A game-changing piece of road infrastructure will soon be available to the public of Bendigo for the first time.
It is an on-road protected bike lane.
Extending almost one kilometre along the southern side of Ellis Street in Flora Hill from Somerville Street to Sharon Street will be a special piece of bitumen.
This is a piece of bitumen separated from motor vehicle traffic and one that is reserved solely for bikes.
The protected cycleway links La Trobe University and Bendigo South East College to a safe, signal crossing at Somerville Street, from where quiet streets lead to the Back Creek and Bendigo Creek Trails.
In future, a further protected cycleway is proposed to connect the Back Creek Trail to the city centre and Bendigo Railway Station.
Research from Bendigo and overseas indicates that only seven per cent of the population is willing to ride on roads mixed with traffic.
Those people are described in studies as either 'strong and fearless' (one per cent) or 'enthused and confident' (six per cent), when it comes to cycling.
The research identifies that 60 per cent of the population is interested in cycling, but concerned about traffic.
This large 'interested but concerned' group would be willing to ride a bike on low traffic, neighbourhood streets, protected cycleways, such as Ellis Street and off-road paths, such as the Bendigo and Back Creek Trails.
Infrastructure like the Ellis Street protected cycleway will open up cycling for everyday transport to the masses.
Kids could ride to school in comfort and safety.
Mums and dads could cycle to work, the shops and social engagements.
Older people could enjoy continued mobility and greater health through bike riding.
Times and directions are changing.
The City of Melbourne's cycling network has more than 135 kilometres of on- and off-road routes.
That council is investing in new and upgraded bike paths, lanes and routes to improve connections and safety for all cyclists.
It will include 44 kilometres of new cycleways in the next four years.
This will help address the climate and biodiversity emergency it recently declared.
Bendigo has a wonderful opportunity to retrofit a connected comfortable network of off-road trails and on-road protected lanes.
These would be separate from traffic to enable anyone from eight to 80 years to get around comfortably by bike.
We have relatively flat terrain and ample road space.
This is ideal to create the required network without sacrificing traffic lanes or car parking.
Getting more people on bikes is a win for everyone.
Our next challenge is to fill the dangerous, uncomfortable or missing links in our existing off-road trail network.
This includes providing some key connections to the city centre and linking existing trails to form a circular 22 kilometre regional city trail.
When health benefits are taken into account, bike infrastructure projects actually save and return money to the community.
As Bendigo grows rapidly, diverse infrastructure is needed.
This enables genuine transport options and maintains maximum space for people will maximise our liveability, health and happiness.
Chris Corr is a member of Bike Bendigo. To find out more about the group, visit www.facebook.com/BikeBendigo