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COVID-19 is an opportunity. Seize it!

Melbourne could be the first city to seize the coronavirus crisis as a once in a generation opportunity to re-craft streets for active travel.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp has been working the media, making the point that the crisis has given the community the chance to look at our urban environment afresh, de-choked of motor traffic, with the birds audible, and streets dominated by people biking and walking.

Yes, it’s the kind of place everybody would want to be in, every day of every year.

The questions must be asked: Can it be done? How? OK, when do we start?

"As the saying goes, don't waste a crisis,” the Lord Mayor said.

"We want to welcome people back into our city, and we want to see those numbers again, but perhaps it doesn't have to be the same way that it was.”

The City of Melbourne has a very strong grip on its vision for the future, and has been travelling steadily towards a future of fewer cars and more bikes and walking, for 30 years.

But steady is not fast enough any longer, with growth and density demanding a step change in how we move people around in this new environment.

Firstly, the City has a newly minted transport strategy to steer it over the next 10 years.

Secondly, it has declared a climate emergency, and decided to accelerate the rollout of 44 lane-kilometres of new and improved bike infra.

Thirdly, the current shutdown has given it the available downtime, and potential external funding sources, to build and fuel the rocket.

These three elements are now ripe for merging into a single, streamlined plan.

A map of potential bike routes leading into the Melbourne CBD.

We trust the mavens in basement at the Town Hall are running their pencil sharpeners white-hot as they figure out the details of how to plan, design, consult and construct those 44 kilometres at a fast bike cruising speed.

Starting Monday.

But, (don’t wait) there’s more.

Why stop at the city border?

The City, and its five neighbouring councils, have for years been loosely coordinating their bike infrastructure planning.

And they have recently updated that plan.

Now, although it probably has not yet been signed off by all the parties, it forms a vital, unified framework on which to construct a powerful submission to the Commonwealth for a slice of stimulus funding.

Commuting to the CBD has been the front runner for years in the race to get more people on bikes, so any investment in upgrading the networks within 10km of the central city will repay in spades.

And speaking of which, the plans can be brought up to shovel readiness while the virus is still on the run.

The Prime Minister has the money; the councils have the plans.

Get to it!

Read more: Feds offer councils stimulus cash

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