10 May 2020

Brisbane’s non-response to COVID-19

We went along (virtually) to Council’s first meeting of their new Public and Active Transport Committee this week hoping to hear of bold and innovative plans to support #SpaceForHealth during the COVID-19 crisis and to enable a long-term mode-shift to active transport. What we learned was quite disappointing; check out our report.

The bicycle could help mitigate against a second wave of coronavirus, but if we ignore it, the return of ‘carownervirus’ will make things worse. As this article from the UK highlights:

“You can encourage people all you like, but without providing the infrastructure and real incentive, the vast majority won’t shift to active modes and our towns and cities will grind to a halt. When you seriously invest and take bold decisions like repurposing space, you can enable.”

To keep the incredible boom in active transport going, we need to enable it by providing safe routes which get people where they need to go. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, Brisbane people don’t need encouragement to jump on their bikes—they’re already keen!


And please, spare us the line about how on-street car parking is vital for small local businesses. Here’s yet another study demonstrating that bikelanes are good for business! The study also debunks the common notion that removing parking spots in order to install a bike lane will hurt nearby businesses; in fact the opposite is true. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the benefits are most pronounced for food services, but bikelanes are also good for other retail businesses.

Our economic recovery from coronavirus should focus on projects to improved active transport not just because it’s good for health, but also because it helps create sales and employment at local businesses!

Repurposing streets for active transport has been a bit of a theme of ours lately. But the silence from Brisbane’s leaders is becoming increasingly alarming; it would be a real failure if we didn’t learn this lesson and seize the opportunity from the global crisis. Cities around the world are discovering how much nicer they can be with less space devoted to cars and trucks. People find it’s easier—and healthier—to get where they’re going. Come on Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner and Transport Minister Mark Bailey MP, give us a reason to be cheerful!

Melbourne is about to create a whole lot more #SpaceForHealth, with on-street parking making way for wider footpaths, and 12 kilometres of new pop-up cycle lanes. They are also looking to lower speed limits to 30km/h. That follows the lead of cities such as Berlin and Milan, and the advice of hundreds of Australian health and transport experts.

With COVID-19 restrictions starting to ease in Queensland, and some school students returning, Brisbane risks being left behind stuck in traffic. It’s time to seize the opportunity Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner and Cr Ryan Murphy!

Hot on the heels of the announcements in Melbourne, the NSW Government are now also working with local councils on a transport response to COVID-19. NSW councils can apply for grants of up to $100,000 for immediate pilot projects, such as widening footpaths and creating cycle lanes, and up to $1 million for longer term projects such as extra crossing points and trialling lower speed limits.

NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes is also looking to the future:

“Our future precincts, parks and public spaces need to be designed to enable better social distancing, with wider footpaths, segregated cycleways and more linear parks, to meet the increased demand for these precious public spaces.”

Sometimes people joke about Queensland being one hour and 20 years behind NSW and Victoria. Please don’t let’s prove them right!

This is what bold city leadership looks like: London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan has committed to the biggest transformation of London’s streets ever to avoid the city grinding to a halt as people return to work, but not to public transport. Transport for London are aiming to enable a 10-fold increase in cycling and a 5-fold increase in walking. This is critical, as the Mayor says, because his city can’t afford for essential deliveries and emergency services not being able to use the roads because they’re clogged up by cars.

WatchingRoosWhat is the plan for Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner and Cr Ryan Murphy? As we’ve seen, Brisbane residents have their bikes dusted off, tuned up and ready to go, but we need to make it feel safe for them to keep riding – to work, to school, to the local shops…

Like us, Gayle is totally frustrated by Brisbane City Council’s lack of action so far to provide safer streets and wider footpaths during the COVID-19 shutdown, and to help Brisbane residents stay active, safe, and healthy as business resumes. She has started a petition calling on Council to follow the lead of cities around the world, and take urgent action to create #SpaceForHealth in the short term, and set the blueprint for #HealthyStreets across the city and suburbs.  We totally support this petition! Please add your voice (remembering to look for the confirmation email to ensure your signature is recorded).

But won’t it be incredibly expensive?? No! In California, the City of Oakland is using “soft closures” (construction barricades, and signs closing streets to through traffic) to make streets safe and welcoming for people walking, jogging and cycling, but at the same time keep them open for local traffic, emergency vehicles, deliveries and rubbish collection. They’ve been really happy with the response; in fact they’re getting lots of requests for additional slow-streets.

Once people experience how their neighbourhood feels with calmer traffic, they don’t want to go back. But as more and more cars return to Brisbane’s streets, it feels like we’re letting this opportunity slip through our fingers…

Good News Stories

While the response at a city level has been incredibly disappointing, individuals have been busy getting out and about by pedal-power themselves. Here’s BelindasTrikeBelinda’s story:

“I grew up on a VERY steep hill, in a very poor household. So I never owned nor learned how to ride a bike. I’ve tried to conquer my fears around bikes and trying to balance on them once or twice as an adult, but it’s been a struggle.

A while ago I bought myself a second hand adult trike, but it needed a little work to get it ready to ride.

Over the last week I’ve taken it out 3 times, and I’ve been loving it sick, though it’s too heavy for hills.

Today, I actually took it for an 8km ride along the river at Toowong and into the city on the Bicentennial Bikeway. As I get fitter and stronger I’m looking forward to kicking even more goals with it. I got some funny looks from other people, but I don’t give a shit, because I’m having a good time and it beats sitting around in front of Netflix or something.

It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. 🥰”

It’s not enough just to encourage people to take to two (or three) wheels. We need to enable people with an environment that empowers them to overcome their fear and discover the joy and freedom cycling offers.  This is what #SpaceForHealth and #HealthyStreets is all about. Go Belinda! And happy Mother’s Day!

NewRiderAnother great story we stumbled across this week: This young lady recently learned to ride. Dad said “it was a bit of a long process, but we’re good now”. Just before this photo, she was overheard saying “where are we riding to today, Dad?” When asked if they would be riding to school, Dad replied: “if we lived a bit further away we would.”

We love everything about this story – especially school being too close to make it worth cycling to, so you have to go and seek out longer adventures on the bike paths with Dad! 🚲❤️

Back to School

BackToSchoolSpeaking of school, on Monday, Queensland schools will welcome back all students in kindy, prep, year 1, year 11 and year 12 as the state starts to open up as the COVID-19 situation eases.

If you read this advice from the Queensland Department of Education, you would be forgiven for thinking you were now required to drive your children to school:
“Parents should use stop, drop and go or similar facilities rather than walking their children into school.”

What it means is that parents are not permitted inside school grounds. Instead, you can only escort your children as far as the gate. Unfortunately the wording gives the impression that you have to drive. Of course, you don’t.

Many families have experienced life outside the bubble of their car over the last few weeks, with more and more of them taking to two wheels. It would be great to see that continuing as kids ride or walk to school with their newly developed skills and confidence.

Instead of advice that not-so-subtly reinforces the idea that driving children to school is the norm, it would be a great time for Brisbane City Council and the Queensland Government to prioritise temporary repurposing of road space around schools to create protected walking and cycling paths that encourage and enable more active travel.

Around the Suburbs

It was distressing to read about yet another person injured while riding their bike on Moggill Rd – this time at Bellbowrie. Matthew Stansfield was cycling to work early last Wednesday morning when he was hit by a driver who didn’t stop, leaving him lying on the road. Understandably, it has left him really shaken:

“In the future, I’ll probably have to stop riding Moggill Rd or stop commuting, and just stick to driving in to meet mates to do group rides. It’s a lot safer because you’re riding in numbers. As much as it upsets people, that’s why they do it because you’re more visible in numbers.”

We wish Matthew the very best in his recovery!

Brisbane City Council has proposed a Green Bridge to be built connecting Bellbowrie and Wacol. That would provide a safer connection to the Centenary Bikeway into the CBD and help people avoid “the Gauntlet” of Moggill Road. You can find out more about the Bellbowrie Green Bridge, including the first round of feedback findings onCouncil’s website or check out our summary. Further consultation on the proposal is expected in mid-2020.

DuttonParkDetour1Thanks perhaps to pressure from us, it seems the project team working on the Gladstone Rd / TJ Doyle Memorial Drive intersection at Dutton Park have provided something of a detour so that people travelling by bike can take the temporary footpath if they don’t feel comfortable on the road where the bikelane disappears. The temporary footpath has also been improved (it’s now smoother and wider). It’s not great, but certainly a lot better than the situation a week ago. Now we can only hope the state government will respond positively to our calls for a better long-term outcome. Thanks to everyone (over 600 of you) who signed our petition.

In better news, we were notified this week of upcoming bikeway lighting work on the south-side, which is good news for those who use the “Southern Bikeway” connecting the old section of the Southeast Freeway Bikeway near Sunshine Ave, Annerley through Barr St Park and Shafesbury St Park, to Cracknell Rd, Tarragindi (and which then links to the path through Tarragindi Recreation Reserve, and the route south to Salisbury). Council will be installing lighting on the section between the Pacific Motorway and Cracknell Rd, starting in mid-May and due to be completed by August.


SunshineAveWe’ve noticed there has been recent repair work on this path, and most of the banana bars have been removed. It’s a handy local bikeway, which—like everywhere else—has been very busy recently. The lighting work will make it much more user-friendly, especially for commuters who find themselves riding home in the dark during winter.

Speaking of banana bars, EaST BUG were happy to have seen the last of a silly set on the path between Waite St and Bennetts Rd, Norman Park (near Norman Park Station). Now to get Council to widen the path, improve the approaches to the bridge, and fix the connection to Crown St…

EaST BUG were also happy to farewell the banana bars on the path between Coorparoo Common and Stanley St East – just near the bridge over Norman Creek. There has been quite a bit of work on the shared paths through Coorparoo Common recently, but it would be good to also have a smoother connection from Cavendish Rd to the bridge, rather than having to navigate the current sharp turn in the path, or taking the narrow footpath.

Things were not quite so rosy at Wakerley though. EaST BUG had previously asked Council to complete the bikeway past the Wakerley bowl skate park to connect it to Ingleston Rd. Technically it is now connected, but you have to do a tight turn onto a narrow path immediately after the banana bars. The line of the main path terminates in a dull grey mash fence with is basically invisible as you ride towards it. It’s hard to believe someone thought that was a good idea for a path termination treatment. (We have alerted the local councillor)

Finally, we noticed that the Wakerley District Sports Park on Manly Rd is now looking close to completion. EaST BUG were happy to see the new path linking Manly Rd to Dundee Cres, Wakerley, although it’s a shame it doesn’t have lighting. Or a direct connection into the park. And that it doesn’t connect to Demby Cres (That short link was missing in the original plan, included in a later one after we pointed it out, but didn’t get built).

We’re disappointed that Council did not include the ramp we requested to allow cyclists to transition from the on-road bikelane on Manly Rd to reach the new path, and also that they didn’t continue the path widening as far as the Wondall Rd pedestrian crossing. There are bike racks, which is good. But they’re not under cover which would have been better…

Jim Soorley Bikeway Closure

JSchalkAcross the river, there was bad news this week regarding the Jim Soorley Bikeway: the closure for bridge maintenance will be going ahead on Monday 11 May for up to 4 weeks, despite pleas to the project team from Brisbane North BUG and Airport BUG to keep it open until a safe detour could be constructed. A phone call from the project team on Friday afternoon confirmed that an appropriate alternative bike route has not been organised, but the closure will go ahead regardless. Local councillor, Councillor Adam Allan, Public and Active Transport Chairman Cr Ryan Murphy and Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner have been contacted but could not be persuaded to intervene.

This is not just a recreational bikeway; workers at the Brisbane Airport and Trade Coast industrial precincts rely on it. Some were new bike commuters attracted by the opening of the Gateway Upgrade North Bikeway which allowed an almost car-free route from Sandgate to the airport. Now with the closure of the Jim Soorley Bikeway, and no safe alternative route, these people will be forced back into their cars, adding to congestion on the roads.


On Sunday, the bikeway was pumping, with dozens of families enjoying cycling, walking, scooting and skating along it. What a shame these people won’t be able to enjoy a ride like this for the next 4 weeks (or more) while the bikeway is closed for bridge repairs, making the Gateway North Bikeway unreachable until Nudgee Road. There’s a good chance many of these bikes will be back in the garage gathering dust from tomorrow.

Your loved one here pictureWe understand that bridge maintenance is important, but the timing of this work together with Council’s insistence that Nudgee Rd in its current state is an acceptable alternative demonstrates just how out of touch they are.

North Brisbane Bikeway

Here’s a happier local cycling story: we’re delighted that TMR are continuing on with the excellent work on the North Brisbane Bikeway, and that this next stage will create a protected bikeway to get riders safely through the notorious S-bend at Wooloowin Station, and through the worst of the current door-zone on Dickson St. For riders heading north to Eagle Junction, Toombul, and Nundah, and wanting to connect to the Gateway North Bikeway, or the Brisbane Airport precinct, that will be very welcome.

DicksonStWhat this article in the Courier Mail doesn’t mention is the hard work of local cycling advocates to ensure that TMR are continuing Stage 4 of the North Brisbane Bikeway through to Price St, Wooloowin, rather than terminating it at Chalk St where Council’s “Stage 5” will divert west towards Lutwych. We will continue to campaign, not only for that connection, but to also continue the North Brisbane Bikeway further north through to Eagle Junction, to connect at Jackson St.

Veloway News

velobridgeWe learned this week that public feedback on the Veloway extension at Lower River Terrace saw around 68% in favour of the proposal. The next stage is a detailed business case, due early next year.

While we’re on record that this is not top of our list for cycling infrastructure projects, it is great to see this level of support for active transport. Cycling projects create more jobs per dollar invested and achieve a much higher return than other land-transport infrastructure, so they make sense both financially and for public health as a recovery stimulus.

We’re hoping we might also hear an announcement in relation to the Veloway crossing at O’Keefe St soon…

Further south, we had some fantastic news from Minister Mark Bailey MP and Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner: $1 million of savings from construction of Stage E of the Veloway (which is going well) will be put towards improving the link along Birdwood Rd, between the new section of the Veloway and the current signalised crossing.

We understand from a recent discussion with the project team at TMR that the aim is to complete this in time for the opening of Stage E. We also know they’re looking at automatic sensors which would detect cyclists approaching and trigger the lights so you wouldn’t even need to press the button and wait.

While we’re looking forward to eventually seeing the Veloway bridge over Birdwood Rd, in the meantime, we worked hard to highlight the urgent need to make the current link safe as cycling numbers take off and Veloway Stage E comes on line. We’ve been impressed with how the current contractors have managed the Stage E works, and are very happy to learn that the Birdwood Rd improvements will fit within the current budget and schedule. We had some good coverage in Quest Community Newspapers’ South-West Satellite this week, covering our role being the squeaky wheel… 🚲🚲🚲

And we can’t leave you without a photo update of Stage E which is now so close you can almost touch it! It is a very impressive set of structures. It was great to see the lights working on Friday evening too. The down-lights in the guard-rails on the Gaza Rd overpass (final image) are particularly cool.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you live in the southern suburbs with access to the Veloway, cycling is definitely going to be the best way to beat congestion into the CBD!