The Ballarat bike path saga continues, with designs for a cycleway down Sturt Street remaining a topic of hot debate.
Regional Roads Victoria (RRV) is progressing with designs for a shared cycling and pedestrian path down the centre of the Sturt Street median garden between Pleasant and Dawson streets, based on recommendations from a public reference group.
Initial suggestions for bike infrastructure were shot down in February last year by traders wanting to protect car parks in oh so familiar fashion.
However, RRV, local bike advocates and council have persisted with consultations and designs to “create a safe and direct east-west cycle path connecting the growing western suburbs of Ballarat with the CBD.”
RRV chief regional roads officer Paul Northey said the organisation "listened to the community's feedback and (is) committed to going back to the drawing board."
Ballarat Bicycle User Group spokesperson Matt Briody said it was essential for "the sake of progress that you bring people along with you", particularly the Sturt Street traders, who initially held opposition for the plan.
While there has been some progress in bike paths along the northern edge of Victoria Park (parallel to Sturt Street), the main Sturt Street strip has remained untouchable to this point.
Briody has conceded that "compromise is clearly necessary."
"There are certainly going to be people who would've preferred to see a Copenhagen lane built-which is really the gold standard of bike infrastructure, but there's two sacred cows in the way of that-the bluestone gutters and the 'precious' car parking," he told The Courier.
And in a hopeful comment that suggests this might just be a baby step for Ballarat, Briody said that "one of the benefits of this project is that it doesn't take away the possibility of building those lanes at some time in the future.
"There's a lot of data out there to show that separated infrastructure is the best way to get more people riding bikes for transport. And there's plenty of studies that show how increasing accessibility can have positive commercial returns - and that should really get businesses excited.
"You have to realise that there's always going to be a negative group in Ballarat, who will stridently defend the status quo, but I think most people realise that a lot of that opposition is pretty silly.”
Bicycle Network will continue to monitor the developing situation in Ballarat and offer recommendations that will best benefit the entire community.
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