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Two leading cycling groups say it is a big mistake for Brisbane’s next cross-river bridge not to allow bicycles.
The proposed Neville Bonner Bridge, which would run from the under-construction, $3 billion Queen's Wharf casino and hotel development in George Street across to South Bank, will be a $70 million pedestrian-only bridge.
The bridge will run from the fourth floor of the casino and hotel complex across to a small tower with a lift and a set of stairs at South Bank near the Wheel of Brisbane.
At the same time, Brisbane City Council is proposing changes to Victoria Bridge, which has only narrow cycle paths, as part of its Brisbane Metro bus project.
In December 2017, Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey promised to look at "an elevated cycleway" as a possible solution if the Victoria Bridge became a green bridge and cycle lanes on the bridge were inadequate.
"The government would undertake a feasibility study to determine the best long-term solutions in and around the precinct to deliver improved cycling routes and accessibility to CBD destinations and may include an elevated cycleway," he said.
Fairfax Media has been told by two sources that the Queensland government was now looking at alternatives including a second pedestrian and cycling alternative bridge beside Victoria Bridge; or the widening of Victoria Bridge to add cycle lanes.
Destination Brisbane Consortium in September 2017 acknowledged the changes to Victoria Bridge posed problems for the Neville Bonner Bridge when it announced the bridge would no longer run straight into the casino on the fifth floor, but to the retail floor below.
“The Brisbane City Council’s recent decision to remove cycling lanes from the Victoria Bridge as part of the Brisbane Metro may pose an issue for cycling if CBD bike access is limited to the two furthest points of entry into the CBD from South Bank which is from the Kurilpa and Goodwill Bridges,” the consortium said.
Brisbane City Council proposes having three bus lanes across Victoria Bridge, removing all cars and changing the cycle paths as part of its Brisbane Metro "superbus" project.
Cycling groups Bicycle Queensland and Space for Cycling have for 12 months argued with the Queensland government and Brisbane City Council over the Neville Bonner Bridge.
Both groups say adding cycle paths to the Neville Bonner Bridge would be a “golden opportunity being lost” because the bridge would not link the Bicentennial Bikeway and the bikeway around South Bank.
Bicycle Queensland chief executive Anne Savage said it was clear problems were being pushed into the background.
“We hope to see a rethink of the pedestrian-only bridge in favour of city-to-South Bank links that safely accommodate greater numbers of cyclists and pedestrians,” Ms Savage said.
“We’ve met with key stakeholders on a number of occasions to convey our enthusiasm for an alternative approach that improves access pathways for active transport, without creating commuter chaos at either the city or South Bank landings,” she said.
Space for Cycling chief executive Belinda Ward said the multibillion-dollar scale of the project simply warranted better connections for cyclists.
“For that amount of money - $3 billion - and for that amount of Brisbane land [27.3 hectares] it just doesn’t seem to be providing the kind of value to the city that you would expect,” Ms Ward said.
She questioned why there had been no attempt to use the bridge to connect the Bicentennial Bikeway on the city side of the Brisbane River – running from Toowong to Queensland University of Technology – to the bikeway along South Bank and Kangaroo Point.
“It would have been a really useful connection to have really good connections into the city streets, or on to the Bicentennial Bikeway,” she said.
“It just seems like the perfect opportunity to build a bridge that was part of the Queen's Wharf development, which would have been really good for the city and it doesn’t feel like that to us at the moment.”
No answers were provided by State Development Minister Cameron Dick or Mr Bailey, although Economic Development Queensland said cyclists could not be added to the bridge according to experts.
In a written response to a petition from Space for Cycling to add cyclists to the Neville Bonner Bridge, Mr Bailey said changes to land the bridge at the Bicentennial Bikeway were "constrained by the Riverside Expressway".
However the nearby Goodwill Bridge from the Maritime Museum near the Queensland University of Technology, under the Riverside Expressway.
"A change of this nature would trigger significant contractural costs and risks transferred to the state under the Queens Wharf Brisbane agreements," Mr Bailey wrote on April 20, 2017.