Victoria's Tourism Action Plan
In the last decade, cycling in Australia has come along in leaps and bounds. Participation in casual cycling is up, a host of community and competitive cycling events have sprung up across the country and interest in international events like the Tour de France is at an all-time high.
And it would not be a stretch to say that Melbourne and Victoria have been at the heart of that growth in the sport and hobby that is cycling.
Statistics Prove Victoria is Number One
The statistics prove that Victoria is the epicentre of cycling in Australia. The Victorian Governments statistics show that over one million Victorians ride a bike each week. In fact, between 2001 and 2011, cycling as a pursuit for recreation for families and Victorians has grown by two percent each year, which was remarkable for its consistency.
The figures also show that there was a snowball effect: as more Victorians take up cycling, more hear about the benefits, and more take up the hobby.
Statistics also show that for many, cycling is more than just a hobby, it is their primary way to commute. Over the 2001 to 2011 time frame, cycling as a way of commuting to work grew even more strongly, with 5% growth each year.
Melbourne is a particular hotspot, with 23% growth between 2005 and 2011.
Harnessing the Growth
The Victorian Government, alongside cycling groups and the community, have realised that this explosion in interest has enormous potential benefits. There is a decade-long strategy that aims to replicate the success of the past well into the future, with the plan covering 2013 - 2023.
The plan is built around having cycling as a central pillar of the transport system for urban commuters, increasing its popularity as a recreation activity and increasing the levels of tourism participation in the sport.
Big Initial Push
The first big initiatives towards the strategy totalled over $30 million in investment. In a small state with concentrated population hubs like Victoria, that goes a long way. The early projects included increasing the connectivity between existing cycling paths and routes, as well as extending trails and creating new ones.
Bike cages for commuters to securely store their bikes, as well as education events to protect the cycling community have also been planks in the strategy.
The plan also makes a point of placing a special focus on the neglected areas of the cycling community, especially those in regional areas. Areas like Geelong, the Dandenong Ranges and Ballarat have been identified as areas of interest for the plan.
The overall aim is to make it easier for people who ride to do so more often, while also making it more attractive for those who have let their cycling habit lapse to re-engage with the sport.
The pool of funds for Victoria's regional development is stated at over $1 billion over the next eight years, and the money for cycling-related projects is a part of those funds. The fact that cycling is part of a coordinated regional development plan well and truly shows that it is now considered a mainstream sport alongside the football codes in the state.
There are several not-for-profit and community organisations currently working on plans to create a Tracks and Trails strategy that will map, maintain and promote rides that have special historical or tourism significance. Some early examples include the Murray to the Mountain Rail Trail, while the Ballarat Skipton Rail Trail and Mt Buller Tracks.
Once the tracks are identified and signed off, Parks Victoria and VicRoads help to maintain and sign the areas, while a regional growth fund allocates a significant amount to the upkeep of the trails.
So what investments can Victorian cyclists look forward to in the future? Some early projects earmarked for special funding include key paths and high traffic trials in the metropolitan Melbourne region. These include the Federation Trail, the Gardiner's Creek Path and the ever-popular Bay Trail, which remains one of the top trails for cycle tourism.
Bike lanes on Chapel Street which ferry hundreds of commuters to the central business district each weekday are also earmarked for extension and improvement, while the local government in many regions are also to be recipients of regular infusions of funds under the Community Works initiative.
The Jim Stynes Bridge is a $13.6 million investment that will be a green pedestrian and cycling link between the Docklands precinct and the CBD and Northbank precinct.
It is truly an exciting time to be a cyclist in Victoria, and if you want to update your gear, your road bike or your plans for the weekend, just drop into Ivanhoe Cycles at any time and have a chat with our friendly and passionate staff.