Sturt Street changes again on agenda, minister laments ‘too many vacant parks’

With parts of Ballarat’s new cycling infrastructure now being built, eyes are back on the solutions for CBD safety and cycling on Sturt Street.

Construction will begin in coming weeks on a new off-road bike path along the northern edge of Victoria Park, to connect a missing link in the city’s cycling network.

But no plans have been released to fix Sturt Street’s safety problems, with multiple crashes at key unsignalled intersections each month.

The state government was forced to backflip on its plans for a bike path along Sturt Street earlier this year after sustained pressure from traders, with arguments made against closing north-south crossovers and altering the central median strip.

Roads and road safety minister Luke Donnellan said while still working through alternate options for Sturt Street’s in the CBD, for the “retail district to be alive” it would need more cyclists and pedestrians. 

“The problem at the moment is that there’s lots of car parking - I’ll go there today and park in the main street - but that’s disturbing in itself because it means there’s not enough people coming in and using the area,” he said. 

“Let’s be blunt, there are far too many car parks in the CBD vacant, and that is a serious issue.

“The idea that you would have a CBD with car parks everywhere indicates we’re getting not enough passing pedestrian trade.

“I get very concerned that many people involved with this don’t understand that retail trade requires pedestrian traffic. You need people walking, not people in cars, and people on bikes that will hop off and go shopping.”

It follows Wednesday’s announcement that the first element of the state government’s $9.3 million Ballarat Safer Cycling Connections plan was set to be constructed in late July. 

The 500m bike path along the northern edge of Victoria Park, running parallel to Sturt St between Russell and Gillies streets, will take up to four weeks to complete.

The project announced in December 2017 included a suite of measures outside of central Ballarat, including a new bike trail running parallel with Howitt Street and new paths along Creswick Road and Macarthur Street. 

Vic-Roads refused to reveal which elements of the plan would be built next, but Mal Kersting said they would work next on the “straight-forward” sections which had broad community support. 

Clarification: An earlier version of this story was headlined; Minister laments ‘too many parks’ the Minister was referring to “too many vacant carparks” and its affect on commercial real estate and the paucity pedestrian traffic in Ballarat’s CBD