Bendigo pedals into the future with state-of-the-art infrastructure
The City of Greater Bendigo is leading by example after construction was recently completed on a state-of-the-art, on-road protected cycleway. Infrastructure like this supports cycling growth but is still rare in Australia, especially in regional areas.
The Ellis Street bike lane now connects Bendigo’s La Trobe University campus and South East College to the Back Creek Trail and city centre.
What makes the separated bike lane so special is that it will encourage first-time riders, especially women and children, to jump on a bike and create healthy habits.
“The University to City Centre route aims to provide an environment where people who are interested in cycling but concerned about safety can feel comfortable riding a bike,” says Bendigo’s Healthy Lifestyles Officer, Robert Kretschmer.
“Through extensive community engagement, we identified that less than 5% of local women are comfortable riding with traffic and less than 25% are comfortable riding in a bike lane. Yet more than 70% would be comfortable riding on a protected cycleway,” he concluded.
The City’s design offers “the safest riding environment for cyclists” according to Melbourne’s Bike Lane Design Guidelines.
Some impressive features of the new cycleway include:
- Bollard protection from vehicle traffic.
- Car door buffer beside parking lanes.
- Raised and separated pedestrian path.
- Separate cycle and pedestrian crossings at roundabouts.
- An automatic bicycle monitoring system that records bike numbers, speeds, direction and cycle type.
Installing a permanent bike counter on the cycleway was extremely important to understand who uses the infrastructure, at what times and to identify whether implementing similar infrastructure in other areas will be beneficial.
Project costs and timeline
“The city has been able to implement high comfort and safe cycling infrastructure in a relatively cost-effective manner: around $250/m for linear sections of the cycleway plus the roundabout upgrades and raised crossings,” Robert explains.
The total cost was $445,000 which was jointly funded by the City of Greater Bendigo, Transport Accident Commission and Regional Roads Victoria.
Design work began in 2018/19 and the project was constructed in just over three months in 2019/20.
You can view the entire two-way bike path plan here.
Initial data shows double the riders
Prior to construction of the separated cycleway, a short-term bike counter was installed on Ellis street and recorded an average of 29 bicycles per day. After completion of the project, data from the new MetroCount permanent counter showed this figure more than doubled to 64 despite the university and school being closed due to COVID-19.
These figures are similar to initial data from the Back Creek trail which is now Bendigo’s most popular cycleway. Once the university and school reopen these figures are expected to increase dramatically.
Observations also suggest a broader demographic of users are taking advantage of the new cycleway. Bike Bendigo is promoting the corridor and planning to work with the school to encourage new users.
Data from the permanent bike counter is sent to the City monthly, along with data from four other permanent counters in the area. Recent figures across all trails have shown an obvious increase in riders compared to normal levels.
Cycling growth due to COVID-19
Despite school and business closures, the City of Greater Bendigo recorded a big jump in cycling during COVID-19 restrictions. The permanent bike counter on Bendigo Creek Trail recorded 333 riders in April 2020 compared to only 153 in April last year.
The City’s most popular trail jumped from 256 cyclists and walkers in April 2019 to a whopping 519 in April this year.
This jump in volumes is not unique to Bendigo. Cities all over the country are experiencing increases in cycling of up to 300% compared to the same time last year.
This is due to people opting to commute by bike instead of public transport and having to find new ways of exercising while fitness classes and gyms are closed.
Although residents are still adjusting to the new cycleway on Ellis street, initial feedback from the public has been positive. Below is a letter received by the City that perfectly sums up the benefits of the new cycleway and how it is being received in the community:
“I would like to congratulate the Bendigo Council on the installation of the brilliant two-way bike lane in Ellis Street!
I rode up it today for the first time and felt so safe and liberated. I couldn’t get the grin off my face!
And how wonderful for BSE to have a safe way for their students to ride to school.
My main source of transport is a cargo bike (with my four and one year old) and while I find Bendigo drivers to be very respectful, being able to ride in a separated lane on the road was amazing.
I hope you’re able to build many more of these.” – Tania Rusbridge, Bendigo resident.
Below are some more resident comments found on the Bike Spot 2020 community feedback map:
“Fantastic to see a separated bike lane in Bendigo. I am now confident to let my kids ride independently (we have had issues on road and on footpath). Hoping for more like this around Bendigo, and hoping that it is extended.” – Clare
“Love this new separated bike lane. Means you can get all the way from uni to town without mixing with traffic. More like this!”
“Absolutely love riding along the new protected cycleway. The start/end of my commute has gone from high stress at peak times to a dream ride.”
For over 25 years, MetroCount has been supporting the creation of sustainable, liveable, and smart communities by providing the most accurate and comprehensive traffic data worldwide.
Our vehicle counters/classifiers, designed and built in Western Australia, monitor road, bike, e-scooter and pedestrian traffic in 120 countries.
Today we work closely with road authorities and traffic managers to achieve safer, more efficient road and cycle networks.
Innovative Design for cycle track on the roadway. Initially it was a bit of WTF going on here ! From the motorists point of view, the design seemed a bit out of left field, with the cars parked in the middle of the road!
Now that its finished it appears to work well . Full marks to the design team for coming up with such a creative and safe bicycle lane.
FOOTNOTE . In a previous life i did have to peddle up this hill, on my way to college at the old BIT. Luckily the traffic then was a mere fraction of what iot is today .
Thanks for your comment, Hans. Yes, it would take a little getting used to. But the designers seem to have thought of everything (even space for car doors to open and not hit a passing cyclist). We hope to see more infrastructure like this to encourage active transport in the near future!