17 May 2020

The Jim Soorley Bikeway stays open!

This week started with a win… or at least not a loss. Our story about the impending closure of the Jim Soorley Bikeway didn’t make the TV on Sunday night, but on Monday morning the signs were removed, and the bridge remained open! 

Hopefully we’ll soon see a plan to fix both the old bridges and the crumbling embankment at the same time to minimise disruptions and make long-term improvements to this popular path! Many thanks to Opposition Leader, Councillor Jared Cassidy for helping us highlight the issue, and to Brisbane North BUG and Airport BUG for their hard work!

Council says no to urgent #SpaceForHealth

We tuned in to Council’s meeting again this week, really hoping to hear positive news on their plans to create #SpaceForHealth to help Brisbane recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Opposition leader Councillor Jared Cassidy moved an urgency motion:

That Brisbane City Council urgently develop a mobility plan to ensure Brisbane residents have access to safe pedestrian and cycling facilities as covid-19 restrictions are eased.

JSBusy (2)In speaking to why this motion was urgent, Cr Cassidy highlighted that we’ve seen more and more people taking up cycling and walking during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen them taking their own initiative to change how the city moves. He mentioned the bold initiatives taken in cities around the world, including London and our trans-Tasman sister city of Auckland, but we have not seen similar civic leadership in Brisbane.

Cr Cassidy stressed the need to open up public infrastructure to new uses. He said: we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to reorganise how people move about the city. It’s an opportunity to reset the way this city moves. But to date we have not seen the required type of leadership from the Lord Mayor and this Council.

Cr Cassidy committed that the Labor party councillors in opposition are ready and willing to work on a bipartisan basis to create good and safe access for walking and cycling, and give people real choices for active travel. People are rightly demanding that all levels of government get on with projects that will reorganise the way we move as a city.

A Division was called (which means the votes are recorded): Labor’s five councillors, plus The Greens, and Independent supported the motion, but it was voted down by the majority LNP council administration (18 voting councillors plus the Lord Mayor).


So that’s a NO to an urgent plan to provide #SpaceForHealth in response to COVID-19. It’s business as usual in Brisbane. They seem determined not to follow the advice of health and transport experts and the lead of cities all around the world.

JanetRiceParliamentSadly, news from the Australian Federal Government is no better. As we wrote about in our most recent blog post, a Senate motion calling on the Federal Government to invest in infrastructure for active transport, both as a stimulus measure in response to the health and economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a measure to improve active transport infrastructure beyond the pandemic was voted down – including by seven of ten Queensland senators present for the vote.

But Brisbane residents are not giving up. A petition which closed this week with almost 400 signatures is now on the table, calling for safer road and footpath use.

Brisbane people are still keen to ride

On our way home from filming at the Jim Soorley Bikeway on the weekend, we spotted this family who had Mothers Day sorted, with a rolling picnic. Mum told us she picked up this awesome folding tricycle second-hand recently, and finds it really convenient when shepherding the flock. Meanwhile, Little Miss Five has been easily out-riding her age. We predict those training wheels will be gone soon!

(An observation: TMR really could have done a better job with this crossing at Childs Rd. The uncontrolled slip lane is bad news for getting the family safely across!)

The Courier Mail gets nasty

That family we met on Sunday would have horrified the author of a nasty piece in the Courier Mail on Thursday. From an author who blogs about parenting, the piece was filled with tired cliches and petty criticisms of a family like the one we met on Sunday out for a bike ride together. We reworded her rant:

“I’m not anti-cyclists or anti-bikes. I’m just bitter, jealous, spiteful and totally lacking in perspective.”

And yes, it is a terrible shame the young family which so offended her clearly didn’t have access to decent protected infrastructure. But by the time those kids are school age, they will have undoubtedly gained a greater road sense and respect for others than this author displays as an adult. (Did this woman write about the spike in speeding and serious traffic crashes during the lockdown? We may have missed that.)

There’s always two sides to a story of course. Maybe the stylish young woman this writer sniped about so jealously was checking her phone for directions to a safe route after the intersection when the sliver of green-painted bikeway abruptly ended. Who knows. But even so, please don’t use your mobile phone while standing astride your bike; that’s every bit as illegal as using it while piloting a 2-tonne vehicle down a local street at a speed guaranteed to kill any child, elderly person, stray pet, or hungry koala you might encounter trying to cross the road.

As for the older gentlemen riding five-abreast; it’s good to hear that Brisbane’s second airport runway is actually getting some use while most of the planes are grounded for the foreseeable future.

20200512_135710Seriously though, we’ve read that the third quarter of a lock-down period is typically where things start to get really weird. Maybe this writer is suffering deteriorating mental health, causing her to lash-out like this. It’s a shame her editor didn’t take a more responsible stance and send counselling instead.

Please don’t click on the article; that will provide advertising revenue to reward this type of gutter-piece. We recommend instead taking the advice of a literal gutter-writer who left it in chalk on the Bulimba Creek Bikeway. Eve Mary Bunting, aged 8 and a half, says:

Ride or walk, it’s up to you, but just make sure you be healthy too!

20200512_135513 (2)

#SpaceForHealth in the media

Local traffic started to build up again in Brisbane this week, with children in prep, year 1, and years 11&12 returning to class. In the UK, they are serious about safety and active transport, with plans to temporarily close streets near schools when parents drop off and pick up their children, in order to deter people from driving on the school run – and to encourage more walking, cycling and scooting. Transport planners there are worried that if more people opt to use their cars after the lockdown ends, to get children to and from school, there will be gridlock in urban areas and a rapid rise in pollution levels around schools that will be bad for pupils’ and teachers’ health. We’re left asking: Why is it that we don’t seem to care so much about our children??

In fact, giving more road space to cycling and walking is no longer a ‘nice to have’ option for councils in Britain – it is an instruction from the Department for Transport. The instruction has been sent to all councils in new statutory guidance: Traffic Management Act 2004: network management in response to COVID-19.

UK Transport Minister Grant Shapps makes clear, in his statement launching the new approach, that local authorities most now “make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians.” The aim is “to ensure transport networks support recovery from the COVID-19 emergency and provide a lasting legacy of greener, safer transport.”

Here in Brisbane it seems the aim is to return to congestion as usual as quickly as possible. We’re starting to wonder if it will take a government directive to change course?

We were momentarily excited to read in the Brisbane Times about the global move to create temporary #SpaceForHealth and more permanent #HealthyStreets. But Monday’s article was only a reprint of an article in the Washington Post. Somehow it seemed the conversation about a healthy recovery from the coronavirus shutdown was being completely skipped over in Brisbane. As if rushing back to congested roads, noisy traffic (which everyone hates when it’s rat-running down *their* street), and never-ending cries for more public space to be turned over to parking private vehicles is actually a good thing.

The Sydney Morning Herald discussed the situation in Sydney:

“Transport experts predict the easing of pandemic restrictions will cause a surge in traffic in the coming weeks as people avoid trains, buses and ferries. The pressure on Sydney’s roads will also be hit by tough social distancing rules imposed at train stations and on buses for those who do choose to take public transport.”

In Brisbane, it feels like we are sleep-walking towards a situation where no-one in the inner and middle-suburbs will be able to take a train or bus to the CBD because the restricted passenger limits have already been exceeded. What then? Extreme congestion, some people totally excluded from the workforce, and big delays to industries like construction, trades, and deliveries??

Replacing some road or parking lanes with temporary bike lanes offers a quick and cheap response to the anticipated surge in traffic. But we’ve been wondering: why is this conversation not even happening in Brisbane?

Finally, on the weekend, Lucy Stone in the Brisbane Times asked if Brisbane had missed an opportunity to transform the way its residents get around. UQ lecturer in urban planning Dorina Pojani says there is still an opportunity, and riders Snezana and Michaela agree; they want to keep riding but would feel much safer if they didn’t have to share the road with impatient drivers.

There are some strange comments in that article from Griffith University’s Dr Matthews though; talking about Council not having an incentive to “hand over so much bitumen” as if the streets weren’t already public space, and Council wasn’t under an obligation to keep the city functioning and safe for all residents. He also says “The traffic still has to go somewhere – it doesn’t disappear”, when in fact multiple studies have shown that’s exactly what it does when road space is reduced rather than increased.

As the ABC reports, regular cyclists have never seen anything like it. People in cities across Australia are crowding the bikeways and paths showing they can ride a bike and enjoy doing so. It’s a change in transport some city authorities are embracing. They understand if everyone gets in their cars as restrictions are lifted, the roads won’t move. They see this perfect storm of opportunity to reshape their cities because the economic and transport benefits are huge.

On Tuesday, the Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner told Council that the administration has a plan and they’ll keep delivering—and accelerating—that plan. We’re just not sure what that plan is. Major projects like the green bridges, and Brisbane Metro (announced over 4 years ago) will be delivered over a decade or more. We need action over the next few weeks!

Green Bridges

five-green-bridges-map-feb-2020Speaking of Council’s proposed new green bridges, that was the subject of the presentation to Council’s Public and Active Transport Committee this week. The presentation covered a report on the initial consultation conducted late last year. You can access the consultation report online on Council’s website, or check out our summary, with a particular focus on the Bellbowrie bridge, which was the most contentious of the proposals.

Walter Taylor Ward councillor, Cr James Mackay goes into more detail in his Whiteboard Wednesday presentation this week: he covers the proposals and initial community feedback on the Toowong and St Lucia Green Bridges. He talks about the double jump route between the CBD and UQ, providing an alternative to the winding and hilly back streets through St Lucia.

Veloway Update

First work on the Veloway link at Birdwood Rd got underway this week.


There’s a new off-ramp for riders who choose to head south on the road to then transition to the new Stage E. It’s a little further along then the ramp Council removed a few years ago, and better positioned with respect to the bus stop, but we’re not sure about the sight lines.

The painted bikelane on the western side will be removed to make room for the widened path opposite, but we don’t see that as much of an issue because it is legal to use the bus-lane. A wider path on the eastern side will make things much easier for people like the family spotted on Saturday negotiating the narrow footpath with 2 kids in their trailer.

During the week, we received notice that there would be a temporary detour on Saturday to allow for footpath works opposite Gaza Rd, Tarragindi. The project team created a temporary footpath and cycleway detour by partitioning off one of the road lanes at the Gaza Rd off-ramp to maintain #SpaceForHealth. It can be done!

Around the suburbs

It was interesting to hear motoring advocates rush to say there was no structural damage to the Captain Cook Bridge after a truck collided with it. Were they qualified to say that?

While Council’s Public and Active Transport Committee were talking green bridges on Tuesday, there was reportedly chaos on the southside after someone made a costly mistake and wedged a truck under the Captain Cook Bridge at Lower River Terrace.

It has always been clear that this street doesn’t just carry Local Traffic Only as it is signed, but large numbers of vehicles rat-running via Ellis St to avoid the signals at Vulture St and Stanley St. It seems this truck driver may have been another one. We’ll say it again: Lower River Terrace should be closed under the freeway, with access to the eastern end via Ellis St, and the Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park made car-free (with obvious exemptions for emergency and maintenance vehicle access, and disability permit holders).

GreyTunnelAround the suburbs this week, EaST BUG reported that the tunnel under the Gateway Motorway between Meadowlands Picnic Grounds and Ambara St, Belmont was recently painted. The dull grey paint may be a special coating to make graffiti easier to remove, but it has unfortunately made the tunnel feel much gloomier and more uninviting than the previous pale yellow. (There’s a lot wrong with this tunnel – including the 90 degree turn at the far end. However it’s the only crossing point of the Motorway for around 10km south of the Brisbane River which doesn’t require you to negotiate a major intersection).

Further north, it looks as though there is work happening on Queensport Rd, Murarrie—including the intersection with Murarrie Rd. If, as it appears, this will create a continuous bikelane on the eastern (downhill) side without cars/trucks parked in it, that’s a good thing. But EaST BUG are a bit worried that narrowing the parking bays on the west-side might put more of the bike lane in the door-zone. The pedestrian centre refuge near the service station at the top has been moved slightly further south, and it looks like there are centre islands being installed at the intersections with Ives St and Garrett St, plus the intersection of Murarrie Rd and Rawlinson St, to stop vehicles cutting the corner. Again, that’s a good thing if you ride this way to access the Gateway Bridge.

At the bottom, there appears to be a ramp from Murarrie Rd to access the Bulimba Creek Bikeway (yay!), and some changes to the intersection which will hopefully make it safer for everyone. (We can’t find plans for this on Council’s website, but Cr Lisa Atwood did mention it was coming up.)

EaST BUG also report that more banana bars have gone; this time at both ends of the path linking Bennetts Rd to Burke St, Coorparoo. These bars appeared in March 2016 near the end of the epidemic, but we couldn’t convince Council not to install them at the time despite TMR recommending against them by then. Anyway, now they’re gone. (And ironically, there is finally a barrier in place preventing vehicles driving into the park from Bennetts Rd).

On the other side of the city, West BUG report that the Sumners Road Interchange Project achieved a significant milestone on Friday with the opening of the new bridge. This means the old existing bridge is now closed awaiting demolition and replacement by a new 4-lane bridge that will also include a shared path on the southern side.

The old bridge included a footpath, so with its closure, we wanted to make sure you could still get across to Darra off road for those who, justifiably, feel uncomfortable riding on the road in such a busy and chaotic environment. The good news is yes, a path has been provisioned using some of the road space, with barrier protection, so you can still walk or ride across to Darra. It’s pretty narrow, and there’s a few obstacles to be watchful for, but it is a construction site afterall. It’s pleasing the effort being made to keep access open and as safe as possible for cyclists and walkers.

West BUG have been told by Jess Pugh MP for Mount Ommaney that the cycle tunnel for the Centenary Bikeway to go under the western side of the interchange – negating the current detour to Dandenong Road – is progressing well, around 40% complete. The project is due for completion in 2021.

Finally, as things begin to reopen, issues that were in need of correction will surface once again. The substandard active transport corridor through Howard Smith Wharves will become even more of an issue as we are expected to socially distance in the post Covid world. As Brisbane City Council is unwilling to require the developers to segregate the path for safety, amenity and capacity, a community petition is calling for the existing New Farm riverwalk to be extended past the site to link with the Cityreach Boardwalk. If you support this, sign now, as the petition closes on Monday, 18 May.