The Bonnet Hill project shows what can be done when the local community, not just people who ride bikes, recognise a problem and agitate to do something about.
As a result of the campaigning by the Bonnet Hill Community Association, the Kingborough Council through its bicycle advisory committee, Cycling South and Bicycle Network, this popular cycling route has been significantly improved.
It's attracting more riders, particularly those who otherwise would be nervous about tackling the hill.
It’s also safer for all road users — drivers now have an expectation that they will be sharing the road with bikes, and there is now a greater opportunity to pass safely.
However, the State Government has now revealed that the project will not be completed to the standard originally promised – 1.2 to 1.5 metre safety lanes.
The Government has already put in more money to meet cost overruns associated with widening a road built in the horse-and-buggy era. And everyone acknowledges that there have been design challenges.
But news that the width of the final 1285-metres of safety lanes would be reduced to one metre has been met with disappointment.
The first section of safety lane on the sweeping uphill bends between Browns River bridge and Proctors Rd is 1.5 metres wide.
Since then the safety lanes constructed in 2016-17 are between 1.3 metres and 1.5 metres wide.
All the groups who have worked to see this project happen have told the government that the minimum width should be 1.2 metres and that extra funds should be found.
If not, then safety would be compromised for all road users.
In a letter to the Bonnet Hill Community Association, Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding says that due to site restraints, “it may not be possible, in Stages 3 and 4, to achieve the generous additional width provided in some areas of the previous works.”
“However, the provision of a one-metre sealed shoulder along the Channel Highway is an appropriate safety treatment for a road, such as this, with the current volume of traffic.
“Where sight lines are good, such as Acton Straight and Lynden Rd Straight, an increased width of 1.0 metre will be more than adequate to enable motorists to safely pass cyclists uphill.
“In more complex areas, such as the Glen Albyn Creek corners, the contractor undertaking the works will be providing sufficient space to ensure that larger vehicles such as buses can safely pass cyclists who are using the sealed shoulder.
“I believe that through the delivery of Stages 3 and 4, the project will continue to provide an improved road environment for the benefit of all road users.”
The community association believes the Government is missing a massive opportunity, given the growth in rider numbers.
It estimates with a 5% increase in riders year on year, the number of riders will rise to 2300 riders a week from the current 1800.
It will do another bicycle count in November and, with the state election due in March next year, the association, Bicycle Network, and the Kingborough Council will continue to pressure the Government to deliver what it promised.