Road frustration builds

Macedon Ranges Cycling Club president Mark Dess said the club welcomes the safety improvements on Black Forest Drive (supplied).

Zoe Moffatt

Macedon Ranges community members have voiced their frustration about the Black Forest Drive upgrade, saying they do not feel consulted over the decision, which includes new bike lanes.

The upgrade includes changing the lane configuration to one lane in each direction for dedicated bike lanes, a new painted centre median for new right-turn lanes and pedestrian refuges and road surface resealing.

This follows the road’s deadly history between Woodend and Macedon, recording 35 crashes resulting in serious injury and five fatalities since 2001.

Gisborne resident Keshia Mason uses the road about once a week, and said most of the people she has heard speaking about it are against the lanes being reduced.

“I feel like they sort of have doubled back on ideas that were rejected by the community and have not explored other options,” Ms Mason said.

“Maybe an off-road shared path could be a better option for everyone, a more separated path could be a safer option.

“I feel like a lot of people are asking why it’s being brought in when the road isn’t used a lot. Personally I drive along there once a week and have never seen a cyclist.”

Facebook users voiced their frustration over the changes, with one post on the Macedon Ranges Community page getting about 160 comments before commenting was turned off.

“Haven’t we been and done this before and it wasn’t successful. How about fixing and maintaining the roads in general,” was a consensus shared by many in the comments.

Another user drew parallels to the recent decision to compulsory acquire private property for the level crossing at Old Calder Highway.

“Sounds like the community consultation that Diggers received around their crossing removal. Plans are drawn up first, then reasons given that any other option is not suitable,” they said.

Star Weekly understands community consultation opportunities occurred face-to-face and online in 2018, 2021 and 2022.

The upgrade follows a push from the cycling community, after Gisborne resident Lindsay Smyrk died after being hit by a car on Black Forest Drive in October last year.

Following this fatality, community consultation about the draft concepts revealed strong support for the introduction of dedicated bike lanes.

Macedon Ranges Cycling Club president Mark Dess said the club welcomes the safety improvements on Black Forest Drive.

“The improvements are a long overdue response to the terrible accident record of this road, which has seen multiple fatalities and injuries of motorists as well as cyclists since 2001,” Mr Dess said.

“Making Black Forest Drive safer for everyone – cyclists, motorists and pedestrians – will help avoid tragic loss of life and the impact that has on families and the wider community.”

Roads and Road Safety Minister Melissa Horne said there was extensive community consultation about Black Forest Drive.

“We’re delivering improvements to make Black Forest Drive safer for all road users,” Ms Horne said.

“The final scope of the safety improvements has been informed by crash history data, road safety guidelines, community feedback and the surrounding environment.”

Works on the safety improvements are expected to start in early 2024.