Friends of the rail trail show the way

In February, Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards escaped the city to experience the riding the trails and paths of Bendigo with the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Here's a recap of Craig's visit, in his own words.

It could be seen as strange that there’s a group called the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail when there isn’t such a rail trail. But it’s typical of the optimism and determination of this incredible group of people.

The O’Keefe Rail Trail is currently 49kms from Bendigo to Heathcote. Of course, it shouldn’t stop there. The Friends originally had their sights set on the further 70kms to Kilmore. They’re now pushing for it to go to Wandong and for a link to the Great Victorian Rail Trail.

What this would do for bike riding in Victoria is extraordinary. It would mean that with a couple of upgrades to the Melbourne trail network, you could ride from Melbourne to Bendigo through some beautiful countryside off road the whole way.

Teamwork consultants should study The Friends. They come from diverse backgrounds and have very different skills. But like most high performing teams, they share a clear vision and common values. It’s their dedication to continuous improvement and getting the job done that’s such an inspiration.

Through their ingenuity and determination, they’ve already done so much to make the O’Keefe Trail memorable. Riding it feels a bit like a living museum. The Friends have augmented the bush with replicate train stop signs and platforms.

Incredibly, they arranged for a nine-tonne disused rail freight car to be towed up from Gippsland. To honour history, it was important to The Friends to find one that used to operate in the Bendigo area. They built some rail track for it to sit on. Next job is painting the car in its original red.

They’ve also built replicate mile signs for the route. The only authentic one they could find was the broken 99-mile sign. It lies in a respectful mock grave at the Rifle Butts replica platform. It’s no surprise to learn that they’ve already started work on the signs for the next part of the trail from Heathcote to Kilmore and have them stored in Heathcote ready to install when the trail is built!

They’re also making sure that the O’Keefe Trail has all the comforts riders need. Lots of tables and chairs, a tool station (with another one on the way) and underpasses where possible. Next up is water stops which will be very welcome in the summer heat.

What’s truly inspirational is how The Friends have hustled for funding and materials to make their dream come true. A local politician said that what they like most about The Friends is they, ‘put their hands up, not just out’.

It's time the rest of us got behind them

Bicycle Network is backing their campaign for the trail to be extended. Your support would also be much appreciated. So please, share this story with your local member of parliament and call for funding for the next stage of the project. 

You can also support the work of The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail by volunteering, donating or becoming a member. 

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