The urgent need for long-term thinking
Ballarat desperately needs a transport plan: not just a roads plan, a parking plan, a bike plan, a pedestrianisation plan or a public transport plan, but an integrated transport plan, a plan that takes into account the impact of movement systems on human contact, business, personal health and community health and the impact of and relationship with methods of the now ubiquitous e-communication.
And here's a prediction: driverless cars won't help.
As an important aid in this process, believe it or not, Victoria has an Integrated Transport Act, and very good it is too. However, it is rarely considered beyond its 'in principle' objectives. Imagine if, for example, Ballarat had a chance at an integrated approach to redevelopment of the main railway station - not just the installation of a car-park.
Every well-planned modern city knows that a reliance on just motor vehicles for most transport needs in its urban environment is a dead duck - and always has been. Even the USA has woken up to this reality.
For me personally this approach means using my bike rather than a car most days for the 3.5 km ride to the Ballarat CBD.
By way of comparison, for decades the typical car trip length in even Australia's low-density cities has been an average 4 kms.
This length of trip is ideal for bike use, such as riding to schools and corner shops (assuming you still have one - we have several in Ballarat East, thank goodness and thanks to their proprietors).
Parking is a factor in my journeys that I don't think about because I don't have to.
Together with an approximately monthly trip to Melbourne by train, using the bike means that so far this year I've spent just $50 in petrol for car and motorbike travel.
The great majority of trips I take just don't require a car. Buses get occasional use but the bike usually fills the bill.
We need the buses, though - especially with accommodation for bikes, so as to improve their operational reach and to add a necessary element of transport integration.
Understandably people are worried about safety on our roads, despite the fact that in my experience the vast majority of Ballarat drivers behave well towards cyclists.
Two factors need to come into play to increase bike use: 1) the more people who ride, the more people who will ride - the multiplier effect; 2) we need to build the right infrastructure, especially separate bike ways - people will then be inclined to ride due to increased safety.
We must change. We have to change - for a number of reasons.
It's not about no car at all, but about a major shift in behaviour that sees options - not the car/motor vehicle as the only means of transport, the one for all trips.
There's nothing new in recognising the need to change our current attitude and habit: from the 1960s - when the car really took over Western cities - to the present day, experts of all types have seen the need for an integrated, more human-oriented approach to transport.
Then there's the physical reality that we can't fit all of the cars into the locations where we'd like them go, with the same reality applying to the provision of parking, with the huge expense that this provision exerts on councils and governments.
In Ballarat, the last few years' focus has been on almost nothing but parking - largely due to public pressure. This is an approach that is mis-guided, limited and will lead ultimately to a dead-end.
Hedley Thomson, Ballarat