The  Federal Member for Corio Richard Marles made a speech in parliament recently covering off all the benefits of improved safety for bike riders in our fair city.

“In the last two weeks, I have met with Mr Barton van Laar, the President of Bike Safe in Geelong. Barton has spoken to me of a very disturbing fact which exists in Geelong today. Of the 30 bicycle fatalities which have occurred in the state of Victoria since 2009, six have occurred in Geelong—a full 20 per cent of the fatalities within a population which is about five per cent of the state. In the last financial year alone hospital admissions around cycling accidents in Geelong have increased by 30 per cent. The reality from these statistics, stark as they are, is that Geelong is not a bicycle friendly city in the way that we would want it to be. That is a difficult admission for us to make in Geelong but it is an important admission so that we can do something in dealing with this.

Bike Safe are promoting what they describe as the principal bike network. This is, if you like, a plan to develop cycling arteries from around Geelong into Geelong CBD, cycling arteries to the northern suburbs of Geelong, to the south from the city to the Barwon River and beyond and to the east of Geelong past Eastern Park. The basis upon which this principal bike network is being developed is to look at where there are existing paths and existing infrastructure so that these can be augmented rather than starting from scratch, so that a principal bike network can be built with the minimum of cost. This will provide a safe cycling arterial system for the City of Geelong in terms of trying to build a more cycling friendly city.

The point that Bike Safe makes is that making cycling safer—this is hardly rocket science—is the most important thing you can do to encourage more people to get on their bikes and use that as the basis for their commuting to work. From there you see the real benefits which can flow from the principal bike network which Bike Safe is advocating. Whilst this is principally about addressing the concerns of cycling and cycling commuter safety, there are enormous benefits that come from more people deciding to ride to work. There are obviously health benefits associated with it. There are economic benefits in terms of those people riding to work which makes this a cost-effective way of going about their lives.

But we have also in the last few years in Geelong had an enormous debate about revitalising Geelong’s CBD, and one of the critical issues which has been raised in that debate is the question of parking, or indeed the lack of it, within Geelong CBD. This has been cited as one of the key reasons why people are not choosing to come and do their shopping and their business within the CBD in the way that that used to occur. If what we can do is have more and more people using their bikes to come to the CBD, that is the best thing that we can do in terms of solving the parking issue within the CBD. Tourism as well is an important benefit that can be associated with having more people getting on their bikes and riding around Geelong, because with the development of a principal bike network what we will develop in Geelong is a great tourist attraction to make Geelong a cycle-friendly city where there are enormous attractions around the bay, around the Barwon River, around Eastern Park, around the Bellarine Peninsula, around the Barrabool Hills down to the Surf Coast. All of this is great cycling terrain provided that people are able to cycle in that terrain in a safe way, and that is what the principal bike network will seek to do.

I want to take this opportunity to commend Barton Van Laars for the work he is doing and Bike Safe for the work they are doing in promoting the principal bike network as a way in which we can as a city address the very difficult issue of bike safety which is confronting our city today, and in the process not only make ourselves a more bicycle friendly city but a better city in terms of tourism and a more vibrant CBD. 

Good work from Barton and Bike safe.

The source for this speech is here:

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