By Luke Voogt
More than 2000 Geelong locals opposing bikes paths through a busy Belmont shopping strip have signed a parliamentary petition against the plan.
South Barwon coalition MP Andrew Katos tabled a further 324 signatures in parliament last month after tabling 1796 in March.
“I’ve still got some more to present in the coming weeks,” he said.
TAC and Geelong’s council set the controversial route from central Geelong to Waurn Ponds along High Street in consultation with local bike groups in 2017.
But the petition urged State Government to find an alternate route “saving“ on-street parking and access to shops.
Mr Katos suggested Francis Street and Mt Pleasant Road as alternate routes
“It’s not like you’re sending people a great distance out of their way,” he said.
“I certainly support more people cycling but are we really prepared to destroy one of the last strip-shopping centres left in Geelong?”
City Hall released a survey earlier this year in which 70.7 per cent of 556 respondents supported the route.
But 75.6 per cent described themselves as cyclists.
“You’ve got TAC and council saying they’ve done consultation and there’s no opposition to it,” Mr Katos said.
“If there’s no opposition why have I got more than 2000 signatures opposed to it?”
The project’s planners and “silent” local MPs had “no idea of what it takes to run a small business,” he said.
“I’ve been in small business – it’s tough work.”
TAC’s Hafez Alavi warned Geelong’s council against choosing an alternative route following “media attention” to the project in a letter obtained by the Indy.
“The other routes were deemed to be too indirect and would not be attractive to cyclists,” the letter reads.
“Consequently, the funding is not available for alternative routes.”
Victorian Roads Minister Luke Donnellan refused to say if State Government would intervene on the petitioners’ behalf or whether it supported route.
While TAC and Geelong’s council had set the route, they had not finalised its design, Mr Donnellan said.
Council was consulting the community about how to reduce traffic, maintain access to local shops and make an important council road safer, he said.
“When council arrives at a final design, we’ll have a look at it calmly, co-operatively and rationally – an approach Mr Katos would never understand.”