Saint Peter: Mt Alexander cyclists find their advocate

17 December, 2021

Thousands of people across Mt Alexander Shire of all ages ride bikes. But at times they struggle to be heard and represented. A new advocacy group, Mt Alexander Cycling, aims to change that. CMRT spoke with veteran cycling policy maker and MAC spokesman Peter Strang about making a difference.

Hi Peter, how long have you lived in Central Victoria?

I feel like a recent arrival, but I’ve been in Maldon for just on five years – how time flies!  

Tell us about your interest in cycling?

I have been riding since I was quite small – initially on a trike.  Later I used a bike for paper rounds, chemist delivery jobs and for exploring.  I only really stopped for a couple of years when I got my first car – an FJ Holden.  May go back to a trike one day!

What can you tell us about Mt Alexander Cycling?

MAC is a new organisation that aims to represent all cycling-related groups in the Mount Alexander Shire – CMRT is a very active member.  MAC works with the Mt Alexander Shire Council, the State Government, and other bodies, to advocate for better cycling facilities and a safer environment for bike riding of all types.  Only groups can join at the moment, but before too long we also want to have individual supporters.

What does MAC aim to do? Why does it matter?

We are encouraging the council to improve cycling and get more people out on bikes, more often. Cycling is a great activity that provides benefits to people of all ages and to the community generally. We will work with council to develop a new Cycling & Walking Strategy that will make cycling more enjoyable and safer for residents, and attractive to tourists.

What can you tell us about cycling up Mt Alexander – particularly up the north side? What’s at the top of Mt Alexander that you enjoy?

Riding up Mt Alexander (or Leanganook, the Jaara name) is tough, especially the north side – it’s steeper than the other way and I really enjoy just having made it to the top.  Mt Alexander has great views, and majestic rocky outcrops. Apparently, it is a special place for indigenous people, and the location of a sacred ceremonial ground.

Tell us about some of the other places around the Shire you enjoy cycling.

There are many great places to ride through the bush, especially the Muckleford Forest between Maldon and Newstead.  The circuit around Mt Tarrengower and the Maldon-Castlemaine trail are also fun. There are some good road rides but unfortunately most of the busier roads do not have a decent shoulder, which makes road riding riskier than it should be.  Maldon Cycling is preparing maps of riding trails, to encourage locals and visitors to explore the area.

Recently you went to the NE to ride the GVRT. Tell us what stood out for you.

The 135km Great Victorian Rail Trail winds through some beautiful country from Tallarook to Mansfield and Alexandra in Victoria’s north east. It traverses bushland and farming country with many river and creek crossings.  It was certainly not flat, although none of the grades are excessive.  The surface was unsealed but was generally well-compacted. Better on a gravel bike than a normal road (racing) bike.  There were also a number of towns along the way to get food, drink etc. and take a break.

What do you think trails need to do in Central Victoria to be competitive and relevant in terms of tourism?

Rail trails should ideally link towns and other points of interest along the way; having rest-stops would be the next best thing.  Attractive scenery, trees for shade and to act as a windbreak, and access to water, are all important.  There should be good maps and signage to indicate distances and the location of features.  Having an arrangement with a local business to transport bikes and tired riders can be useful.

What else do you hope for in terms of cycling in Mt Alexander? 

I hope to see many more people feeling they can safely ride bikes for transport, fun, exercise and to help reduce the impact on the environment in our region.