It has been ten years since the $36 million bike and pedestrian path on the Sir Leo Hielscher Bridge (previously the Gateway Bridge) opened for the first time to cyclists on 27th June 2010. Brisbane’s Lord Mayor back then was Campbell Newman and the Queensland Premier was Anna Bligh.
A bikeway connecting the northern and southern suburbs across Gateway Bridge was planned even before the second bridge was built. In a press release dated 22 April 2008, the Minister for Main Roads and Local Government, Warren Pitt advised that the Queensland Government was planning a new 4.5km bicycle route connecting local cycle networks in Nudgee, Nundah and Eagle Farm across the new Gateway Bridge to Brisbane’s southern suburbs. He said:
“When the new cycle link is open, people will be able to cycle from the second Gateway Bridge’s pedestrian and cycle path to the Kedron Brook off-road cycle path on a continuous cycle route consisting of a mix of on-road and off-road facilities”.
The staged plan back then included Stage 1, along the northern side of the Doomben/Pinkenba rail corridor between Nudgee Rd and what is now Schneider Rd, and Stage 1B connecting from there to Viola Place at Brisbane Airport. Sadly, Stage 1B and Stage 2 (along the Gateway Motorway) were never built.
Fast forward to 2014, and the Brisbane City Council, under Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, announced they would provide a shared pathway from the southern end of Viola Place to Schneider Road as part of the Better Bikeways 4 Brisbane Program. The project was to involve include approximately 380 metres of shared pathway, plus lighting and wayfinding signage.Project information made available at the time stated that the new path would connect the northern and southern suburbs of Brisbane to the major employment hubs of Brisbane Airport and Australia Trade Coast.
Funding for the project was allocated in Council’s 2014-2015 budget under section 188.8.131.52 Constructing Key Bikeway Links in Brisbane Suburbs: $1,219,000 for Moreton Bay Bikeway – BAC Connection, Eagle Farm. In delivering his budget that year, Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said:
Bikeways across our city will continue to be built as part of our ambitious active transport plan to deliver $120 million in bikeway facilities during this council term. The 2014-15 budget will allocate $26 million towards construction of key bikeway links and a further $2.4 million towards bikeway reconstruction.
The project was listed again in Council’s 2015-16 budget, this time for $1,091,000.
When it was not delivered in 2016, but appeared again in the 2016-17 budget, with $575,000 for Moreton Bay: Viola Pl to Schneider Rd, Eagle Farm, EaST BUG wrote to Council asking if money allocated in previous budgets had been carried over. The response (dated 3 November 2016) from Council’s City Projects office was:
Council is aware of the value of this link in helping to complete the Moreton Bay Cycleway, however unfortunately there are limited updates on the project. I can confirm that the Viola Place to Schneider Road cycleway link is part of the Better Bikeways 4 Brisbane program, which Council is investing $100 million over the next four years to extend Brisbane’s network of bikeways, improving access to local destinations and the CBD.
The amounts you have listed within the 2014-15 and 2015-16 budgets were reallocated to other projects, and the $575,000 has been committed by Council to progressing the project this financial year. As Council is in the design phase of this project, there are currently no confirmed construction timeframes.
In January 2017, members of Brisbane Airport BUG felt it was time to highlight the issue with local media. According to Quest Communities Newspapers:
A BCC spokesman said the path would run across land owned by several entities including the state government.
He said negotiations with those land owners were ongoing and that a date for construction of the path was not yet fixed.
The comment about negotiations with land owners is intriguing, as our investigations indicate the land is owned by TradeCoast Land Pty Ltd, which is 100% controlled by Brisbane City Council.
The story made the front page news on the Northside Chronical on Wednesday 18 Jan 2017.
2016-17 drew to an end with no bikeway in sight, but it was listed again in Council’s 2017-18 budget – this time for $945,000. In the 2018-19 budget, the project appeared yet again, this time with a carry-over figure of $870,000 and a new line item of $694,000. In 2019-20 the magic number was $782,000.
In October 2019, the campaign for the Viola Place bikeway gained a new supporter. Around Halloween, Brenda Bones appeared at the gate, waiting on her bicycle for the gate to be opened. Brenda instantly became a popular character on social media and made several public appearances in the flesh. Brenda met with both Labor and Greens candidates for the 2020 Council elections who assured her, that if elected they would ensure the Viola Place bikeway was built.
Brenda was the catalyst for more media attention. The Northside Chronicle and Bayside Star newspapers covered the Viola Place issue once again, and Mitch from Airport BUG was interviewed live on ABC local radio by Kat Feeney for the Afternoons program.
But another Council term passed, and still there was no bikeway.
This year, we were pleased to be informed by Deputy Mayor, Councillor Krista Adams in a letter dated 14th Feb 2020 that construction of the Viola Place bikeway will commence in 2021. However the project is no longer specifically listed in the 2020-21 budget. It would be ironic (and infuriating) if, after being listed in the budget for the last six years, the project could be further delayed through lack of funding.
Airport BUG have also contacted Public and Active Transport Chair, Cr Ryan Murphy to suggest an additional connection to assist people who cycle to workplaces on Clyde Gessel Place in Trade Coast Central. A short connection linking Viola Place to Clyde Gessel Place would save people riding an additional 3km and remove the need to ride up the steep hill over the Gateway Motorway overpass on Tradecoast Drive to access their workplaces on Clyde Gessel Place.
Let’s hope this year will be when we finally see the connection to Viola Place completed, 10 years after the Gateway Bridge Bikeway was delivered. Then Brenda can pack up her weary bones and have a drink to celebrate.