The State Government's Queensland Cycle Strategy 2011-2021 vision is one of ‘more cycling, more often on safe, direct and connected routes’, but it appears that if safe and direct routes cost too much, unsafe and indirect routes will be chosen, especially if they pass through "green space".
Obviously bicycle transport is very environmentally friendly, can be convenient, and is great for your physical fitness. No one would disagree that we need more bike paths and fewer cars on the road, to successfully tackle climate change. And it seems that a creek bank is a great place for a bike ride, as it's flat and pleasant.
Unfortunately, a bike path can have a number of impacts on the environment, especially when it is placed close to a waterway. Bike paths are usually concrete, and a lot of surface runoff is generated from this type of surface as compared to a vegetated area, where there is more infiltration of water into the ground and surface flow is slower. Fast runoff hitting a sloping creek bank inevitably makes erosion worse, reducing water quality in our creeks, which flow into the Brisbane River and then Moreton Bay. A healthy riparian zone is key to water quality and biodiversity in the catchment.
Bushland areas and creek banks are often seen as "empty", unused space where there will be little resistance to the construction of a bike path. However, in many cases they are hard-won islands of green, where volunteers have put a lot of effort into planting and looking after native trees. Seeing these bulldozed for bikeway construction is heartbreaking. Habitat protection is another issue. Some sites in our catchment, for example, are home to White-browed Scrubwrens and Buff-banded Rails, two bird species which need a safe undisturbed area to survive and breed. These types of animals are quite uncommon in inner Brisbane. It is not acceptable that their habitat might be automatically chosen for a bikeway just because it is not the private property of a human being.
In recent years there have been a number of proposals for bike paths near creeks which have met with significant opposition. The proposal at Oxley Common was one memorable example, and Friends of Oxley Creek Common are to be congratulated on successfully convincing Council to move the bicycle path elsewhere. In Wembley Park Coorparoo, N4C has been advocating to protect Bridgewater Creek from excessive impact from the Carindale to CBD bikeway, and has successfully negotiated a far less problematic route.
In fact, cyclists may themselves be injured or inconvenienced by poor planning of bike paths. Automatically choosing green space for a bikeway does not necessarily result in the most direct route for cycle commuters. Poor placement of bike paths as they exit green space can cause potential for accidents, as well.
It's not only cycling-related arguments that count here, in any case. Bike paths are a "good" in the sense of a worthwhile facility, but they are not the "greatest good". There are other uses for space that are equally deserving, and riparian vegetation is valuable in its own right. N4C will continue to advocate for sensible planning of bikeways which preserves proper riparian zones beside our creeks.