The greatest cities in the world are great, in part, because they encourage people to get around easily - and as well as public transport, bikes are key.
That's the view of City of Ballarat deputy mayor Belinda Coates - a bike rider herself - who added squabbles over cycling infrastructure could cost Ballarat its liveable edge as the population continues to grow.
The continuing arguments over the proposed Sturt Street median path, first promised by the state government, then rescinded by the Premier, now back up for discussion, show people care deeply about the heritage of the city, but also, there's an appetite for accessible transportation.
More recently, Regional Roads Victoria's removal of planned bike lanes along Mair Street highlights the need for proper planning.
There's innumerable strategic plans and proposals for infrastructure - currently, council is releasing its integrated transport plan piece-by-piece for public consultation - but much of it is still up in the air.
There's two broad categories of bike riders, who are separate to cyclists, that need to be accounted for in future plans, according the Ballarat Bicycle User Group's Matt Briody.
There's people who ride to work, daily, in all weather, and usually have a set path, and people who just want to go for a bike ride to the shops, or attractions in town.
Inner-city infrastructure needs to account for the every-day and casual riders just as much sports cyclists, and Mr Briody, as an advocate for all bike riders, chooses his words carefully when discussing the issues.
"I avoid using the word cycling, because that's a sport," he said.
"I avoid using the word commuter, because that's just people on the way to and from work and that could be the same route over and over again once it's established.
"But what we're looking at is the person who wants to go to the art gallery, or a museum, or the library, or the park, they're all in different directions and I might want to go to three of them in a day and go to the shops as well - can I do that safely? Can I take my kid and do that safely?
"You should be able to, it shouldn't be a 'too dangerous' or 'too complicated' sort of thing.
"For that big chunk of the population, right now there's no way they'd do it, and a bit needs to be spent to make that available."
The best way to look after all bike riders is proper infrastructure, he said, and the "gold standard" is fully separated bike paths, away from cars and other road traffic.
The trouble with building more of these paths, which are also suitable for walkers, of course, is Ballarat's proud heritage - you can't rip up bluestone gutters that have 100-year-old utility connections.
Mr Briody said we should be thankful planners built such wide streets to begin with.
Regional Roads Victoria has allocated $9.3 million to the Ballarat Safer Cycling Connections project - this has led to a cycling path along Victoria Park parallel to Sturt Street, and intersection upgrades.
North-south crossings at Sturt Street, which have seen dozens of bingles and minor accidents in the past 12 months alone, will also be modified to make life easier for cyclists - as mentioned previously, some intersections will have traffic lights built, and others will have double U-turns.
There's also traffic signals for cyclists on the intersection of Barkly and Steinfeld streets.
In a statement, Regional Roads Victoria's western regional manager Michael Bailey said other projects were being looked at.
"We've already significantly improved safety and accessibility for cyclists across a number of locations thanks to new paths, safer crossings and improved intersections, and there's still more to come," he said.
"These works will help to ensure that Ballarat's active transport network is equipped to cope with rising demand as the city's population continues to grow."
On still-available webpages, concept plans also show new connections from the Ballarat train station, and linkages to Wendouree station.
These were open to public comment two years ago.
Cr Coates said the city's cycling action plan aims to create a network for people with safe connections "within 500 metres of their home".
"Similar to a well connected bus or public transport network, there should be a similar network that's easy to get to and convenient," she said.
"For me, I'm a confident cyclist, I'll ride anyway, but I know that if we want to encourage people of all confidence levels and abilities to cycle from A to B, we need a completed, separated bike network across the city."
She said the full network would lead to health benefits for residents who chose to ride, as well as more economic benefits - it's much easier to park a bike in front of a main street shop, for example, encouraging more inner-city shopping.
The completed project will need extra funding and attention, Mr Briody said.
"It's too easy for the cycling strategy to be a lower order concern for them after road transport, after parking, trees, monuments, whatever it is, and sometimes it seems like we can only get something built if, and only if, everyone else agrees with it," he said.
"That part's not good enough, but that's just the political part of the challenge.
"The other part is getting these things funded - the city has a budget, and it's been steadily increasing on what they've spent on it, on bike paths in general and strategy projects over the last five years, but it's got to be increased significantly more to make a real change (as population grows)."
The Mair Street changes will also need to be factored in.
While Regional Roads Victoria will be installing on-road bike boxes at traffic lights, he called on council to do more.
"I can see that it is a setback for the City of Ballarat because there's a section of infrastructure they weren't going to have to worry about, and now we're asking them to do something else," he said.
"We call on the city to get involved in that process again, because they're obviously the biggest stakeholder, and they've been told one thing and something else has been delivered.
"They may be as disappointed as we are."
Mr Briody said people would always have different opinions on bike riders, but it was important to recognise the roads are shared - those extra improvements would make it safer for everyone.
"For me, it's a sense of freedom," he said.
"I've got a bike I can fit my toddler on, and she absolutely loves it - if I give her a choice of going in the car or on the bike, the bike wins, it's the freedom machine."
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