Buckley Street Crossing Removal puts local business at risk

BY TESSA BAJAN
The Moonee Valley council and its residents claim popular Essendon hangout Rose Street will be destroyed by proposed level crossing removal plan, threatening traders and local business along the strip.

 

The state government plans to relocate busy Buckley street to beneath the railway line, transforming Rose street into a one way only road with no right turning.
Resultantly shoppers will have less parking options along the strip, and if coming off Buckley Street, will need to continue on until they can perform a u-turn.  An inconvenience local traders claim will lose them their customer base.

 

 

 

Local resident and business owner of popular “Benny & Me” café Ellen McFarlane is concerned about her customer base and feels that the design lacks safety. “A car trench crossing will provide no benefits to the local community. What is now a thriving area will become a danger zone most will try to avoid.”

Essendon resident and local business owner Ellen McFarlane feels very strongly about the council’s plans

The community claims that the proposal also lacks disability, cycling and pedestrian access and is a danger to pedestrians and children from nearby schools.

 

Dr John Stone, Lecturer in Transport Planning in Urban Planning Program at Melbourne University confirmed Mcfarlane’s concerns in a report that states “grade separations that involve putting railway above or below rail line can actually degrade other aspects of the physical, social and economic environment.. this can have negative impacts on immediately adjacent economic activity, that are very difficult, if not impossible, to rectify.”

The Essendon community has proposed an alternate “road over rail” option they claim is better for the community instead of the government’s plan that has been labelled a “cheap, quick fix”.

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A comparison of the two level crossing removal ideas

 

The community took to the streets last Sunday in a public demonstration along Buckley street. The protest included appearances by opposition MP David Hodgett and Moonee Valley Mayor Andrea Surace, in which they re-affirmed their strong alliance with the community. State labour MP Danny Pearson was noticeably absent.

Rail design engineer Andrew Binns however believes the lobbyists have not put enough thought into the technical aspects of their proposed alternative. “For the road over rail plan to be successful, the gradient of the rail way line that is currently on a slight hill will need to be completely altered for a slow decline underground; an extremely costly development that would require acquisition of over ten homes.”

“This slow decline would require a trench, which are in most cases, an eyesore.”

 

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Springvale station “eyesore” trench Binn’s refers to. photo: RMIT university

 

Despite community backlash, Pearson confirmed plans are still going ahead, proclaiming “this is a done deal” to the disgust of the hall at a council meeting in Essendon.

The contract to to remove the Buckley Street Level Crossing was awarded May 7 to be completed by 2019, however the community plans to continue the fight.

 

Local protestors take on Helmet Law

A lobby group has made it their mission to change current helmet laws in a controversial protest to make helmets optional.

The helmet free ride organised by freestyle cyclists Australia had over 100 people riding 6 kilometres in a route through Carlton North last Saturday, with no helmet in sight.

Freestyle Cyclists president Alan Todd believes that Australian helmet law is inferior to other countries with no fine for helmet-less riding; “Internationally bike helmet laws have been almost universally rejected.  It is seen that these laws prevent the uptake of cycling while offering no significant safety benefit”.

 

In a speech made at the protest Todd claimed “Riding a bike is a safe activity when carried out at sensible speeds in decent conditions. The practice of fining people for this healthy and benign activity makes no sense”.

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President Alan Todd delivering speech before helmet free ride.

 

 

A view shared amongst many of the helmet free protestors in attendance including Carlton North local Edward Dixon is inconvenience posed by the inability to wear a hat as “Wearing a helmet means that I cannot protect my face from harmful UV rays”. He supports Todd believing that safety is not an issue – “In quiet roads with no speed limits the risk is significantly lower”.

 

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The route totalled 6 km, finishing up at Abbotsford convent.

 

There are two other countries with mandatory helmet laws; New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates, with many other countries such as Italy successfully blocking the law. Bikes can account for 5% to 50% of trips in many European cities and towns whereas according the 2015 national cycling participation survey Australia is still stuck on the 1% it has been at for twenty five years.

 

The ride has caused much controversy among the general public, among them long time cyclist Patrick Danaher whom wears his helmet religiously. A cycling accident involving a collision with a car left his helmet in pieces, and both arms with breaks.  “I would most likely be dead without a helmet. Luckily I came out of it [the accident] with a few broken bones but could have easily been much worse off … This protest is completely ridiculous and dangerous”.

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Buckle up! Danaher wears a helmet every time he rides.

 

 

Australia’s cycling death and injury toll is in fact no lower than other countries without helmet laws. Although when legislation was first introduced there was a 23 per cent reduction in head injuries throughout Victoria, in its latest annual report, the OECD found Australia and Canada were the only two countries out of 27 members to record an increase in cycling deaths between 2000 and 2011.

Despite their efforts, it’s not looking like the current law is going to change anytime soon. When pressed on helmet laws, transport minister Luke Donnellan insisted “there will be no discussion of helmets in the current review of Victoria’s cycling strategy”.

 

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