Here we will publish comment on some of the recent goings on in our neighbourhood – things like local council matters, State government initiatives and other things that have provoked debate within the community. The pieces we publish here will reflect the views of the writer. We publish them here because we want to contribute to the public debate by giving readers access to the discussion around the issues involved. The opinions expressed remain those of the writer; it should not be taken that Eastsider News and ICNG necessarily supports the views expressed.
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Boroondara’s Bicycle Strategy
The City of Boroondara adopted a new Bicycle Strategy at its Services Delegated Committee meeting on 11 July 2022. Go here to read the agenda paper for the meeting.
The strategy has drawn strong views from those who support and those oppose various elements of the strategy. Published below are articles that discusses the differing views. Please note that Eastsider News brings you these articles as a means of ensuring a fully informed debate. We seek to adopt a non-partisan stance and remind you that the views expressed in the articles published here remain those of the writer. It should not be taken that Eastsider News or ICNG necessarily supports any of the views expressed.
Kooyong Climate Change Alliance, Lighter Footprints, Boroondara Bicycle Users Group and ACF Boroondara have issued a joint statement in support of Boroondara’s Bicycle Strategy. Please go to the Boroondara Bicycle Users Group website here to read their statement.
Published below are articles that both support and raise concerns over specific aspects of the strategy. If you wish to comment on any of these articles, please email your comments to email@example.com.
Boroondara’s Bike Bingle
Boroondara finally has a Bicycle Strategy, voted unanimously at Council’s Services Special Committee meeting of Monday 18th July. As Council Officers reported it “sets out the framework to improve bicycle infrastructure and increase mode share in the City of Boroondara”.
This is a great thing, and was well overdue, the last one being in 2008. So why the “Bingle” in the headline?
Because it nearly did not get up, and the northern part of it was smashed due to an unfortunate combination of interests, passions and prejudices. Two paths in the north, the Jacka Trail and the Glass Creek Trail, pretty much disappeared due a lot of community opposition to shared paths in parks. As Council Officers reported “Community led campaigns were driven by a number of local residents encouraging the broader community to object to these proposals and contact Councillors to voice their disapproval. It is understood that these campaigns … were facilitated through a range of methods including doorknocking, petitions, letter drops and posting of flyers in public areas.”
Parks are, even in Boroondara, a valued and scarce resource for which there is competition – in this case mainly between walkers and cyclists. You may think that the interests of walkers and cyclists would be similar and you may be right when cyclists are slow, but not if the cyclists are speeding on “cycleways” for commuting or sport. There was also a view that transport (for commuting including to school and for shopping and so on) should be kept out of parks and bikes mainly kept on roads.
Finally, there was also a push-back against a presumed Council plan for fast bike connections involving concrete or bitumen paths in parks. There was reason for this, given the construction of part of a path of this type in Hislop Park ahead of the strategy. However, Council officers made it clear that the paths in the parks would be gravel only and it seemed that the main reason that Council initially favoured concrete or bitumen was increased maintenance and reduced safety for cyclists on gravel paths.
The unfortunate combination was that the three northern ward Councillors, Crs. Watson, Parke and Sinfield, were aligned in their individual views with those opposed to cycle connectivity when it involves more bikes in parks. With large numbers objecting to the “Jacka Trail” and the “Glass Creek Trail”, these Councillors were able to be seen to respond to the voices of their constituents. The Council Officers, seemingly well aware of the possibility that the whole strategy would be delayed or even voided if the “northern issue” were not resolved, revised the strategy to substantially exclude the two northern “trails”. The Council passed the Strategy as revised, therefore locking in little progress for connectivity and safety for local bike riders in the three northern wards.
Now comes the point where Council particularly erred. A fall-back motion asked Councillors to approve further investigation of the northern options and a report to Council in 2023. This was defeated, with the reasons being put forward including that the implementation would be reviewed every two years anyway, these issues could be addressed in the relevant Council Advisory Committee, and the apparent views of the northern Councillors, generally supported it seems, that Ward Councillors have the main say over implementation decisions that affect their wards. These reasons are on their face insufficient and in the case of the alleged primacy of Ward Councillors, plainly wrong based on their oath of office.
This fracas and error may have been avoided if the Bicycle Strategy had been based on a prior review of the Council’s very old Integrated Transport Strategy, intended to provide improved travel and access within, to and from Boroondara. Certainly, in the context of Council’s Climate Emergency Declaration and Climate Action Plan and the fact that transport greenhouse gas emissions are about 20% of total, it is high time for that review.
Citizens who are concerned about safety and connectivity for active transport and who want less reliance on polluting cars may want to lobby Councillors to make sure that a Bicycle Strategy implementation review planned for 2024 fully reconsiders the northern part of our city.
Hays Paddock 2011
Council pulled up by resident opposition to a proposed cycle network
Hays Paddock 2022
The proposal in the City of Boroondara’s 2022 Draft Bicycle Strategy to construct a new ‘Glass Creek Trail and Jacka Trail to facilitate cycling through parkland in North Balwyn, Balwyn and East Kew is understood to be under revision. This follows several petitions to the Council in opposition to the proposal and complaints to councillors by hundreds of residents opposed to the opening up of these parks to cycling.
The threat to parkland
A primary concern is that opening up these areas to cycling would cause the permanent loss of quiet parkland in which people can walk and relax in relative peace and with minimal threat of injury. This has been a permanent attribute of these parks for generations. And it should not be lost in this way.
Changing technologies are also heightening concern. Increasing numbers of e-scooters and e-bikes, capable of being ridden at high speed, pose a serious threat to pedestrian safety and peace of mind. Greater cyclist numbers would also give strength to a campaign to outlaw off-lead dog areas, which is provided for in many of these parks. Significantly, it would also limit improvements in vegetation, including trees and shrubs, in many areas in these parks.
Acknowledgement of community concern
At the Boroondara Council meeting on April 26, there was acknowledgement by some councillors of the strength of local community opposition to Council’s plans. Council’s failure to meaningfully consult with community members prior to the development of the bicycle strategy was also acknowledged. However, there has still been no comprehensive public consultation on the proposals, and none promised. Instead, Council officers have since sought meetings with limited numbers of people.
In the course of these meetings Council officers indicated that some modifications to the original plans were being considered. It is not clear what these modifications might be in the end, nor whether they would materially affect the numbers of cyclists who would be attracted into each of the parks. On the face of it, however, it appears unlikely.
Council officers indicated that the proposed cycleway route through Hays Paddock would be three metres in width, which is much wider than originally constructed and evidently intended to cater for significant cycle traffic. Most concerning, no modelling has been undertaken by Council to indicate what this increase might be in Hays Paddock, or in any of the other parks affected.
Connections with Principal Bicycle Network would boost cyclist numbers
The surface of the cycleway is intended to be comprised of gravel and consolidated with a cement mix. It would appear that the route is proposed to link with major routes on the Principal Bicycle Network to the north and east of Hays Paddock. It is anticipated that these routes are also to be upgraded and expanded via funding from the North East Link Project. This would inevitably attract more cyclists through Hays Paddock.
Decline in quality of paths in parks
The Council has permitted the existing walking paths in Myrtle and Macleay Parks, as well as in Hays Paddock, to deteriorate over the years, but it appears that the Council has intended to consolidate them to a width which would cater for high frequency cycling traffic. It has been indicated that the King Street linear park gravel paths are to remain as they are, but perhaps better maintained and reconstructed. This would also provide for higher numbers of cyclists through an area quite unsuited for the activity.
Whilst it appears that the Council has backed off building a cycleway through Greythorn Park in North Balwyn for now, and through Hislop Park, they still propose to put a bicycle thoroughfare right through Gordon Barnard Reserve.
Why a signalised crossing on Balwyn Road?
A Council- proposed signalised crossing on Balwyn Road between Gordon Barnard Reserve and Hislop Park in North Balwyn, which has been agreed by Council with the Victorian Government, would stimulate cycle traffic between these two parks and then through Macleay Park and Myrtle Park.
Council had been quietly lobbying VicRoads for years for the crossing for the purpose of facilitating cycling through the parks. It appears, therefore, that any decision to not build a bicycle path through Hislop Park would only be temporary, if Council holds to its current plans.
Stradbroke Park vulnerable
Stradbroke Park in Kew East is especially vulnerable to the proposed cycle network. This is because the park is at a notional junction at the intersection of Belmore Road and Burke Road where cyclists from the Anniversary trail via the King Street Chain would join others from the east via Macleay and Myrtle Parks. As discussed above, they would then access Hays Paddock and major bicycle routes and destinations further to the east and north of the Eastern Freeway.
The environment of Stradbroke Park has been adversely affected in the last decade or so years, principally by greater organised sporting activity. The construction of a cycleway through the Bicentenary Urban Forest would be similarly deleterious, and an imposition on the carefully nurtured natural environment there.
What about the commuter cyclist?
It has been claimed by Council representatives that relatively few “commuter” cyclists would use the proposed bicycle paths in our parks but would continue to ride on arterial roads in the area. However, available data shows that very few cyclists are actually using these roads now. The more likely effect of the development of these bicycle corridors would be to stimulate greater ridership, whether or not they be commuters, but most of which would find its way into our parks.
People do care about the future of parkland
It is evident that the Council has not paid any regard to the value of parkland in the development of its proposed bicycle strategy. Perhaps the Council thought that no-one cared. How wrong they were, if that was the case, as demonstrated by the many complaints the Council continues to receive.
Cycling is an important transport mode. But it should not be in our parks. And the Council needs to remedy its failings, so far, by abandoning its “easy fix” to cater for cycling by effectively converting our parks into transport corridors, with no recognition of the real value of these assets in the day-to-day lives of residents.
Public pushback against Boroondara Council’s parklands bike path plan.
Boroondara’s proposal to build over six kilometres of cycleway, primarily through open space in North Balwyn, Balwyn and East Kew, has been greeted with indignation and anxiety by hundreds of local residents who use these parks daily for active recreation.
Hundreds of residents have written to the Council and councillors to register their concern about the proposal. They have also signed petitions to the Council.
The open space under direct threat from the proposal include the King Street linear park, Hays Paddock, Stradbroke Park, Myrtle and Macleay Parks, Hislop Park, Gordon Barnard Reserve, Jacka Street Reserve and Greythorn Park
The indignation arises from the fact of Council’s abject failure to discuss the proposal with the people most affected: the local residents and ratepayers who have for many years enjoyed these parks as a sanctuary from the hubhub of daily city living, a venue for social connection, and as their main avenue for exercise in a safe setting.
Residents use the gravel walking paths for strolling, jogging, pram pushing and dog-walking and feel genuinely and realistically that opening up these paths to cyclists would be a threat to their peace and safety.
If the project were to materialise, this fear would be amplified in coming years by increased usage of high speed electric bikes and e-scooters. Together with the increased popularity of mountain bike riding in urban areas, this would make things progressively worse for residents who are seeking their quiet walk through local parkland. The future of dog walking, currently off-leash and safe in several of these parks, would be called into question.
The proposal would be likely to necessitate the removal of vegetation in these parks, including canopy trees. In excising significantly more open space for the cycleway itself, the area available for tree plantings in coming years would also be likely to be curtailed along the six kilometre or so corridor for the cycle way.
None of these issues have been discussed with residents prior to the cycleway proposal being made public by Boroondara Council. Nor is there any Council documentation available to show that the very real and substantial concerns being raised by residents were even recognised, much less researched, by councillors and the Council administration.
It is well over time for the Council to think again. Cycling is an important element in the transport mix, but Boroondara Council should not be sacrificing even more valuable public open space for this purpose to the detriment of its much superior current use.
David Crawford, Balwyn
Soil preparation for the planting of Stradbroke Park Urban Forest 1988
Stradbroke Park Urban Forest.
Its history and the bicycleway threat.
The Urban Forest today
I have been a Kew East resident for almost 40 years. I remain passionate about our local parklands providing a safe and accessible environment for all park users. I say NO to Boroondara’s proposed cycleway through our parklands, including Stradbroke Park, Harrison Reserve and Hays Paddock. Boroondara Council must commit to mitigating potential conflicting demands and ensure that our parks preserve the natural environments and other aspects of the amenity of our parks and reserves.
As part of Australia’s Bicentennial Celebrations in 1988, the then City of Kew in association with the Rotary Club of East Kew embarked upon the development of an urban forest in Stradbroke Park. The open grasslands were replaced with semi-bushland, typical of what was understood to have been in existence prior to the urbanization of the area. The bushland was classed as open forest with dominant tall trees and a sparse understorey. The creation of the urban forest involved many local volunteers planting, mulching and staking about 3,500 trees and shrubs in both open grassland and group plantings.
Fast forward to 2022 and Stradbroke Park’s Urban Forest is now well established as a popular open space in Kew East. It also connects via an open space linear link along the Glass Creek tributary to Hays Paddock which has links to remnant ecosystems in adjacent suburbs. The urban forest attracts diverse groups of people where the park users meet, develop, and maintain strong neighbourhood ties. The area is now popular and safe for walking by people of all ages and abilities, some taking babies and children for a stroll in the pram or pusher, others walking their dogs, and the elderly exercising whilst pushing their mobile walkers.
The Urban Forest’s tranquil setting and peaceful character is highly valued by the many park users. This natural environment is safe, and walking its gravel paths gives us a deeper meaning to our daily lives in the city.
Friends of Glass Creek
Friends of Glass Creek help to manage this biodiversity site. These locals meet regularly to help look after the urban forest. They control weeds and escaped garden pest plants, and seek to re-establish indigenous vegetation and native habitat. The indigenous plants can create havens for insects, lizards, butterflies and birds, thus enhancing local biodiversity.
Glass Creek is a waterway flowing under the eastern section of Stradbroke Park in underground drains. It is a minor tributary of the Yarra River. The parklands frequently flood after storm events – which provides benefits for the majestic old river red gums and ghost gums. These trees have hollows, which provide refuges for birds, possums and reptiles. The nesting sites are often raucously defended by brightly coloured parrots.
The urban forest attracts different native and introduced birds such as the black and white magpie-larks (peewees) and flocks of colourful and noisy rainbow lorikeets search for roosting sites. Grey-headed flying-foxes can be seen at dusk. Nocturnal birds such as the tawny frogmouth are observed.
Stradbroke Park’s urban forest is facing significant threats: climate change and urban growth, and now Boroondara Council’s proposed cycleway.
The proposed cycleway
Boroondara Council’s proposed networked cycleway through parks in Kew East, Balwyn and North Balwyn would pose a significant threat to Stradbroke Park and its qualities by substantially increasing cycling activity through the park.
It has been most recently indicated that the Council is considering the incorporation of Stradbroke Park into the bicycle network by widening the path on the western side of the Urban Forest and the sporting fields. If this were to go ahead it would provide a connection to networked cycleways in the King Street Chain and other parks, including Macleay Park and Myrtle Park through to Hays Paddock, and thereby significantly increase the volume of cycle traffic.
The result would be a busy cycling corridor in Stradbroke Park with cyclists travelling at speed, singly or in groups. It would raise the level of risk to park users. The viability of the urban forest and wildlife would be put at risk. The proposal is meeting with strong community opposition.
Proposed cycleway would endanger children
At a recent meeting the Boroondara council approved a plan to install a major cycleway through parks in North Balwyn. The proposed cycleway would extend from the Koonung Creek Trail to Hayes Paddock in Kew. It would
cut through many North Balwyn parks including Jacka Street Park, Gordon Barnard reserve, Macleay Park, Myrtle Park and in Kew through Stradbroke Park and Hayes Paddock. The path would be three metres wide, double in width to existing paths.
As shown in the photograph this proposed cycleway would run right up against the playground in Jacka Street Park. To protect children from the cycleway would necessitate either fencing off the playground or removing it altogether. This cycleway would also be adjacent to tennis courts and other recreation areas in North Balwyn. Construction of this path would involve major destruction of green parkland areas and would act as a conduit for a huge traffic of cyclists and scooters through previously peaceful green retreats.
There has been an upswell of residents’ objections to this proposal. Residents are planning to form an alliance of park users across North Balwyn and Kew to vigorously oppose this inappropriate proposal.
Professor Franklin Rosenfeldt has been resident in Dunstan St North Balwyn for over 30 years and has brought up a family that has used and enjoyed local playgrounds and recreation areas. Over the years he has witnessed progressive encroachment on green areas by parking lots and roadways. He firmly believes that a major cycleway construction project recently approved by the Boroondara Council will further reduce the amenity of these precious green areas.