COVID-19 has made us more conscious of how we travel and cycling, in particular, has taken on a new dimension for commuters, providing social distancing beyond what public transport can offer as well as health, fitness and environmental benefits compared with driving.
Australia has had a long affiliation with the outdoors and cycling. Although some cities planned pedestrian and bike path networks at the very outset, over time cycling became less prevalent. But recently, huge spikes in bicycle sales across Australia and the world attributed to the pandemic have seen a renewed need for bicycle and shared pathway construction.
Cycling strategies in each state have been dusted off and projects fast-tracked as part of economic recovery. For example, earlier this year the City of Melbourne announced plans to roll out 44 kilometres of high quality, low-stress bike routes across the city over the next four years instead of 10.
In May this year, the City of Sydney and Transport for NSW announced 10 kilometres of new pop-up cycleways, followed by another 20 kilometres for Greater Metropolitan Sydney and 15 kilometres of paths in regional NSW, announced in September.
Cycling strategies are a result of collaboration across the AEC (Architecture-Engineering-Construction) sector. Councillors, civil and traffic engineers, environmental teams, town planners, landscape architects and more are involved.
Industry-specific software supports the successful design and building of high-quality networks of cycling lanes and facilities along with ensuring local planning and transport strategies are fully integrated.
According to IDC[i], well over half of Australian companies have adopted digital construction solutions. But, when it comes to bike paths, urban context modelling tools should be used more widely, along with geospatial data and digital asset records, to understand the implications of building new shared or road cycle paths post-COVID.
Civil engineers can use the context models as a basis to simulate traffic movements and forecast the impact of reductions in road traffic if more people cycle. These models can also show which options for adapting roadways to increase capacity for a cycling lane are best.
Now is the time to use data to look at simulations that can improve the public transport experience. Mobility simulations can provide a range of insights like how people move in a space given reduced services, and help to understand what might happen if capacity is reduced or pre-determined routes were implemented to enter and exit transport hubs. The impact of reducing the number of ticket gates or estimating the platform’s capacity to allow for 1.5m social distancing can also be understood.
Computational fluid dynamics can also play an important role in re-designing the layout of a space, or limit access during peak times by simulating and understanding airflow in, for example, a train station, as well as gauging the impacts of potential emergencies in that space.
There are many other benefits of software when it comes to bicycle path design and development:
Imagine what this level of data, predictability and analytics could do for increased tender accuracy, and the efficiencies it might produce when planning the bicycle paths of the future.
[i] Sponsored by Autodesk, the March 2020 IDC InfoBrief is a survey of 835 construction professionals from large construction companies in 12 countries across Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific. It assesses the construction industry’s digital transformation (DX) maturity and challenges.