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Ballarat: backward or forward for bikes?

Although the Premier Daniel Andrews has preemptively killed off plans for one of Ballarat’s strategic cycling corridors, there is a strong chance it will be resurrected in modified form.

Ballarat is due for major investment in at least two major cycling projects, and plans were out for public consultation at the time of the Premier’s visit.

Typically, bike lane projects arouse suspicion in insular communities and are often opposed initially. Opportunistic politicians can seize such moments.

In a media appearance the Premier high-handedly dismissed the prospect of the bike corridor VicRoads was planning for the key Sturt Street artery.

The Sturt Street corridor as originally designed would have also delivered safety improvements such as the removal of a number of hazardous median crossings.

Some local traders did not favour the safety improvements as it may have cost drivers several extra seconds of travel time, and hence resulted in the collapse of the Ballarat economy.

The Premier listened.

But VicRoads is fighting on. In a letter to the Editor of the local paper, the Ballarat Courier, Mal Kersting, the acting Regional Director, committed to continuing to work on plans for a corridor down Sturt Street.

“VicRoads remains committed to working with the local community to make Ballarat a safer city for everyone to enjoy,” Mr Kersting said.

“It is clear that although we have undertaken extensive community consultation over the past months, we still need to do more.

"As has been recently reported, the Victorian Government has asked VicRoads to identify other options to address safety concerns at the Sturt Street intersections rather than closure, while the proposal to put a shared path down the middle of the central Sturt Street median will not proceed.

"The plans approved by council this week allow VicRoads and the City of Ballarat to proceed with elements of the project that enjoyed wide community support while working further with the community to address the more contentious elements around the CBD.

“In coming months, VicRoads will go back to the drawing board and undertake further consultation, speaking to people about other parts of the project including refining designs for Drummond and Doveton Streets.” Mr Kersting said.

Over the past several years Bicycle Network has provided advice on options for major bike infrastructure upgrades in Ballarat and other regional centres.

Sturt Street is a very wide corridor and there is a terrific opportunity to apply world’s best practice to a bike route along the street.

Working with local riders, the council and VicRoads, Bicycle Network will endeavour to jointly craft a solution Ballarat will be proud of.