Political skullduggery threatens the future of Geelong’s signature bike project — the Green Spine along Malop Street.
The joint project between the city and the state government is designed to revitalise central Geelong and has only been open since June 2018.
It is much more than just a bike project: it is an extensive urban makeover to create an attractive area for pedestrians and shoppers. Car traffic is restricted and distributed onto other routes.
But this week the council gave it the thumbs down, voting to bring back the bad old days.
Central Geelong had gradually become unattractive to visitors, with the streets choked by cars and parking, threatening the commercial viability of the downtown area.
The Green Spine was to be a vital step toward turning Geelong into a contemporary city with a pleasant environment for visitors and shoppers, and calm streets where pedestrians and people who ride bikes felt safe.
The first stage has already been completed and has successfully reduced motor traffic while upping pedestrian traffic.
Now the council wants to spend more than one million dollars to put the car parking back and alter the traffic patterns so more cars can be stuffed back into the street.
And to add to the cost, they will presumably have to hand back to the state government the money which it has already contributed.
Bizarrely the council vote was taken not long after it voted to declare a climate emergency, a measure which will mean more bike infrastructure for the city, not less.
The move is also contradictory to the city playing host to the Cadel Evan's Road Race and enjoying the mass participation cycling events and tourism that came with it.
While the Mayor, Cr Stephanie Asher, is on the record as supporting bike initiatives, this week she voted to remove the lane.
The City of Greater Geelong has a history of self-destructive instability. Government interventions have been required to put it back on course.
Before the vote, Police Minister and Bellarine MP Lisa Neville warned that any move to unravel the city's Green Spine would force the state government to reassess it's existing funding partnerships.
Ms Neville told the Geelong Advertiser “If the council supports that motion, we will reconsider how we do our future investment in the city centre, and I will be pushing hard for the Geelong Planning Authority to take over more powers from council when it comes to the CBD,” Ms Neville said.
“For 30 years I’ve watched the City of Greater Geelong invest in something, rip it up and redo it again, time after time, and I think the community is over it.
“They’ve done this in Little Malop St, the mall, James St, all of those areas.
“The money’s gone in, and then they’ve then ripped it up, causing grief to traders and wasting ratepayers’ money. Well, I’m not going to let them do it with taxpayers’ money.”
On Twitter @LisaNevilleMP said "We are looking at all options at a state level to stop this".
The latest shenanigans are a worrying sign, but Bicycle Network thinks the Green Spine is here to stay.
We expect the sensible councillors to fight back, and the state government to strongly hold the line. They will have the full support of Bicycle Network, Geelong BUG as well as bike riders around the country.