Getting Over the Line at Albion

What happens in the next few years on major developments like the Albion Exchange will set in stone the active transport connections for Brisbane for the next 20-30 years. That’s why we’ve been so dogged in pushing for an east-west cycling connection here as a vital link between the new Kingsford Smith Drive Bikeway and the North Brisbane Bikeway.

This post sets out the timeline of the Albion Exchange Development, focusing on the need for an east-west cycle connection, and maintaining pedestrians access from Corunna St to Albion Station.

23 March 2018 – Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Mark Bailey MP announces that TMR have entered an agreement with Geon Property for a Transit Oriented Development at Albion Station.

10 August 2019Tragedy strikes nearby as a cyclist is killed at the corner of the Albion Overpass and Hudson Rd

6 Sep 2018 – Initial plans for the Albion Exchange development are lodged (application A005013244)

  • The site includes 2 parcels of land that were previously “road” (ie. public land) – most notably Albion Rd between Mawarra St and the rail line.
  • The Stakeholder Engagement Report does not mention cycling (or walking) groups but does mention record that meetings were held with Member for Cleveland, Tim Nicholls MP, Member for Brisbane, Trevor Evans MP, Hamilton Ward Councillor David McLachlan.

AlbionExchangeInitialPlan

12 Sep 2018Bicycle Queensland criticise the plans, via the Courier Mail and social media due to the lack of provision for an east-west cycle connection across the site.

BikeRideAlbion15 Sep 2018 – Members of North BUG attend a community information session, and are told that as a cyclist wanting to get through the site east-west, they would have to dismount and take the lift. On asking why there couldn’t be a ramp, they are told that the difference in levels makes that too difficult.

15 Sep 2018Space for Cycling post on social media about our concerns with the lack of an east-west cycle connection. Not everyone wants to ride a bike, but those who do should be able to without having to take a circuitous indirect route; carry their bicycle down stairs; or take their life in their hands riding on heavily trafficked roads.

15 October 2018Brisbane City Council write to Geon advising them that following initial review, the proposal is not supported in its current form. Their objections include:

It is noted that […the plan…] adversely impacts on the pedestrian connectivity under the Albion Overpass. The existing pedestrian link under the Albion Overpass is to remain as is to maintain permeability to pedestrian access. This link is considered desirable from a pedestrian accessibility viewpoint, as it serves the southern catchment pedestrians to access the train station.

In addition, there is no viable provision for cyclists travelling between the western side of the railway line and the eastern side through this site, as equitable access on the western side is via the proposed lifts. The Traffic Impact Assessment states “that the level difference between the western side of the railway line and the proposed pedestrian plaza makes ramping impractical that would not be suitable for through cyclist use”. Notwithstanding the level difference between the western side of the railway line and the proposed pedestrian plaza, a ramp is required to be provided to cater for a connection for cyclists travelling east to west across the railway.

17 October 2018 – Representatives from North BUG are invited to meet with Geon and are reassured to hear that they are considering options for an east-west cycling connection that would most likely connect to the future North Brisbane Bikeway via an improved path on the northern side of the Albion Overpass.

18 October 2018SARA (State Assessment Referral Agency) write to Geon (Further Advice Letter), saying:

The development should not interfere with or worsen the existing pedestrian and cycle access arrangements to the Albion train station. The applicant is required to demonstrate how the development will maintain safe, convenient and direct pedestrian/cyclist route from Corunna Street to the Albion train station.

11 January 2019RPS Group (on behalf of the applicant, Geon) respond to Brisbane City Council’s initial review comments saying that the revised plans include:

  • Improved east-west bicycle movements, based on a strategic bicycle movement study for Albion Exchange;
  • Retention of the pedestrian underpass to Albion Overpass. The path is terminated north of the Albion Overpass and integrated into Tower 1A;

11 January 2019 – The applicant (represented by RPS) also responds to SARA‘s further issues letter, saying:

The proposed design of the development has been revised to retain the pedestrian underpass below Albion Overpass to provide for improved pedestrian connection from the southern side of development site. The pedestrian underpass connects with Tower 1A via stairs on Basement Level 2, which provide for connection to the Ground Level/Albion Overpass, which provides pedestrians with connection to the pedestrian links through the plaza and to the Albion Train Station.

IntegrateTransport11 January 2019 – an updated DA is lodged, including an “Intergrated (sic) Movement Strategy Plan” prepared by Dunn Moran Landscape Architecture.

17 January 2019 Space for Cycling posts on Facebook wondering what that actually means, since it seems to indicate an existing cycle route across the Albion Overpass. We note that existing access across the overpass is woeful, and question what the plan is to actually build the necessary infrastructure.

21 January 2019 – Public notification period commences

OptionalAlbionOverpassPath

25 January 2019Bicycle Queensland make a submission fully endorsing the project. This is later cited in other submissions as a reason to endorse the project – see for example one lodged on 11 February 2019, and others on 23 May 2019.

29 January 2019North BUG representatives meet with Geon about future stages, but come away without clarification about who is responsible for constructing a future east-west cycle connection.

7 February 2019Space for Cycling write a blog post (and Facebook post), decrying the lack of an East-West cycle connection, and suggesting people make a submission on the development application. We point out that Albion Road is identified in the Principal Cycle Network Plan, and although not highlighted as a short-term priority, this development is surely the time to make the east-west connection a reality.

albionpcnp

10 February 2019 – Our post is picked up by the Courier Mail

10 February 2019Our submission calls out the lack of an east-west cycle connection, and objects to the underpass from Corunna St terminating in a stairwell. At least one other public submission is lodged supporting the development overall but objecting to the lack of an east-west cycle connection.

AlbionSubmission

Submission10Feb

26 April 2019 – Following assessment of public submissions, Brisbane City Council write to Geon asking them to address further issues – including Pedestrian and Cycle connections. In particular, they are required address the issues raised in our submission:

  • demonstrate how an east-west cycle connection will be provided
  • provide a lift to connect the Corunna St underpass to the plaza level

24 June 2019 – Geon advise that their town planning representative is now Urbis Pty Ltd.

20 August 2019 – Urbis (on behalf of the developer) provides to Brisbane City Council a Further Issues Response which includes “attachment 5, East-West Cycle Connection“. The response includes:

 

The Applicant has undertaken a detailed review, including a structural analysis, of a ramp/bridge for bicycle access to/from Macdonald Road. This connects with the planned bikeways and enables appropriate cycle access.

They also discuss the appropriate mechanism through which to secure this infrastructure, based on legal advice received:

The Applicant requests Council impose a reasonable and relevant condition of approval that before the first development approval under the Preliminary Approval for the Stage 2 development (Variation Request) is given, the Applicant design the east-west bikeway to enable its construction as part of the Stage 2 development.

AlbionEWconnection-page-001

With respect to the Corunna St connection, the news was not so good. The applicant noted that the current connection from Corunna St involves stairs, and although this could be replaced by a ramp:

The ramping system would need to be a significant piece of infrastructure in order to overcome the grade constraints, and does not represent a reasonably viable option given its level of use. A dysfunctional, inefficient and costly ramp system in this portion of Albion serves no benefit to an effective active transport system.

CorunnaStRamp

Thus, they conclude that since current usage does not justify the difficult and expensive provision of a ramp at the southern connection to the underpass (from Corunna St), it is reasonable to terminate the northern end of the path in a stairwell such that it can never be made DDA compliant for the life of the development. (We are reminded of the adage that you can’t predict the demand for a bridge by counting the number of people swimming across the river.)

Their concession was to include bicycle wheeling ramps in the stairwell from the Corunna St underpass, “for the rare occasions a cyclist utilises the corridor under the Albion Overpass.”

WheelRamp

21 August 2019 – The technical documents are lodged, including attachment 5, East-West Cycle connection. That document includes preliminary structural drawings by ADG.

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16 October 2019 – Further clarification on the east-west bikeway is included in the response provided by Urbis to SARA and Brisbane City Council:

BikewayInfo

This drawing is included in the amended architectural package:

FutureEWCycleConnection

17 January 2020 – The development application is approved by Council, and includes a shared path of 4.2m along the northern side of the Albion Overpass in front of Stage 1 of the development.

AlbionOverpassInerface

30 March 2020 – People who made submissions are notified of the decision, and the appeal period commences. The approval conditions include:

  • making allowance for an east-west bikeway
  • submitting a bikeway delivery strategy

DevelopmentConditions

Conclusion: We believe this timeline illustrates the importance of continuing to show up, ask questions, and make submissions. Sitting back and accepting that active transport is “all taken care of” comes with a huge risk that it will been forgotten until it is too late.

The result of persistence in this case is a plan for constructing a bikeway along the northern side of the Albion Overpass—including preliminary structural drawings. We would now like to see that project brought forward as a part of an economic stimulus plan and to protect vulnerable road users sooner rather than later.