The feasibility of the proposed Box Hill to Hawthorn trail along the railway corridor has been confirmed, with progress now dependent on future funding announcements.
And with construction of the new station and level crossings removals at Mont Albert and Surrey Hills—where the central section of the trail will be provided—starting next year, the ideal opportunity to get started is looming.
Its is likely that the eastern section from Box Hill to Mont Albert Stations will get the green signal first as that route faces less obstacles, and the planning has benefited from more investigation and development.
The feasibility study remains an internal Department of Transport document, but a summary identifies constraints at the western end that will take time to untangle.
The 10 km trail is part of a proposed 30 km strategic cycling corridor that runs from Croydon in the east to Hawthorn. A 10 km section from Ringwood to Box Hill completed last year.
The study looked at options for the trail in both rail and road reserves along the route.
“The study identified the rail corridor alignment option is the preferred route for both the western and the eastern sections", the summary says.
"It also aligns with the strategic cycling corridor principles and is well supported by stakeholder groups. However, constraints exist within the rail corridor option particularly in the western section.
"These include potential heritage issues and limited space next to the railway line that could impact the safe and cost-effective delivery of a safe cycling path.” DoT says.
Fortunately, there are some adjacent local roads that with suitable traffic calming and bike infrastructure provision would be suitable connections.
Rail corridors lend themselves to hosting bike routes because they are generally flat and continuous.
It is also helpful that there are usually streets along the corridors that have housing on one side only, that these streets are usually good routes for commuters to ride a bike to the local railway station, and that station precincts and shopping centres are popular destinations for bike riders.
Melbourne’s eastern suburbs have been starved of first-class bike infrastructure, non-the-less riding has always been popular, and has been growing.
There is undoubtedly a large untapped market for riding in Melbourne’s east, one that will burst open when more and better facilities become the norm.
This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.