News / Transport

Cyclists’ infrastructure pleas ‘ignored’ by council

Despite dozens of submissions, there has been no change to the council’s budget plans

A row of bikes parked outside the Brunswick Baths.

Mark Phillips

IMPROVEMENTS to Brunswick’s cycling infrastructure are unlikely to be included in this year’s Merri-bek Council budget despite frantic lobbying, unless there is a last minute change of heart by the council.

The largest number of submissions to a council Budget for at least five years have been made to call for funding for separated bike paths to be reinstated in the capital works program.

But a report to go to the council this Wednesday will continue to exclude the upgrades, including a bike path in Victoria Street.

The Victoria Street bike path, which since 2019 has been listed for design and construction to begin next year, is one of at least eight cycling infrastructure projects to have been taken off the capital works program in the council’s five-year budget from 2023 to 2027.

The Merri-bek Bicycle Users Group says this would mean that it would be at least 2030 before any expansion of the city’s dedicated bike lane network could be approved and built.

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Prior to this year’s budget, a dedicated bike path on both sides of Victoria Street in Brunswick from Pearson Street to the Upfield line had been in the plans since 2019.

Design of the bike path was meant to begin next financial year, and the complete project had previously been budgeted to cost $1.1 million.

Following the release for public consultation of the draft budget in May, Merri-bek BUG rallied its members to make submissions for the council to reconsider the cycling network infrastructure.

This has resulted in 87 of the total of 121 submissions on the budget calling on the council to deliver more on-road, protected bike lanes.

But Merri-bek BUG convenor Faith Hunter said the final budget for councillor approval had ignored these submissions and there were no changes to the lack of allocation for building protected bike lanes.

“Merri-bek BUG have been profoundly disappointed by the draft budget and the very significant shift away from building the safe riding network that residents have asked for over and over and over again,” she said.

“They asked people to make submissions to the budget and they have ignored them.”

Merri-bek BUG says improving the bike infrastructure to have more separated paths would make riding safer and encourage more people to adopt cycling as their primary means of transport.

‘Betrayal’: bike users group lashes council over abandoned projects

Bike users’ last hope is that a notice of motion by Councillor James Conlan to allocate a small amount of money to scope out the Victoria Street path is adopted by a majority of his colleagues.

Cr Conlan said he would be seeking a reallocation of $135,000 from the council’s roads budget towards design of the Victoria Street bike lanes in 2023-24, with construction funding to be considered for 2024-25.

The council must also commit to building new, protected on-road bike lanes in each budget, Cr Conlan said.

“Despite council’s lofty climate and cycling participation targets, this budget totally fails people who ride a bike, especially young families wanting to take their kids to school, shops and local parks safely by bike,” he said.

“Without these funding commitments, our climate and transport targets are just platitudes.

“Merri-bek Council cannot claim to be a ‘bike-friendly’ city if it has no real plans to build new bike lanes.”

Cr Sue Bolton said she would support the motion.

“I think cyclists are justified in their anger about the council budget,” she said.

Ms Hunter said while Cr Conlan’s motion was welcome, what was really needed was a pipeline of projects over a number of years throughout Merri-bek.

Councillors will also consider a separate notice of motion by Cr Adam Pulford, who is currently overseas, for a report by September that details how Merri-bek could

accelerate the roll out of active transport infrastructure around the city.

He also wants to increase $10 per head minimum spend on active transport infrastructure each year in line with inflation.

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