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Councillors, residents and cyclist clash over Melbourne bike path

Alia Parker's picture
Pedestrians and residents clash over proposed Melbourne bike path in Boroondara. Cycle Traveller

The brakes have been put on a significant new bike link proposal in Melbourne's east amid concerns for its ecological impact on a sensitive tract of parkland.

Boroondara Council voted 6-3 against allowing part of an $18 million bicycle path through the Willsmere Park wetlands area in Kew East, despite approval from the state government, the Melbourne Times Weekly reported Tuesday. However, the council hasn't given up on the path altogether, setting up a working party to find an alternative route capable of linking the Darebin side of the Yarra River with Boroondara.

The Victorian government announced in September that it would spend $18 million on building the Darebin-Yarra bicycle link by 2015. The project would include asphalt paths and four new bicycle and pedestrian bridges, with the bridge across the Yarra and Kew reaching 12.6 metres high.

The Council's move disappointed bicycle user groups in the area, who told the newspaper they had been waiting 12 years for the link, which would improve safety and significantly reduce transit times through the area. The state government had already successfully negotiated all other sections of the trail, including permission to run the path through Alphington Grammar School and the La Trobe Golf Course. The Boroondara section through Willsmere Park was the last remaining hurdle.

Despite cyclists' frustration, there is a strong movement among Boroondara residents opposing the plan in its current form due to its safety and ecological impact on Willsmere Park and Kew Billabong.

“Willsmere Park is one of the most environmentally sensitive sites in Boroondara (but) the focus of this plan has been on the needs of cyclists; the experience of walkers and other park users has been ignored,” resident Tony Michael told the newspaper.

Cr Phillip Healey said a working party would look into the possibility at running the bike path 500 metres down the river. However, he was short tempered with bicycle user groups that were angered with the vote against the original plan.

“How people who say they are environmentalists can come into this chamber wanting to rip up a park and saying it is okay because it’s for cyclists, I don’t know how you can live with yourselves,” he was quoted in the Melbourne Times Weekly as saying. “(The path) can be achieved in so many ways. You don’t have to ruin a park to do it.”

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