How pleasant is it to ride around Aireys Inlet?
Aireys Inlet is a great place for locals and visitors to walk and cycle, offering healthy activity for everyone while reducing pollution, traffic and parking congestion, and adding to Aireys’ appeal as a sustainable tourist destination with eco-tourism and adventure activities. Investing in better walking and cycling paths would result in a healthier community and support tourism after Covid 19.
Different types of cyclists, often within the same family, need different paths – from mountain-bike recreation riders, to experienced road riders who are confident riding in fast heavy traffic, to kids riding to school or friends’ places, and new cyclists needing slower traffic or greater separation from traffic to feel confident to ride.
All riders want safe separation from traffic, routes that connect where people want to go for work, school, shops, beach, forest, recreation, fitness and socialising. Aireys Inlet can provide for this diversity of cycling needs for locals and tourists, together with the all-important café experience when the ride is finished.
Wide paths with low pedestrian numbers can sometimes work as shared paths with cyclists (e.g. Currawong Falls) but often this creates conflict and stress for walkers and riders (e.g. Surf Coast Walk). Gravel roads with low-speed traffic like many Aireys streets can work well as shared spaces for walking, cycling and limited traffic.
Cycling is growing in popularity in Australia and as a tourism offering. Bikes are outselling cars five to one in Australia. Bikes are a healthy independent form of transport that can meet many diverse community needs and can help lower our growing greenhouse gas emission
from transport. Across regional Victoria, towns like Forrest, Bright, Castlemaine, Bendigo, Mt Buller and Warburton have increased off-peak visitation by providing rail trails, mountain- bike and road-cycling options.
The existing Aireys cycling network
Aireys and the surrounding region have some cycling infrastructure, including:
• Major mountain-bike destinations at Forrest, You
Yangs, and Anglesea. The shared Currawong Falls track at the Distillery Creek picnic ground and the back roads and management tracks throughout the Otways are all suited to skilled mountain-bike riders.
• Bellarine Rail Trail – popular with locals and visitors and suitable for beginner, young or more experienced riders like other rail trails across Victoria.
• Bike Parks – Surf Coast has six bike parks, BMX and pump tracks for fun.
• Cliff path – Painkalac Creek – Fairhaven Surf Club – allows riding but is too steep for Nippers families with slippery gravel as well.
• Great Ocean Road – suitable only for experienced riders confident in traffic but safer since road shoulders were sealed and speed limits reduced but not appealing to everyone.
The Great Ocean Road rides booklet 2017 features a range of road rides for confident road riders or 34–130+ km rides around Geelong, Bellarine Peninsula and the Great Ocean Road.
The region hosts several major road-cycling events and public rides each year including The Torquay to Lorne, a challenging ride and The Great Ocean Road Tour, a medium ride, as well as more infrequent longer rides like the Great Victorian Bike Ride, which in 2004 had a record 8100 riders stopping overnight at Aireys Inlet.
Plans for new cycling connections
Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DEWLP): Fairhaven to Apollo Bay path(s). DEWLP is assessing the value, benefits and options for a coastal walking and/or cycling trail between Fairhaven and Skenes Creek (60 km).
DEWLP’s Anglesea Futures Plan: This includes mountain-bike trails on existing tracks and roads in Anglesea.
Surf Coast Pathways Strategy Connecting Communities 2012: Pathways have been identified as a major item of infrastructure required by the residents and visitors to the Surf Coast Shire. The many natural attractions within the Shire make it an ideal and desirable location for walking and cycling but the major road crossings and old pathway infrastructure means that the community is requesting more and improved pathways. The plan includes eighty-six sections of paths in Aireys and fifty-eight in Anglesea to be built over ten years from 2012 including:
- Great Ocean Road bike lane regional bike route – on road – sealed shoulder Lorne to Painkalac Creek to western edge of Anglesea– (note this only suits confident road riders accepting of fast traffic and heavy vehicles)
- Surf Coast Walk path extensions to Urquart’s Bluff and Moggs Creek
- Series of town paths, shared paths and signed bike routes, e.g. Airey’s St (Bambra Rd – Sandy Gully), Eagle Rock Pde, Bambra Rd, River Rd, Hartley St, Hopkins St, Alice St, Boundary Rd
- Refuges across Great Ocean Road for pedestrians and cyclists, e.g. at Bottom Shops in Aireys Inlet
Aireys Inlet – Eastern View Structure Plan 2015
The plan follows earlier plans and proposes paths along the Painkalac Creek and Bambra Road to link the coast and national park; and the Great Ocean Road service road opposite Airey’s Pub to link the Top and Bottom Shops. Surf Coast Shire’s budget for 2020–21 includes funding for the design of a path along the Aireys side of Painkalac Creek after AIDA’s urging – hopefully from the Bottom Shops to Old Coach Road.
Surf Coast Shire’s 2019 Climate Emergency Response short term action plan, the Great Ocean Road Tourism GORTT Tourism Plan 2015-25, and GORCC’s draft 2018 Coastal and Marine Management Plan all include plans for more cycling tracks and pathways.
Gaps in Airey’s district bicycle network
There are some key gaps in the districts bicycle network: • Bike Spot mapped community-identified gaps and unsafe spots (March–May 2020) for the Amy Gillett Foundation, Crowdspot and twelve government agencies. Local unsafe locations identified include the Great Ocean Road (Lorne, Big Hill, Aireys Inlet, Anglesea), Fairhaven streets, and the coast path to Fairhaven Surf Club.
• Aireys Inlet District lacks paths like rail trails with family-friendly cycle routes that meet community needs and attract visitors to stay longer off-peak, including safer alternatives to the Great Ocean Road to Lorne and Anglesea to shops, services, beaches and overnight accommodation. Anglesea and Lorne are approx. 20 km from Aireys or a little under an hour’s comfortable riding away. Currently it’s a choice between the traffic on the Great Ocean Road or indirect and often unlabelled gravel roads suitable only for mountain-bikes.
• There are no connections between nearby popular mountain-bike parks. Remediation could provide regional recreation, a tourism asset and encourage riding and staying overnight rather than driving for day trips to each mountain-bike location.
• Aireys Inlet school – access from Aireys Inlet, Eastern View, Moggs, Fairhaven.
• The section of path over the Painkalac Creek connects Fairhaven to the Bottom Shops but doesn’t connect well to the coast path, Top Shops or the school.
There are very few bike parking racks anywhere in Aireys or Fairhaven.
Geelong was the first council in Australia in 1977 to prepare a cycling plan. Many councils now have bike plans as part of integrated transport plans for healthier more livable communities. These cater to a wide variety of transport needs and reduce car-dependence, parking problems and traffic congestion, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Surf Coast Shire has a Road Management Plan for road repair and maintenance but no integrated transport plan or bike plan, just the pathways plan, which has gaps, and has funding for design but not construction.
Covid 19 and climate opportunities
Now is a great time to build the walking and cycling paths and safe routes that could benefit Aireys Inlet District and the wider region as we rebuild after COVID 19, and as we seek healthier communities, more sustainable off-peak eco-tourism, accessibility for more independent kids and families and prioritise low-emissions transport.
‘One of the most important days of my life, was when I learned to ride a bicycle.’ – Michael Palin