The Victorian government has announced a $2.7 billion building fund to start stirring the state's economy, but missing in the mix is money for bike lanes to help people keep riding as coronavirus restrictions ease.
As cities around the world—including Sydney—install pop-up bike lanes to help people ride bikes and reduce the reliance on overcrowded public transport, Victoria is continuing to sit back.
The Andrews Labor Government's Building Works package is designed to create jobs while completing 'shovel ready' projects. It includes $328 million for transport work including resurfacing roads, repairs at railway stations and maintenance to trains and trams.
Missing from the list of transport projects is money for bike lanes – neither for pop-up bike lanes to immediately help people get riding, nor for the dozens of proposed protected cycleways that are waiting to be built in local council areas.
The City of Melbourne has said they want to install temporary bike lanes to help people get around while maintaining physical distancing. It also has a transport plan proposing 40km of protected bike lanes that need state government funding.
People are looking for jobs and people are looking for places to ride. There will never be a better time to get on with making Melbourne a premier bike city.
Also in the Building Works package is $1.18 billion to build and refurbish schools. Education and getting pupils back to school is vital, but so is making sure that they are healthy and active.
The schools building fund should have money to make bike sheds and parking standard at every new school in Victoria – when bike sheds started to disappear from schools in the 1980s active travel rates at schools plummeted from 80% to 20%.
Bicycle Network's Ride2School program is bringing that number back up again, but a big thing that stops many students from riding a bike to school is having nowhere to lock it up.
And if you thought the car drop-off zone was mayhem before coronavirus restrictions, then you'd better strap in for something else when class goes back.
There is one bike-specific project in the fund: 50 kilometres of mountain bike trails in the Ararat Hills. This is a great project that will not only help locals get active but also help Western Victoria get a slice of the big bike tourism pie.
However, it would be great to see other regional bike projects built. With international travel off for the foreseeable future people will be looking for local holidays. A regional rail trail fund would not only create immediate jobs in regional areas but also deliver financial benefits well into the future.
This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.