News State Victoria News Macedon death prompts calls for bike lane overhaul along ‘frightening’ Black Forest Drive

Macedon death prompts calls for bike lane overhaul along ‘frightening’ Black Forest Drive

A cyclist sign on Black Forest Drive near Woodend in the Macedon Ranges, in central Victoria. PHOTO: Only 2,000 cars now use the former highway, according to Bicycle Network. Photo: ABC/supplied Patrick Old)
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Cycling groups are calling on authorities to fix a stretch of road in central Victoria after a rider was hit by a car and killed over the weekend, just six months after another man was left fighting for his life.

Bicycle Network said Black Forest Drive, which runs through Macedon and Woodend, had a “frightening safety record”, despite being a four-lane road.

On Sunday morning a man was killed after being struck from behind by a car. The 23-year-old driver was from nearby Gisborne.

In June a man in his 40s suffered life-threatening injuries after being hit in similar circumstances along the road.

It was once the Calder highway, the main road connecting Bendigo and Melbourne, but a major bypass and freeway upgrade completed in 2003 has seen it become a local thoroughfare.

According to Bicycle Network, the road was big enough to carry 40,000 vehicles a day, yet only 2000 used it.

The quiet roads, good climbs and attractive scenery has seen the area become a popular riding spot.

Bicycle lanes were installed by VicRoads in 2011 but were removed only months later due to a community backlash.

“It is standard practice world-wide for decommissioned highways to be reduced to two lanes so that they are acceptably safe for road users,” Bicycle Network said in a statement.

But the previous Liberal Government in Victoria thought they’d defy the evidence and win a marginal seat in the process.

“And now as we and the community grieve at our loss, we are once again faced with the same question, could this have been avoided?”

Amanda Calvert from Bike Safe Macedon Ranges said local cyclists had serious safety concerns.

“It upsets everyone in the community, you’re thinking ‘is that someone I know?’, and even if it isn’t it’s still very difficult,” she said.

She said an experienced local rider was the first onto the scene of the June crash and was very shaken by it.

“There’s been a fair amount of alarm over it being Black Forest Drive again, and given that road is quite a wide road — it’s two lanes for large sections of the road — so it should be safe,” she said.

“I think for the cycling community it’s now been demonstrated this is not safe, that we need a dedicated bike lane on that particular road.”

Bike lanes removed due to bushfire fears

Ms Calvert said one of the main arguments made against the bike lanes was there could be increased pressure on the road if Woodend needed to be evacuated during a bushfire.

But she countered a bike lane would not reduce the width of the road, and could easily be used by vehicles in an emergency.

Black Forest Drive is managed by VicRoads, which said it would look into the matter.

Macedon Ranges mayor Jennifer Anderson said she couldn’t “stress enough how important it is that cyclists, pedestrians and motorists look out for each other”.

“This is a tragic incident and on behalf of Council, we extend our condolences to the man’s family.”

Bicycle Network said it was “keen” to hear from the State Government about what plans it had to reduce the risk to riders on the road.

Ms Calvert said cycling groups had worked with both organisations to improve signage in the area, but that it ultimately came down to improving the road itself, which is surrounded by bush.

“The road infrastructure issue is part of it, there definitely needs to be an attitude change. There needs to be a change in the way we treat cyclists on the roads,” she said.

“There does seem to be an emerging problem, in that the two lanes give it the sense of being a freeway to drivers, so despite there being an 80 or 90 kilometre-an-hour speed limit, drivers don’t expect to have to adjust their speed so they’re less vigilant.

“But in this particular case I don’t think any amount of signage is going to fix it.”