James Pearse is Planning for Active Cities – One Bicycle Path at a Time

Providing infrastructure which supports the safe and efficient movement of pedestrians and cyclists is key to making Australia’s cities more sustainable and liveable.

Since joining WSP in 2015, Senior Transport Engineer James Pearse has been planning and designing active transport infrastructure for key local and state government clients in Western Australia (WA).


Recently, James was commissioned by the WA Department of Transport to lead the development of four long-term cycling strategies aimed at harnessing the potential of two-wheeled transport in regional WA. Here, James shares his experiences on working collaboratively with key stakeholders to deliver better outcomes.




Why is Planning for Active Transport so Important?

In Australia, approximately 50 per cent of all trips are less than 10km in length – a distance that easily by achievable on bicycle! Despite this, Australia remains one of the most car-dependent countries in the world, which has numerous social, economic and environmental consequences. Research has shown that the main barrier preventing more people from cycling for transport is the lack of safe, dedicated bike infrastructure.


What Goes Into a Long-Term Regional Cycling Strategy? How Does it Fit in With Other Planning Frameworks?

 These strategies were commissioned by the WA Department of Transport, aimed at realising the cycling potential of regional WA. The strategies set out a long-term (2050) vision, seeking to achieve better coordination between neighbouring local governments, and between local government and state government. Key objectives of this process included improving connections to activity centres and schools, identifying interregional routes and harnessing the potential of cycle tourism.


In terms of their integration with the wider transport planning framework, these strategies align with the WA Bicycle Network (WABN) policy, and feature the same three-level route hierarchy developed by WSP for the Perth & Peel @3.5 million Bike Network.


Tell us a Bit More About Your Plans to Provide Inter-Town and Inter-Regional Cycling Routes

While WA has traditionally been quite good at developing high quality cycleways parallel to urban roads and passenger railways, we are yet to achieve similar outcomes regional areas. A key opportunity identified during the development of these strategies was the prospect of making better use of the vast network of non-operational rail corridors linking virtually every town in WA’s South West.


The intrinsic characteristics of rail corridors make them especially appealing for cycling infrastructure. Not only do they provide continuous and uninterrupted rights-of-way, they also tend to have gentle gradients (normally less than three per cent) which make for a comfortable cycling experience over long distances. Other benefits associated with co-locating cycling infrastructure within rail corridors include highlighting the natural, cultural and heritage values of a local area and facilitating new cycle-tourism opportunities.


At this year’s AITPM conference I will be delving a presentation entitled “Opportunities and Barriers to Rail Trail Development in WA’s South West”.


How Important Has Stakeholder Engagement Been for These Projects?

As with most transport planning projects, collaboration with key stakeholders was critically important. During the development of these strategies we undertook extensive consultation with government and non-government stakeholders, as well as the local community. The objectives of the consultation process included refining the overarching aims and objectives each strategy, gaining a better understanding of the community’s need and expectations, identifying goals/concerns, and seeking local buy-in and ongoing community support.


Where Do You Think The Future is Headed For Active Transport in WA?

While WA is still some way off from being a cycling-utopia, we are definitely heading in the right direction. The State Government is currently investing record amounts in expanding and upgrading the state’s cycling network, and WSP is playing a big part in this. At a political level, our leaders are beginning to see the benefits of investing in active transport as a means of combatting congestion, supporting community health (both mental and physical) and attracting more tourists and visitors.


James will be presenting at the Australian Institute of Traffic Planning and Management National Conference during the New Lessons in Active Transport Planning session on Friday 2 August 2019.


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