Cyclists have for many years, campaigned for a safe cycling route from Melbourne through the Eastern suburbs to Ringwood, and beyond to Lilydale, Belgrave and Yarra Glen. Over the years, sections have been built, including the Box Hill to Ringwood path now nearing completion. However, there is no formal cycling path from the City to Box Hill to connect with the Box Hill to Ringwood path.
But that is about to change, with the State government providing $370,000 for an initial feasibility study into a cycle route from Hawthorn to Box Hill. The Department of Transport has engaged consultants AECOM, and initial concepts are being developed.
The Boroondara Bicycle User Group (BBUG) and Metro East Bicycle User Group (MeBUG) are jointly advocating for the project and are part of the stakeholder engagement process being run by the Department of Transport.
Unlike the Box Hill to Ringwood path, which is largely located within the rail reservation, the segment between Box Hill and Hawthorn will be mainly on road due to the rail reservation having little or no available space over most of the route. While it is early days in the route planning process, the diagram shows some of the possible routes that have been identified to date. An important aspect of the ultimate route selection will be the level crossing removals at Mont Albert and Surrey Hills. It is hoped that for this section, the path construction will be integrated with the level crossing removals, as was the case at Blackburn, Nunawading, and Mitcham.
Once the route selection has been completed, it will be up to the State government to allocate funding for the actual construction work. With the marked upswing in cycling popularity since the COVID-19 outbreak, it makes a lot of sense for government to provide this funding as part of the post COVID-19 economic stimulus. We shall watch with interest.
Michael Hassett is the secretary of Metro East Bicycle User Group (MeBUG)
First published in the September 2020 edition of Eastsider News