Bike path on the back foot

A SEVERE spike in serious cycling accidents in Latrobe Valley last month, has put a new emphasis on completing the promised cycle-link between Morwell and Traralgon.

The path has been on Latrobe City Council and the State Government drawing board since 2009, but has faced ongoing hurdles over the choice of the best and most economic route.

The 2010 election promise by State Member for Morwell Russell Northe is still in its feasibility stages due “native vegetation issues”.

“Council and governments have found it easy to make promises about building bike infrastructure but even though the costs are low compared to building roads, they have still found it difficult to budget for their promises,” Bicycle Network Victoria public affairs officer Garry Brennan said.

Mr Brennan feared delays in the Morwell Shared Pathway was a result of funding cuts to the VicRoads Cycling Program, which was denied by Mr Northe.

“Out in the country you have very few bikes and higher speeds, and the driving population has not adjusted its behaviour to take account for bikes on roads,” Mr Brennan said.

“The towns in Gippsland are well placed to be connected by a bike track network.

“A start has been made and it is now well and truly time to continue to build the missing links.”

Last Monday a 77 year-old man was involved in a serious collision when he was hit from behind by a truck at the intersection of Tanjil East Road and Moe-Glengarry Road.

The incident was the third serious cycling accident in Latrobe Valley for September, in contrast to the eight claims reported by the Transport Accident Commission in the five-year period from 2007 to 2011.

In 2010, Mr Northe tabled a 219-signature petition in parliament supporting the bike-link and in May last year committed $60,000 to a feasibility study.

“That work (which identifies potential routes) has been undertaken in part; the problem that the consultants have encountered is that there are some native vegetation and native title matters that have not been able to be resolved at this point in time,” Mr Northe said.

“They are currently trying to work through the options available to them and unfortunately that is taking more time than anybody would desire.”

Despite Mr Northe’s move to expedite the works with council and Department of Sustainability and Environment, he said community consultation would begin early next year.

The issue reignited last week following Latrobe City Central Ward candidate Peter Ryan and East Ward candidate Dan Jordan advocating the necessity for safer bike paths between towns.

The ongoing election promise was supported by Latrobe Highway Patrol Leading Senior Constable Peter Olorenshaw.

He said he believed a cycle-link would reduce factors contributing to the recent jump in cyclists and motorists collisions.

“If we can segregate the use of the road to various classes of vehicles that would go some way to alleviating the issues with collision we are having with cars, bicycles, pedestrians and other road users,” Ldg Snr Const Olorenshaw said.

Latrobe City Council declined to respond and VicRoads did not respond by time of publication.