffic hazards, access to parks and neighbourhood aesthetics.
The study recommended that future research look at recreational and transport cycling separately, as the motives for each varied and may require different types of interventions.
Street connectivity was the most important factor in people taking up recreational cycling, while people were more likely to take up transportation cycling after they moved to a neighbourhood with a higher residential density.
Riverdale Plans sink
17 July 2013. We continue to express our dismay that new precinct structure plans for planned new suburbs fail to adequately cater for cycling and walking.
In our submission to the Riverdale PSP (see Growth Areas Authority website) we challenge the transport modelling that results in wide roads being built based on the assumption of very low walking and cycling rates.
This is despite the objectives and requirements of the Transport Integration Act (2010). We continue to have concerns with the requirement for on-road lanes on busy roads.
This approach does not suit the majority of potential riders and is both expensive and ineffective. We say the developer should be allowed to provide bike paths instead.
A revision of the State planning laws is needed to allow this to happen. At the moment we are building suburbs that will not allow children to ride to school or family groups to ride to the shops or parks.
New South Wales plans for health
28 June 2013 In a welcome initiative, an independent review of New South Wales' Planning System has included the consideration of health in 'built environments'.
This inclusion is an acknowledgment of the role that community layout and design plays in determining a population's level of physical activity and social interaction.
Last month, we made a series of recommendations to the review including The Planning Checklist for Cycling. We believe the checklist provides a sufficient template for the new system and would fit well within NSW's proposed simplified planning system. See our submission to the White Paper - A New Planning System for New South Wales.
In direct contrast, the Melbourne Metro Strategy Review Discussion Paper missed the opportunity to include community health and to consult with major health promotion organisations in the initial stages of review.
With the Western world facing a physical inactivity epidemic, it is crucial we start planning and designing our cities to make cycling and walking not just possible, but easy and enjoyable. This means a move towards transport infrastructure and cities which are not dominated and dependent on car travel.
New 'burbs: not quite right for bikes
20 May 2013 - Plans for two new suburbs in Melbourne's west - Ballan Road and Westbrook - should make cycling and active living possible for most of their planned population, but there are shortcomings.
The suburbs will sit alongside the Regional Rail Link between the planned Wynhdam Vale and Tarneit stations with cycling links and secure parking planned for both.
The major concern is the lack of consideration of cycling and walking in the required transport assessment for the precincts, which seems to assume that all transport will be by motor vehicles.
This may lead to wider and more expensive roads, higher house prices and reduced health and live-ability outcomes. Active transport needs to be encouraged and planned for.
Bicycle Network also has some concerns about some missing links and provision of on-road bicycle lanes instead of off-road paths along busy roads - see our submissions to the right.
Overall though, we can see the improved results for health and live-ability that have come from authorities using the Planning checklist for Cycling when planning the suburbs. There is also a renewed emphasis on more compact residential development and provision for local jobs in employment zones.
But there remains an unhealthy focus on providing for motor vehicle traffic rather than walking and cycling, despite the provision of the Integrated Transport Act and Victorian Planning Provision related to active transport.
Planning for health
20 Feb 2013. On 13th March Bicycle Network, the Heart Foundation and Victoria Walks will be presenting the Cycling and Healthy Suburbs training course as part of the 2013 PLANET professional development program.
The course, developed for planning professionals, will help ensure well-planned and developed neighbourhoods where walking and cycling are attractive and popular.
We will be introducing the Planning Checklist for Cycling and how to use it for assessing development proposals.
The course is endorsed by the Planning Institute of Australia and participants are eligible for professional development points.
Working with planners we hope to avoid the mistakes of the past where active transport infrastructure was forfeited to make room for motor vehicles and streets became dominated by windscreens and not faces.
Well planned and designed places can reverse that pattern and make public spaces for healthy, active and interacting people. Register here, spaces are limited.
50,000 jobs you can ride to
05 February 2013.The major new employment precinct being established near Werribee is being planned so that every worker can arrive by bike.
The East Werribee Employment Precinct, to be built on the site of the former agricultural research farm, will be laid out to provide local jobs close to existing housing, a network of fully separated bike paths, and a new train station.
The result should be a world class precinct which incorporates healthy and sustainable lifestyles to match the Danes.
Cycling will be part of a healthy, vibrant and thriving new precinct in Melbourne's west if new plans go ahead. The Structure Plan for the East Werribee Employment Precinct, which is expected create up to 50,000 local jobs and host 7,000 new homes prescribes a network of cycle routes that would allow everyone to ride.
This includes "Copenhagen style" bike paths which separate bike riders from motor vehicles on busier roads. The new precinct would allow new jobs to be created closer to where people live in the west thus reducing travel distances and making cycling and walking a more viable transport choice.
Our submission highlights the potential of the precinct to be a world class suburb. Easy access by bike, foot and public transport will make a successful and sustainable new community and support existing development.
There are, however some shortcomings including the lack of adequate crossings of the Princes Hwy and Maltby Bypass. There also needs to be more consideration of direct connections to existing and future railway stations and better provision for cycling in main streets and for children riding to school.
Bike infrastructure a 'golden goose' for new suburbs
12 December 2012. A recently released Federal Government discussion paper on active transport confirms that bike infrastructure contributes to public health benefits to communities now and into the future.
The Walking, Riding and Access to Public Transport—Draft report for discussion (July 2013 - now final) states:
"A typical cost–benefit analysis for an active transport project shows that public health accounts for most of the economic benefits, even after adjusting for injury costs. ... . The net health benefit (adjusted for injury) for each kilometre cycled is 75 cents – about half of the total economic benefits of a typical bikeway project. "
Combined with walking, the total health benefit for a active travel infrastructure is estimated at $1.68 per km. This does not include the benefits from decongestion, vehicle operating costs; infrastructure savings and environment. So if 1000 people bike riders use a path each day (up to 3000 a day use paths in the inner suburbs) it would generate $15M per km over 30 years (or $1.43/km cycled).
The paper goes on to say that providing walking and cycling infrastructure at initial stages "can be significantly cheaper than retrofitting at a later stage." and "Incorporating exercise into travel has been identified as a highly effective means to increase daily physical activity, which can help individuals maintain health."
The message is clear: the benefits of cycling, walking and public transport infrastructure are overwhelming, especially in terms of health costs. And it makes sense to build them into the new suburbs and other major projects at the initial stages rather than retrofitting later at more expense.
The Planning Checklist for Cycling has been developed to make this easier and more systematic.
Healthy suburbs are ones where people walk and rider regularly. The same suburbs are are also more economically viable as less money is wasted on health, vehicle costs and congestion and more money and resources remain within the community.
East Werribee development goes Danish
27 November 2012. Plans for the "new CBD of the west" - the East Werribee Employment Precinct - include provision of "Copenhagen" style bike paths along busier roads.
This includes paths along Sneydes Boulevard - "the St Kilda Rd of the west". Unlike St Kilda Rd though, there will be fully separated 1.7-2.0m wide lanes instead of the 1.5m wide on-road lanes (see pic below).
The new precinct will also benefit from new connections to Point Cook and into Hoppers Crossing and Werribee. We've yet to do a full Planning Checklist for Cycling assessment but an initial look shows that Growth Areas Authority (GAA) and Wyndham Council are taking seriously the importance of cycling and its contribution to liveability.
The proposed Sneydes Rd section - a new "St Kilda Rd" for the west - showing "Copenhagen" style bike paths.
Planning checklist now online
15 October 2012. The Planning Checklist for Cycling and associated Practice Note are now available online. See the Planning Checklist webpage for more details. 1 August 2013 - note these have been updated and refined - see links at right.
The documents will be presented at this year's Bike Futures Conference and we'll be working with outer urban councils, developers, planners and the State Govt to ensure the Checklist is used to develop healthy new suburbs where bike riding is part of everyday life.
Submission to planning reforms
18 September 2012. Reform of Planning Zones - the reform of planning zones in Victoria is an opportunity to improve provision for cycling in residential zones. Our submission calls for detailed plans showing cycling routes to be shown for all subdivisions greater than 25 lots rather than the current 60 lots. This would help reduce the gaps in the cycling network that currently sometimes see in new subdivisions.
Latest suburb plans show promise
22 August 2012. The draft Precinct Structure Plans for Greenvale Central and Blackforest Road South show welcome improvements to the standard of planned cycling provision.
Both show more cycle paths separated from traffic on busy roads. The Blackforest Road South PSP in particular, which covers Lend Lease's Harpley development, proposes separated cycle paths along all connector roads which would provide places for children and family groups to ride to school, the shops and community facilities.
We continue to have concerns about crossings of barriers including railways and major roads and the amount of roundabouts which are a deterrent to cycling and walking. Also, the more detailed plans do not adequately show road crossings and path alignments that must be incorporated into construction plans if the cycle routes are to be built properly. Our submission to the Growths Areas Authority using the Planning Checklist for Cycling are here: Greenvale Central PSP Blackforest Road South PSP.
New suburb plans show poor transport options for bikes
11 July 2012. The government has gazetted the Precinct Structure Plans for the planned new suburbs of Diggers Rest, Lockerbie, Lockerbie North, Merrifield West, Manor Lakes, and Rockbank North.
Unfortunately apart from Lockerbie North, the PSPs only adopted minor or no improvements to the cycling infrastructure. See the new cycling plans for these PSPs here with review markings relating to our submissions to the draft PSPs (at right).
Many connections to surrounding areas, which required a crossing of a freeway or railway, were omitted. Also, connector streets and arterial roads will continue to be built with on-road lanes which do not suit the vast majority of potential bike riders. This means that most people will be denied use of their bicycle for trips to local destinations including schools and local shops.
Government releases report into Environmental Design and Health
May 2012. The Victoria Govt. Environment and Planning Reference Committee has release its Report on the Inquiry into Environmental Design and Public Health.
The Inquiry examines the importance of considering health in the design of communities including creating environments that promote physical exercise and improve access to open public spaces. Bicycle Network made a submission to the Inquiry which stressed the importance of planning and delivering new suburbs with cycling infrastructure that allows everyone to ride.
We welcome the Inquiry's recommendations to improve the governments focus on better cycling infrastructure "with particular focus ... in Melbourne's outer suburbs and Victoria's regional cities" and "examining lowering speed limits to 30 km/h in school, residential and “other appropriate areas”.
The report said car dependency was not always linked to long distances caused by urban expansion. Of all trips taken by Victorians across all transport modes, 55 percent are less than five kilometres and 74 percent are less than ten kilometres.
“Walking or cycling could replace many such short trips taken by car and provide much‐needed physical activity. However, encouraging people to leave the car at home and walk or cycle is dependent on providing the necessary walking and cycling paths and networks,” the report said.
Testing Time for checklist
April 2012. Councils, developers and planners are asked to test the latest draft of the Planning Checklist for Cycling (with accompanying Practice Note) on current and past projects and provide feedback using the online survey tool.
We need the input of planners and developers to make sure the Checklist is a useful and effective tool to ensure bike riding in new suburbs. Test assessments completed by 31st May 2012 go into the draw for a ticket to the 2012 Bike Futures Conference in October in Melbourne where we plan to present the final version of the Checklist to delegates. See bottom of page for terms and conditions.
December 2011 - The Checklist has been used to assess the draft Growth Corridor Plans and Precinct Structure Plans prepared by the Growth Areas Authority in November/December 2011. These plans will guide development of new suburbs for the next generation - its critical we get the planning and design correct so that people, especially children, have a choice about how they get to school and other destinations.
The assessments of the Precinct Structure Plans shows:
- Poor access to schools, community centres and local town centres due to inappropriate provision for bikes on connector streets where most of these are located. The current default design for connector streets only provides painted on-road bike lanes next to motor vehicles. This is old thinking: on-road bike lanes on busy roads suit mostly confident adult riders but the majority of people, including children and family groups, need paths separated from busy traffic if they are going to ride along these roads.
- Potential conflict with buses. On-road bike lanes are proposed for many streets designated as bus routes. This brings bike and buses into potential conflict, especially with buses loading and unloading passengers. Off-road bike paths are more appropriate as bicycles can run behind stops and high frequency bus services will not be hindered in their operation. Many designated bus routes are on collector streets (see above) which strengthens the case for off road paths on these streets.
- Generally good connectivity to open space and parks through off-road path along creeks and other green corridors.
- Poor access and connections into local town centres due to reliance on advisory lane markings on main streets where bikes would have to share traffic lanes with cars, buses and other vehicles.
- Lack of crossing points of major barriers such as freeways and railways which means some areas are isolated from adjoining areas.
The assessment of the Growth Corridor Plans shows:
- Bikes are not well incorporated into the transport system - bike routes are only shown in open space concept plans but not in the transport plans
- Bikes are excluded from some freight and on-road public transport routes which will deny bicycles access to many workplaces.
- Access to trains is poor in many areas due to missing paths along railway corridors. This also leads to lack of connectivity into some town centres.
June 2011 - The project has developed a draft Planning Checklist for Cycling which attempts to distil the current research and planning laws and guidelines for cycling into a series of step-by-step checklist items for planning and developing new suburbs. The Checklist aims to clarify the requirements for cycling in the complex planning process and give objective and achievable assessment criteria. At each level the checklist focuses on the three key areas which determine accessibility for people on bikes:
- Connections – can people ride to their destination and to the surrounding areas?
- Permeability (both Directness and Choice of route) – are people able to easily get to their destination? Do they have a choice of route?
- Quality/Appropriateness - does the design of the cycle routes suit the potential riders and their purpose?
The checklist is designed to be used sequentially, in three stages, from GAFP level to PSP Level to Planning Permit level. The outcomes of subsequent more detailed and smaller scale levels rely upon the preceding levels. For instance, local cycle and walking connections to local activity centres rely upon a wider regional cycle and walking network. The PSP and Planning Permit level checklists can be used separately but recognize that much depends on the preceding level.
The checklist facilitates a quick and clear assessment of whether the proposed development meets the critical requirements for cycling. If the development meets all the checklist item requirements then cycling will be an attractive travel choice for destinations within cycling distance. See checklist summary at rear of document for summary sheets.
Healthy New Suburbs in Urban Growth Zones is a three year project funded by VicHealth to trial how to increase cycling in developing outer suburban areas.
The project aims to understand and communicate the key factors which ensure walking and cycling facilities and practices are embedded into the planning, delivery and usage of new suburbs. It aims to leave a best practice legacy for the development of healthy new suburbs in the hands of the key players; developers, councils and community.
Successful "interventions" will require a focus on people, places and purpose - which people to target, which trips to which places and for what purpose. An initial review of transport data for Whittlesea and other outer Melbourne suburbs will inform which "interventions" to trial. An introductory presentation (3.7Mb) on the project shows some of the development trends and travel data relevant to the project. Our presentation to Whittlesea Council on how to integrate the Planning Checklist into planning practice gives some examples from existing PSPs and permit applications. See also the links at right.
Planning Checklist for Cycling
The Planning Checklists for Cycling and Practice Note can be used to help build healthy new suburbs where everyone can ride their bikes as part of their everyday life.
Planning Checklist for Cycling trial
Help us test the Planning Checklist for Cycling online for your chance to win a ticket to the 2012 Bike Futures Conference.