Dark days ahead for Black Forest Drive

Updated 20 October 2022

A rider has died on Black Forest Drive only days after Regional Roads Victoria announced a re-worked plan offering only marginal safety improvements while retaining the fundamental flaws that make the road unnecessarily risky for people on bikes.

Victoria Police report that a 75-year-old Gisborne man died in a collision on Sunday, 9 October,  with a car driven by a 19-year-old Fern Hill woman.

The rider, Dr Lyndsay Smyrk, was returning home from participating in a ride with fellow members of the Macedon Ranges Cycling Club.

The driver has been charged with dangerous driving causing death.

The latest, inadequate plans to alter the road were placed on exhibition just days before the tragic incident. Details on how to comment are in the story below.

Bicycle Network has previously made its views on this deadly road know to the authorities and will raising the issue again directly with the State Government.

Black Forest Drive through the Woodend and Macedon districts was once the four-lane highway to Bendigo but became redundant as the Calder Freeway was built.

A plan to decommission the four-lane road was launched in 2004 but has yet to get underway, leaving the 12 km stretch of road with a shameful crash record.

Plans to reduce the former highway to a sensible two lanes with shoulders for bike riders has been rejected by successive State Governments because of "community sentiment" in favour of keeping four lanes.

Bicycle Network CEO Alison McCormack said it was time for Regional Roads Victoria to bring the road up to recognised safety standards.

"Communities have a right to be consulted, but they don't have the right to over-ride Victoria's internationally recognised road safety standards," she said.

"Road authorities have a statutory responsibility to manage roads for the safety of all road users, including bike riders."

"Regional Roads Victorian has all the evidence and expert advice it requires to make this road safe, and it needs to act now before with have another tragedy"

New draft designs now out for comment include pedestrian refuges and intersection upgrades, sealing of entrances to priority side roads and entrances, and new lighting in some locations.

There is also an upgrade to reduce risk for bike riders where traffic merges from the exit of the Calder Freeway on to Black Forest Drive at the Alex Evans Bridge, that will certainly be an improvement over the existing layout.

And bicycle lanes will be provided for a short distance as part of intersection upgrades, as per safety requirements.

Black Forest Drive is attractive for riders because of the low traffic volumes on the route since the nearby freeway opened.

However those very same low volumes of traffic have resulted in much worse behaviour from drivers: as traffic is more sparse they don’t have to pay attention, and worse, can use the roads for fun, speeding and hooning.

The crash rate went up and tragedy has resulted.

This phenomenon is the same wherever old highways are orphaned, and the response, where safety is taken seriously, is usually the same: reduce road space, lanes and capacity to match the lower function of the road now that the parallel freeway does the heavy lifting.

Such plans were announced for Black Forest Drive almost 20 years ago, which would have provided wide ridable shoulders for people on bikes.

Regional Roads Victoria has now declared that the current lane configuration will not be changed from two lanes to one lane and that there will be no lanes for riders.

The draft designs can be viewed and feedback provided via the Engage Victoria website.

There is also an upcoming drop-in session in Macedon:

  • Macedon Village Farmers Market: 9am to 1pm, Saturday 29 October, Macedon Primary School, 67 Smith Street, Macedon

RRV says it may present further aspects of the design for consultation before the designs are finalised.

The project is expected to start in early 2023.

The project was announced as part of the annual Victorian State Budget in May 2021.

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