In our August 2013 newsletter, we reported that AIDA had expressed concern to the shire about a new fence between the Foodstore (89 Great Ocean Road) and the Painkalac Creek footbridge. Presumably someone felt zealous enough about the visual intrusion of the fence to lift all the posts out of the ground and lay them neatly alongside the concrete path. Whoever did this was careful not to damage the fence materials. To learn more, AIDA spoke with a wide range of residents and visitors and from the results of an email survey of members, we recognised that this action was applauded by a surprising diversity of this conservative and law-abiding community. Regardless of whether you consider the pulling out of the posts to be vandalism or a protest, the fence stimulated impassioned feelings and numerous complaints to the shire and councillors.
So why are so many upset? The answer is that the community reveres the Painkalac Creek valley.
In AIDA surveys carried out over a 30-year period, consistently strong support (85 per cent) was given to development of conservation zones within the district for wetlands and natural waterways. And of course, the largest of these is the Painkalac Creek and valley. From these survey results and from AIDA and the wider community appealing to VCAT to retain the valley in a natural state, it is obvious that the valley is a feature of our district that people are passionate about. More recently an AIDA Priorities Workshop overwhelmingly nominated preservation of local character and the Painkalac Creek valley as the highest priorities for Aireys Inlet District.
The approach taken by the shire officers in this case is unfortunate, in that it fails to follow council’s unanimous resolution at its 23 March 2012 meeting in response to earlier infrastructure proposals in the Painkalac estuary. The resolution states ‘That Council endorse for all future infrastructure solutions in sensitive coastal areas a design approach in sympathy with the local neighbourhood character and request that engagement with impacted communities occurs prior to the commencement of design work to ensure communities contribute to proposed infrastructure solutions.’ We do not consider the fence to be a sympathetic solution and, despite much discussion about the concrete pathway, we have found no evidence of consultation about any fence prior to its construction.
The shire argues that it was necessary to install a fence on this shared pathway to protect bike riders in accordance with the AustRoads Guide to Road Design. But this guide also allows for a path without a safety fence in this situation – and in any event is not mandatory, providing only guidelines for designers. In Melbourne, neither the Federation nor Yarra Bike Trails have safety fences in similar stream-side situations, despite accommodating much higher volumes of cyclists.
Be that as it may, neither the first fence nor its replacement (see photo below) in fact meets the guidelines for a fence beside a bike trail. The AustRoads Guide recommends that any such fence have a smooth continuous rail and that the rail be offset 150 mm from the posts for pedal clearance. The guide also specifies a side clearance of at least 1 metre between the path edge and any obstacle like a fence and the installation of a rub rail to protect cyclists from any sharp edges. None of these criteria has been met with either fence. Because of these potential dangers to cyclists, Bicycle Victoria itself is opposed to safety fences except where absolutely necessary.
As can be seen in the photos, the second fence, although certainly not welcome, is less obtrusive. The posts are set 200 mm lower, are spaced about a metre further apart and, most importantly, do not have two strands of stark white rope joining the posts. Another change is the elimination of the fence from a 40 m long section of the path where slope is minimal.
Despite the replacement fence being an improvement on the first version, with the exception of the steeply sloping bank abutting the footbridge, under the AustRoads Guide the path would not require safety fencing at all if the slope beside the path was reduced – and the replacement fence continues to constitute a hazard to bike riders.
Update December 2014
In late December 2014 the fence was damaged again – four posts were broken in the pictured line as was one closer to 89 GOR (the second in line). It is not clear whether it was an accident or whether it was vandalism that caused the damage. However, the sticks for three of the plant grow tubes were broken and a tyre track is apparent in the mulch. If it is assumed that the vehicle was travelling in the direction of the lean
of the broken post fragments, then the vehicle was travelling towards Lorne and on the wrong side of the road. No skid marks were visible.