Small Business

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Traders fear bike lanes could roll businesses

TAILOR Peter Toumbourou has fought off major threats to his business during his many years in the rag trade - the lifting of tariffs and the arrival of cheap imports, and large buyers going out of business as retail conditions sagged.

But the latest threat to his suit-making enterprise is one he never anticipated - a proposed ''Copenhagen-style'' separated bicycle lane outside his factory's front door.

''The thing that's going to kill us doesn't have tariffs, it has two wheels,'' Mr Toumbourou says.

He manages Travellers Apparel on Wellington Street in Collingwood, the last major suit manufacturer still standing in Australia, with up to 120 people working for it.

The company tailors suits for several Australian labels, as well as making uniforms for large corporations and government agencies. Many of them collect their orders directly from the factory.

But the proposal to build a separated bike lane along Wellington Street includes the removal of 117 parking spaces and removing parking entirely from one side of the street. Mr Toumbourou stresses that he is in favour of promoting cycling, but says parking is ''the life blood'' of his family's business, with an estimated 60 to 80 trucks a day stopping there.


''Our problem is that we've got almost no other access to our building other than people parking in front of our factory,'' he says.

The Yarra City Council will hear submissions on the proposal tonight and there is a chance it could vote on the issue. If not, it is unlikely to be decided before elections are held next month.

Wellington Street is a major and preferred north-south bicycle route in Melbourne's inner north. According to the City of Yarra, the route is booming, with cyclist numbers growing 20 per cent every year since 2004.

This year, the council recorded 416 city-bound cyclists on Wellington Street in the morning peak, compared with 101 cyclists in 2004.

Bicycle Network Victoria's Garry Brennan says the proposal to build separated bike lanes is excellent, because the street is already choked at the peak, and there is no capacity to increase traffic volumes along there other than by bicycle.

He says the concerns of businesses such as Travellers Apparel regarding lost parking are legitimate, but that the proposal includes options such as accessing parking in nearby back streets, or imposing time restrictions on parking spaces currently available all day.

''If these businesses need parking, there are solutions,'' Mr Brennan says.

The Textiles Clothing and Footwear Union is asking the City of Yarra to find a compromise that would not jeopardise the livelihoods of its members who work at the Collingwood factory.

''If you drive out businesses such as Travellers Apparel through the unintended consequences of policies like this one, you actually lose what is part of the great charm and attractiveness of communities like Collingwood,'' says Michele O'Neil, the union's national secretary.

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