News / Transport

Win for cyclists on Victoria Street bike lane

Council agrees to allocate $135,000 in final budget to design a separated lane

Mark Phillips

WORK on a separated bike lane in Victoria Street could begin within 12 months after Merri-bek Council agreed to fund its design in the 2023-24 financial year.

Councillors on Wednesday night unanimously adopted an amendment to the final city budget to include the Victoria Street designs following a furious lobbying campaign by bike users.

The lobbying continued right up to the council meeting which approved the 2023-24 budget when several bike advocates urged councillors to improve the city’s cycling infrastructure.

Victoria Street is the only new separated bike lane to be added to the budget, leaving the cycling community disappointed at what they regard as a downgrading of the council’s commitment to improving cycling infrastructure.

Bike users have been calling for a separated lane on the section of Victoria Street west of the Upfield railway line.

An amount of $135,000 has been allocated to the Victoria Street design works, with that money transferred from the budget for road resurfacing.

And if there are excess funds during the 2023-24 financial year, up to $400,000 may be released to allow construction to get underway.

Later this year, council staff will also produce a report on how the roll-out of better infrastructure for cycling and walking can be accelerated across Merri-bek.

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The funding for Victoria Street follows 87 out of 121 public submissions on the draft budget calling on the council to deliver more on-road, protected bike lanes.

On Wednesday night, Councillor James Conlan successfully moved an amendment to include the Victoria Street design work in the budget.

He said the council was in danger of missing its emissions reduction targets if there was not greater investment into cycling infrastructure, and this needed to be focussed on separated bike lanes, not paths that are shared with pedestrians.

“I’m glad the Victoria Street bike lane design work has been incorporated into the budget … but the design work is only step one,” he said.

“What we do not want is for that design work to fall to the bottom of the shelf and become another council plan that isn’t enacted. We do need to make sure that is actually built as soon as the design work is done.”

Councillor Sue Bolton said cyclists were justified to be angry at a lack of investment in separated bike lanes.

“The number of cyclists in Merri-bek has outgrown the infrastructure,” she said.

“Certainly in the southern part of Merri-bek it’s totally evident that a lot of the popular shared paths are just too small for both pedestrians and cyclists.”

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

Later in the meeting, Councillor Adam Pulford – who attended via video link from Berlin – successfully moved for council staff to prepare a report by October on how active transport infrastructure could be “ramped up” across Merri-bek, so capital works funding could be included in the following year’s budget.

Merri-bek is required to spend $10 per capita on active transport each year.

“Being in these European cities and seeing all of the active transport and bike infrastructure and seeing how many people are out on the roads and riding around to wherever they need to get to it makes me want that even more for our local community,” Cr Pulford said.

Nicholas Zull from the Merri-bek Bicycle Users Group said the Victoria Street design work was the “bare minimum” the council should do to improve cycling infrastructure.

He said Victoria Street was already a Victorian government strategic cycling corridor, making it more likely to attract state funding for its construction.

“We can see this budget is failing the people of Merri-bek in regards to infrastructure priorities,” he said.

“A network of separated bike lanes does not exist in Merri-bek despite the will of residents and compelling research [which] consistently finds it is the silver bullet to improving modal share … Bicycle infrastructure is having to play a massive game of catch up comparative to the road network and footpaths.”

Alexander Weinstock, the vice-president of the CERES Bike Shed, said there was “enormous” latent demand for cycling in Brunswick and the rest of Merri-bek.

“Uniformly, the thing that prevents people from cycling in Merri-bek is the absence of safe cycling infrastructure,” he said, noting that painted bike lanes on roads did not achieve this goal.

The budget also confirms funding of $424,000 for the pop up separated bike lane in Dawson Street between the Upfield railway line and Brunswick Secondary College will be made permanent.

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