By Marcus Uhe
While the annual Phillip Island Grand Prix will make its long-awaited return this October after two years of Covid-19 cancellations, the same can’t be said for the Cranbourne GP Run.
After 24 years of support, the City of Casey made the unpopular decision to no longer host the event, which drew big crowds to the High Street shopping precinct in Cranbourne before proceeding down the South Gippsland Highway for the big race.
City of Casey chief executive Glenn Patterson said the council attributed a number of factors to their decision, which was not made lightly.
“Council has taken into account the significant costs of running the event, the disruption to local traffic and we are also aware of the frustration experienced by a number of Cranbourne businesses, who face considerable disruption due to the road closure, without seeing an increase in patronage,” Mr Patterson said.
“We will be retaining this event budget and are investigating options for another community event in the Cranbourne area that offers greater enjoyment and more benefits to residents and ratepayers, with details to be announced at a future date.”
The City of Casey said approximately 60 per cent of the $93,000 event budget was required to manage the closure of the South Gippsland Highway for the event.
John Eacott from the Victorian Motorcycle Council (VMC) said the council was “extremely disappointed” with the City of Casey’s decision.
“The VMC had years of working constantly with the City of Casey,” Mr Eacott said.
“We haven’t been involved in any discussions about relocations or scaling down; there’s options there if Casey would like to have had a chat.
“We’ll now have a situation where the same thousands going to the GP will go through Cranbourne and some might stop, but otherwise they’ll just keep going and their first stop will be at Phillip Island, and they’ll be spending their money down there instead.”
He said he hoped that Casey would have a “re-think” before it’s too late, allowing the event to proceed after a two-year absence.
“It’s not just locals and people within Victoria who attend – it’s a nation-wide thing. People come from Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia. The GP is an annual get-together for tens of thousands of motorcyclists.
“We were looking forward to everything ramping back up and getting back to normal. That was a false hope.”
Mr Eacott said the event also served as an important opportunity to refresh and educate motorcyclists on road safety and raise awareness of the relationship between riders and vehicles.
“We need to encourage people to see how two-wheelers are a valid form of transport.
“We’re the most vulnerable road-user group. Pedestrians are protected with pathways and crossings; cyclist have bike lanes. We’re out there in the middle of the traffic but we are such a solution (to road congestion).”
The issue has come into sharp focus in recent weeks, after a fatal collision on Narre Warren-Cranbourne Road on Friday 22 July, and another incident on the same night in Clyde North that left a rider in a critical collision.
Thirty motorcyclists have died on Victorian roads to July 31, 2022, an increase of five from the same period in 2021, and seven on the five-year average.
Speaking on those events, Superintendent Road Policing Operations & Investigation John Fitzpatrick described the increase as a “worrying trend” and issued a reminder of the vulnerabilities of motorcycle riders.
“These figures are alarming and some of the anecdotal evidence that we see is that coming out of Covid-19, people aren’t used to sitting in traffic for long periods of time and they’re choosing a mode of transport that maybe allows them to (avoid) that,” Supt Fitzpatrick said on Saturday 23 July.
“We’re seeing many more people on motorbikes than we’ve seen ever before.
“Driving a motorcar and riding a bike, it’s a shared responsibility about understanding where you are on the road and what’s around you. We ask people to please be sensible about the way they drive and the way they ride motorbikes.”
President of the Cranbourne Chamber of Commerce Jeremy Dart said the decision to cancel the event was “short-sighted”, given the missed opportunity for local traders to take advantage of the increased patronage.
While the Chamber has received feedback from some retailers in the region aligning with Casey’s hypothesis that the disruption to the roads and their businesses was problematic, he was disappointed that alternative options had not been approved.
“It does bring significant numbers to the region and the specific precinct,” Mr Dart said.
“To allow a different model to exist would be a much better option. There are plenty of facilities out the back (of High Street) that would allow them to still have a festival still.
“Had there been some foresight, it would have been a perfect springboard (for retailers) to say, ‘we’re here, we’re back and open for business’. It would have been a great injection and opportunity to bring the community together.
“I’m sure retailers would have relished the opportunity.”