Friday, December 5, 2014

Innovation in Queensland

On a recently completed project we consulted with a number of municipalities on the factors that prevent them from delivering cost effective improvements to cycle facilities. One of the biggest barriers cited was the reticence of municipal engineers to sign off on non-standard or 'innovative' designs for active transport facilities. I include the inverted commas as the treatments are often quite commonly used internationally or in Australian cities. They just have not been used in that specific municipality.

Major stumbling blocks to getting approval of designs include:
  • not aligning with the engineers interpretation of recommended standards set out in Austroads guidelines
  • lack of clear (or any) guidance in Austroads on the treatment proposed
  • lack of willingness to be the first to try something that may be commonly used elsewhere
There is fundamentally a philosophical conflict that occurs where one side argues that:
  • No cycle facility should be provided unless it is of the highest standard
while the other side argues that:
  • some form of cycle provision is better than none, so long as it is safe
I would like the world to aspire to the former sentiment. However, I am a realist and I recognize that limited budgets often wont stretch far enough to deliver the best facility. So instead, I support providing a safe facility now (even if not the best solution), with aspirations for allowing for a better solution in the future.

Four resources are available to provide ammunition in the fight to get 'innovative' or non-standard designs approved in the face of risk averse approval authorities:

  • Separated Cycleways Guideline (Department of Transport and Main Roads) - I posted on this previously
  • Guidelines for Road Design in Brownfield Sites is a TMR guideline and includes standards for minimum provision for cyclists as part of road upgrades in constrained environments
  • The TMR policy on engineering innovation  sets out how to go about getting approvals for non-standard or innovative treatments
  • The team of technical officers for pedestrian and cycling facilities in TMR's Engineering and Technology Branch can be a strong ally that could lend the required support to allow an engineer to approve an innovation or non-standard solution.

No comments: