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City of Port Phillip moves against “Shrine to Sea” bike lanes

City of Port Phillip moves against “Shrine to Sea” bike lanes
Sean Car

The future of a Victorian Government proposal to connect the new Anzac Station near the Shrine of Remembrance to Port Phillip Bay with separated bike lanes is up in the air amid backlash from City of Port Phillip councillors.

Of the five councillors present at the August 16 council meeting, four voted against reviving controversial separated bike lanes as part of the government’s $13.1 million “Shrine to Sea” proposal, which seeks to create “a boulevard for Melbourne, connecting Domain Gardens to Port Phillip Bay along Albert and Kerferd roads”.

The major aims of the project include enhancing existing greenery and open spaces, improving the safety and experience for pedestrians and cyclists, while also “celebrating local stories” and culture for residents and visitors.

But plans to include separated bike lanes along Albert Rd (much of which is managed by VicRoads) and Kerferd Rd (managed by the City of Port Phillip) and reduce vehicle lanes from two to one in each direction and drop the speed limit from 60km/h to 40km/h, have been the subject of strong community opposition.

The Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA), which is responsible for the project, said it analysed five different designs to improve safety and better support active transport along Kerferd Rd. 

A protected bike lane from Beaconsfield Parade connecting the Moray St cycling corridor to Southbank was considered as part of this process.

But in response to backlash from residents, the government announced in May that it would separate the bike lanes from the Shrine To Sea master plan and consider them at another time.

And any hope of a revival of the bike lanes took a hit on August 16, as a majority of the five of nine councillors present voted in favour of advocating to the government that it works with the council “to develop a comprehensive community engagement approach for any future project that proposes a bike lane and associated works on Kerferd Rd”.

Cr Marcus Pearl, one of the four who voted for the motion, said Shrine to Sea was one of the most “poorly planned” initiatives he had encountered, and questioned how much of the $13.1 million had been spent.

 

“The Shrine to Sea project stands out as one of the most questionable and poorly planned initiatives I’ve encountered from the state government. It’s increasingly being dubbed the ‘Shrine to Nowhere’,” he said.

 

“Introduced in 2018 through a brief press release, there was no comprehensive project plan, no discernible community demand, and no clear indication of how the allocated $13.1m taxpayer funds would be utilised by the Andrews Government.”

“Fast forward five years: three government departments have ‘overseen’ this project, three rounds of consultation have taken place, and significant taxpayer funds have likely been exhausted. What do we have to show for it? Merely 150 trees that, arguably, would have been planted by the council regardless and a community left exasperated and confused.”

“It’s noteworthy that the Greens and ALP councillors advocated for the bike lanes. In a dramatic turn of events, two exited the meeting prematurely, disheartened by the halted progress of the bike lane proposal.”

Mayor Heather Cunsolo, who also voted in favour of the motion, said the council would still make a submission to the government’s draft Shrine to Sea Masterplan community consultation on other matters relating to the project.

“This will include support for biodiversity in the median corridor, improvements to the Kerferd Rd Pier Forecourt including extra shade, seating, bike parking, safer crossings at Kings Way and Moray St and safety improvements at the Albert Rd / Kerferd Rd underpass,” she said.

“We understand there are very strong, opposing views about the bike lane and thank everyone who has contacted us with their feedback and suggestions. We commit to hearing all voices and will call for a full and transparent consultation when the Victorian Government revisits considering a protected bike lane separately from its Shrine to Sea Masterplan.

 

In the meantime, we will ask the government to fund interim upgraded safety measures along Kerferd Rd, such as white line-marking, green treatments at conflict points and more signage, where appropriate. This will benefit all road users, including bike riders.

 

With public consultation on the master plan open until September 10, a Victorian Government spokesperson said it continued to encourage locals to provide feedback on the proposed designs.

“As part of the plan, improvements proposed in the draft masterplan include 350 new trees, more than 9000sqm of woody meadows, road reclaimed as landscape, plus safety and accessibility upgrades for pedestrians and bike riders at Kings Way and Moray St intersections,” the spokesperson said.

The government said project delivery had already commenced on some elements proposed within the plan that gained strong community support. More than 150 trees including jacarandas were planted in mid-2022, with five large mature palm trees planted along Albert Rd in May 2023.

The project is adopting a new name for the boulevard, “Yannawatpanhanna”, meaning “go to water” in the Boon Wurrung language of the Bunurong people, and a series of local stories about the history of the area were shared during 2022 and early 2023.

The government added that the $13 million budget was allocated to fund the planning process and commence delivery of works, and that the majority of funding would be spent on the delivery of works. •

For more information: engage.vic.gov.au/shrinetosea

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