CONCERNS over proposed “Copenhagen-style” bike lanes along Wellington St at Collingwood and their impact on local gay sex-on-premises venue Wet on Wellington have not abated following a decision by Yarra Council to go ahead with the plan.
The initial proposal was rejected by council with some members citing community concerns expressed during the consultation period, but it was then accepted at the December 17 meeting, where a report revealed the council’s Bicycle Strategy would be delayed by a rejection.
While Cr Sam Gaylard was absent for the first vote and Mayor Jackie Fristacky abstained, they voted in favour of the proposal at the December meeting.
Wet on Wellington General Manager Shane Gardner has led a push by local businesses against the plan, which would see 117 car spaces along the west side of Wellington St between Victoria Parade and Johnston St removed to make way for the bike lanes.
Gardner was concerned the removal of the car spaces would damage the venue’s business, and said while he was disappointed by the limited engagement by other businesses facing negative impacts, he would continue to fight against the plan.
“At the meeting where we actually won the vote, I was the only one that went to that and actually put in a submission. When I talked to everyone else, they all said, ‘We can’t believe you won this. We all thought it was foregone, that it was going to happen,’” he told the Star Observer.
Gardner also expressed concerns over council’s process of the proposal, particularly around the two consecutive votes.
Mayor Fristacky told the Star Observer she had abstained at the first meeting to allow more time for considering the motion.
“I abstained because I didn’t want to vote for or against it. I wanted to have further discussions with people and make some observations about how the parking would operate, and during the three-week gap between meetings I did that,” Fristacky said.
She explained putting a slightly revised motion before the council at the December meeting was a technical way of getting around the fact that the November vote wasn’t able to be delayed.
“At the November meeting we should have just adjourned the matter… It couldn’t come back before council as an agenda item because of the way a local law operates, so a different motion was put forward and crafted as a way of getting it back on to the council agenda,” Fristacky argued.
Although the council has proposed short-term customer and loading parking as a way to mitigate the effects on local business, Gardner argued Wet on Wellington’s needs would not be met.
“Temporary parking is fine for a retail business where someone needs to pull up, purchase their items and then go again,” he said.
“Our customers when they come here, they need to park close but not too close, because they want to be able to survey the situation when they’re coming into the place… 85 per cent of our market Monday to Friday doesn’t identify as being gay or bisexual.”
In response, Fristacky argued many local businesses had similar needs to Wet on Wellington, and future stages of the project would take into account diverse business concerns in the area.
“There’s a range of venues like that right throughout that area of Collingwood, along Smith St or Wellington St. Some people will take an hour, some might take longer, and there’s a range of ways people access the area,” she said.
“There’s a range of measures that can accommodate a reduction in on-street parking.”
Following the December council meeting the project has proceeded to the detailed design phase, and further decisions are expected to be considered by Yarra Council later this year.