New Laws Leave Cyclists Flat

New road rules are set to redefine Victorian arterials for both cyclists and motorists from the 1st of July.

The laws give riders access to all bus lanes across Victoria unless otherwise signed and include $476 on the spot fines for cyclists caught using their phone.

These changes bring cyclists into line with all other road users and are designed to streamline the prosecution process with police issuing on the spot fines, rather than charging riders through the expensive and time-consuming court process.

Changes to the bus lanes come following a five year trial on two of the Yarra’s busiest arterials, Hoddle Street and Johnston Street. The trials found that allowing cyclists bus lane access increased rider safety and reduced traffic congestion.

Acting Minister for Roads and Road Safety John Eren says that the new legislation will make Victorian roads quicker, and easier for everyone.

“Safety is our top priority – that’s why we’re investing in separated cycling paths and updating the road rules to move riders away from high volume traffic lanes.”

“These are common sense changes aimed at keeping people safe on our roads,” Mr. Eren said.

However, Val Nagle from the Yarra Bicycle Users Group believes that giving cyclists access to bus lane’s is only a start and much more should be done to improve rider safety.

“These changes are window dressing, cars going down these roads are travelling at 60 kms an hour and any cyclist who has any awareness of their own safety doesn’t ride down a road with a bus lane in it,” Mr. Nagle said.

Bus/Bike lane on Hoddle Street. Photo: Joseph Regan

“Personally, the only bus lane I use is the one on Johnson Street and that’s spooky enough as it is, there’s so many bikes and cars moving in an out, particularly between Smith Street and Hoddle Street, that it’s just too tight.”

“No cyclist likes using bus lanes, its dangerous but it’s the lesser of two evils, it’s like the choice between Stalin and Brezhnev.”

The new on the spot fines have also caught the ire of cyclists with many feeling the new law is unnecessary.

“I can understand the argument that there should be one sort of penalty for everyone operating a vehicle on the roads, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen one person out on their bike having a text.”

“This is not a real issue for cyclists, it’s just a law for laws sake,” Mr. Nagle said.

Distracted road users are a danger to themselves and others. Photo: Joseph Regan.

However, Chief Scientist – Human Factors from the Australian Road Research Board Professor Michael Regan believes that any legislation that encourages people not to use their phones while commuting will reduce road trauma.

“In terms of crash risk, the latest studies suggest that if you talk on the mobile phone while driving you increase your risk of having a crash by two times. If you are texting on a phone your risk is roughly multiplied by seven.”

“Using a mobile device while riding takes your eyes off the road, mind off the road and hands off the road, so I would say that in many ways using a mobile phone while riding a bicycle is more dangerous than in a vehicle,” Prof. Regan said.

A full list and further details on the new laws are available on the VicRoads website.

Written by Joseph Regan

Ability not disability – a sporting success

Reclink Australia operates Access for All Abilities Play, a service connecting people living with disabilities to sporting activities across the City of Yarra.

In high demand, Access for All Abilities Play (AAA Play) is the first point of contact for people with disabilities who wish to participate in sport within their local areas.

The Melbourne initiative aims to provide opportunities to get involved in sport and recreation, to those who have never had it before.

AAA Play participants playing tennis at Kevin Bartlett Reserve. Photo: AAA Play
AAA Play participants playing tennis at Kevin Bartlett Reserve. Photo: AAA Play

AAA Play Manager, Libbi Cunnington is ecstatic with the program’s growth since its launch in 2013.

“There is more and more happening all the time, which is fantastic. We are growing all the time,” she said.

Activity options have evolved since the launch of AAA Play, with activities such as soccer, football, tennis, basketball, lawn bowls and now water sports on the agenda.

With more than 400 events happening across Melbourne, there is no shortage of opportunities to get involved.

“We’re now taking it to the next level. There are so many programs now, we even need a calendar so people can plan their summer holidays around being able to participate,” Cunnington said.

The rapid growth in interest in AAA Play is a result of campaigning at expos, through social media, networking and self-advocacy groups.

They have also re-designed their advertising campaign, shifting the focus onto what participants can do, rather than defining them by disability.

Libbi Cunnington (AAA Play Manager) and Taylah Kiely (AAA Project Support Officer) with AAA Play Characters. Photo: Marnie Cohen
Libbi Cunnington (AAA Play Manager) and Taylah Kiely (AAA Project Support Officer) with AAA Play Characters. Photo: Marnie Cohen

AAA Play characters: Captain Access, Lila Adams and Mohawk Jones, were launched in conjunction with a new website and promote the benefits of sport for people living with a disability. The three characters are leading AAA Play into another successful year with their strength and can-do-attitude.

AAA Play characters. Photo: Marnie Cohen
AAA Play characters. Photo: Marnie Cohen

Mohawk Jones continues to play Basketball daily, despite a car accident restricting him to a wheelchair, while Lila Adams doesn’t let a prosthetic arm interfere with her love for swimming.

AAA Play believes these relatable characters will encourage many to take part in sporting activities throughout the new year.

Cunnington, along with Project Support Officer Taylah Kiely, is excited for what AAA Play will bring to the City of Yarra in 2017.

“Everyone involved is in this really positive space, and asking ‘How we can do this? How can we help?’ It’s great. Things are really on the up,” Cunnnington said.

AAA Play is continually searching for new programs and ideas, and to bring more opportunities in the new year to people living with disabilities.

The City of Yarra is involved in many Access for All Abilities Play programs. Check the latest copy of ‘Active Yarra’, or visit the AAA Play website for more information.

Written by Marnie Cohen

Saving Ryan’s Reserve

Richmond locals are fighting hard to keep their home of sport, after the Victorian Government announced plans to sell the land to property developers.

The recreational courts at Ryan’s Reserve have been a much-loved part of the community for over 25 years, however, its future has now come under threat.

Under the Victorian Government’s plan to re-zone the facility, the public space will be sold to developers, to cater for predicted population growth in the Yarra suburbs.

In a bid to keep their beloved courts open, locals have launched the ‘Saving Ryan’s Reserve’ campaign, raising awareness across surrounding suburbs and money for potential redevelopments.

Ryan's Reserve 1

Amongst those pioneering the campaign is Richmond local Maree Nihill, whose daughters have been using the court’s netball and tennis facilities for 13 years.

With the courts thriving on weeknights and weekends, Ms Nihill believes removing the facility would be a mistake.

“Healthy communities need easy access to sporting opportunities… you should place recreational facilities amongst it, not remove them,” she said.

Ms Nihill is not alone in supporting the recreational courts. Over 300 locals have joined the ‘Saving Ryan’s Reserve’ Facebook page, while another 1,400 have signed a petition to keep it open. On top of that, almost $1,000 has been donated to the cause.

The support to save Ryan’s Reserve has not only come from Richmond locals, but from surrounding suburbs too, as the courts also service the wider community.

“At present Ryan’s Reserve caters for local users, people who live in the south-west of Boroondara, Stonnington and further afield,” Nihill said.

“We all need access to recreational opportunities within our neighbourhoods.”

Ryans 3

Despite the overwhelming support for Ryan’s Reserve, the Victorian Government may still decide to go ahead with the redevelopment plans.

The City of Yarra is predicting a 33 per cent growth over the next 20 years, while a population growth of 79 per cent is predicted for the Burnley and Cremone areas.

As developments are on the rise around the inner city suburbs, the state government sees Ryan’s Reserve as another housing opportunity.

A property lawyer, who chose not to be named, said that the development would be advantageous for the area.

“A development at Ryan’s Reserve would create jobs both directly and indirectly and, with new residents, was likely to be a boost for local businesses,” he said.

“The council would ensure that there was sufficient open space compensation if Ryan’s Reserve was sold for development purposes.”

While the Government continues to deliberate the matter, Ms Nihill hopes the community’s hard work can save the local facility.

“A Public Parks and Recreation Zone should not be for sale… Nothing justifies the loss of Ryan’s Reserve,” she said.

There has been no official word on the future of Ryan’s Reserve, as a final decision is yet to be reached.

Sign the petition, join the Facebook group or donate to show support for Ryan’s Reserve.

By Marnie Cohen