Teacher calls for better bike paths as roads are too dangerous for young cyclists

A BALLARAT teacher is calling for better bike paths around Ballarat, saying Sturt Street traffic was dangerous for young cyclists. 

Loreto College vice-principal Pat O’Shea said a generation of bike riding was being lost as it was too dangerous to ride on the roads. 

Mr O’Shea said about two students at Loreto College rode their bikes to school regularly.  

He said in 1999 the school would have had 40 students travelling to school on bikes. 

“We have special days during the year where we encourage students to ride,” Mr O’Shea said. “On those few days we might have 80-90 students ride.

“But in the lead-up we always give advice as how to ride safely and routes that aren’t too busy.”

Mr O’Shea said he did not often encourage students to ride to school because he could not guarantee their safety. 

“But we can’t encourage it much, because it’s too dangerous and busy, especially around school times,” he said.

Mr O’Shea said he had a daughter in year 8 who he rarely let ride to school because of the traffic. 

Loreto College is near the Sturt and Gillies streets intersection, a point of concern in the community with congestion at school times. 

Other schools close by include Ballarat High School, St Patrick’s College and Ballarat Clarendon College. 

“It’s too dangerous for many students to ride, so they get driven, which increases congestion,” he said. 

“If more people rode their bikes, the traffic congestion would in turn drop off.”

On days where the school encourages students to ride to school, Mr O’Shea rides along Sturt Street to help ensure students’ safety. 

Loreto College year 8 student Bella Quinlan said she rode to school about once a month, when she co-ordinated a day with her friends.

Mother Sarah Quinlan said on those days she waited five minutes after Bella had left and then drove to work, looking for her daughter to check if she was safe. 

Bella said she got off her bike and walked it across Learmonth Road and travelled down the service road and footpaths along Sturt Street because the road was too busy. 

“If it was safer and easier I would ride to school more often,” she said. 

Mr O’Shea has compiled a report for the Ballarat council, with proposals for bike paths away from roads to make cycling safe. 

To Mr O’Shea’s knowledge, Ballarat only has two dedicated bike paths that are off the road.

“In Wodonga you can ride in to town from their equivalent suburbs of Lucas and not hit a main road,” he said.

The two Ballarat paths are one near the ring road and one going out towards the university. 

Mr O’Shea cycles himself, and he said the Arch of Victory roundabout was one of the worst spots.

“You put a kid on a bike and tell them to ride through there. You wouldn’t.”

One of Mr O’Shea’s proposals includes going along the old railway line from Dyson Drive to Victoria Park, with a tunnel constructed under Learmonth and Gillies streets. 

He said sharing Cuthberts Road and merging on to Sturt Street was not safe, so this proposal avoided that.

His other proposal suggests a bike path along Remembrance Drive, redirecting around the back of the Prince of Wales Park and splitting to go down through both the Botanical Gardens and Gregory Street.