‘We’ve made a difference! In 2010, after a number of fatal cycling incidents, a group of us got together over coffee and decided something had to be done. We formed a not-for-profit association called Bike Safe and highlighted what was wrong and what we could do. Don’t find fault, find a remedy as the saying goes. Our aim was to improve the behaviour of cyclists, motorists and to improve cycling infrastructure. We are relieved to say that fatalities in the region have gone down from 33% in 2009 to 13% now.’
We hear from the founder Barton van Laar.
‘I have a background in marketing and communications and I joke that this time ‘I’ve used my knowledge for good’ to achieve positive outcomes. We started by identifying the top 10 hazardous roads in the region. One such road was Murradoc Road and a year after highlighting the dangers, there was a cycling fatality there. It was fixed quickly afterwards. Death is too big a price to pay to get action.
‘The Coroner asked me to give evidence and ruled that there were too many incidences like this. The Government got on board and so did the Councils.
We’ve found a positive approach works, we go into discussions with proposed solutions, cyclist led – to get strategic projects shovel ready.
‘Melbourne had the only PBN (Principle Bicycling Network) in Victoria. So, we helped establish one also in our region. You can’t fix every road but you can prioritise and create safer cycling corridors. We identified roads that needed improving and new bike paths to be built, all creating better linkages. One example is the Black Rock bike path, from 13th Beach to Torquay. This area had been a cyclist danger spot for over 20 years. Cyclists had to take a dangerous dog leg, highlighted by a cyclist fatality in 2009. The solution was simple and was adopted by all the relevant authorities.
‘60% of all people will consider riding if they are separated from traffic. We’ve looked at best practise infrastructure from all around the world. Build it and they will come! We teamed up with Deakin and encouraged new cycling facilities. There will be over 5,000 attending Deakin Waterfront and around 700 car parks, so it makes sense to provide safe cycling alternatives.
‘In Geelong we are working on providing safe routes from the East to West and North to South. There is now a route from the Bellarine to the CBD, via the Eastern Gardens. To the North the Vietnam Veterans helped us start a bike path along the Avenue of Honour creating new links to Corio and beyond. To the West the new bridge over the railway lines, next to the Gordon safely links cyclists to the Arts Precinct. Funding was recently announced to build the Gheringhap and Moorabool Streets separated bike paths to the Barwon River trail and the South. And Malop Street is featuring new Copenhagen bike lanes!
‘Path by path, bridge by bridge, road by road, slowly we are making a difference. We are seeing generational change with engineers adopting new standards and designs, making our Region cycling friendly.
‘Personally, my proudest achievement was advocating for a close friend and Committee member who became a paraplegic after a cycling accident. We helped facilitate a community campaign that raised significant funds to help him and his family meet the challenges that lay ahead. His accident really brought home the dangers of cycling. But the benefits of cycling on an environmental, physical and cost savings basis are well proven.
‘Hopefully the changes that are happening, and will happen in the future, will benefit the whole community, including my grandchildren. However, to effect real change requires persistence and people power. I love it when they say it will never happen!
‘Go to our facebook page www.facebook.com/bikesafe.geelong/ to connect with us and please SHARE this story.’
Story: Jacqui Bennett Photo: Barton van Laar, Bike Safe Founder, Inaugural President, Committee Member riding along the Bellarine.