A decision to close the Bendigo central business district on Wednesday morning to cars has divided residents, but one biking organisation says people should be embracing the rare opportunity.
Much of the CBD will be blocked to traffic from 6.30am as the Queen’s Baton Relay passes through the city.
Road closures will be put in place to stop vehicles entering the city at places such as, View and Barnard streets, High and Forest streets, Napier Street and Weeroona Avenue, the McIvor Highway and Kennedy Street and along Mollison Street.
Bike Bendigo president Jac Torres-Gomez said it was a unique chance for people to get a glimpse of what a bike-friendly city felt like.
“Rather than seeing it as something really negative, it’s a really great opportunity to see what the city could be like car-free,” she said.
“I just say embrace the opportunity to use a different mode of transport.”
The biking organisation is calling on people to #BikeTheBaton and cycle into the city centre via one of three “dream rides” – the Spring Gully Trail, the O’Keefe Rail Trail and the northern side of the Bendigo Creek Trail – all of which will allow cyclists to make it into the city centre almost without riding in traffic.
“It’s the perfect time to get back into cycling or to start and to do it in a way that is safer for riders who might not feel comfortable cycling with cars,” Ms Torres-Gomez said.
All central city bus stops will also be shut down from 6am to noon, with the CBD open again to traffic from lunchtime.
Residents took to social media on Sunday night, expressing anger at the road closures, saying it would impact businesses and schools and make it hard for people to access services in town.
Kim Maree, who has a disability permit from a motorcycle crash, said she would need to walk further to get to her CBD appointment and would pay for it later with hip and foot pain.
“I just think it’s ridiculous,” she said.
“We can’t put our lives on hold for something like this.”
She questioned whether a designated parking space for people with disability permits could have been set up in the city centre, or greater notice given to them.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for events in the CBD, but I don’t think it has been planned very well.”
The Queen’s Baton will cover 40,000km of Australia, travelling through every state and territory for 100 days, ahead of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
About 3800 people will carry the baton across Australia, including more than 440 batonbearers in Victoria and 18 in Bendigo.
For more information on the road closures, visit www.bendigo.vic.gov.au/Services/Arts-and-events/Queens-Baton-Relay