New speed limit in place

Road services team members install the last of the 50 km/h signs in Duke Street on Thursday afternoon. Photo: David Williamson

The controversial new 50 km/h speed limit along the 6.4 kilometre stretch of the Pyrenees Highway between White Gum Track, Chewton, and the Castlemaine CBD is now officially in effect. 

The last of the new street signs was installed in Forest Street, Castlemaine, at 2pm Thursday. 

The new speed zone replaces a mix of 50, 60 and 80km/h speed limits. 

Concerned members of the Wesley Hill and Chewton communities spent 12 months campaigning for the speed limit reduction in order to slow down traffic travelling on the Pyrenees Highway / Duke Street between Chewton and Castlemaine and make the thoroughfare safer for pedestrians crossing the busy roadway, particularly young children, the elderly and people with disabilities; safer for motorists trying to exit driveways or entering the highway from intersections along the highway; and reduce the severity of injuries as a result of any potential future accidents. 

However, the announcement has been met with some pushback from some other residents and motorists who regularly travel the thoroughfare and are angered by the move. Some of these disgruntled community members feel areas such as McKenzie Hill and Harcourt should be a higher priority for speed limit reductions and say the government and road authorities are pandering to a noisy minority. 

Announcing the new speed limit on February 12, Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards said the move would provide consistency. 

Ms Edwards, who aided the community’s push for a lower speed limit, said the 50km/h limit will reduce the likelihood of collisions and if a collision did occur, a lowered limit would reduce the severity of injuries. 

“We ask drivers to familiarise themselves with the new speed limit when driving between Castlemaine and Chewton for their own safety and the safety of others. 

“It will take between 30 and 60 seconds longer to get from Chewton to Castlemaine, but you can set the speed on your car, so there is no reason to speed,” she said. 

At February’s announcement, executive director of the Department of Transport (Loddon Valley and Hume) Anthony Judd said that while the department frequently assessed roads across the regions, it was the strength and the work done by the community that pushed the Pyrenees Highway up the chain. 

“When we’re assessing the roads, we look at the number of heavy and light vehicles, adjoining developments and the accident history, usually in relation to ambulance and police reports and the proportion of accidents was high along this 6.4km stretch of road,” Mr Judd said. 

Residents are now focusing their sights on how to get a pedestrian crossing installed at Wesley Hill and improved bike and walking paths, to further aid pedestrians and cyclists to remain safe.