Cities set to choke without cycling and walking: Engineers Australia

May 13th, 2019

The Transport Australia Society has warned increasing traffic congestion and costly road projects threaten to compromise the accessibility, safety, and health of Australia’s cities, calling on all levels of government to prioritise cycling and walking.

In a Discussion Paper released this week, the Society has urged State Governments to set more ambitious targets to encourage greater numbers of Australians to walk and ride to work.

Bicycle Queensland CEO, Anne Savage, welcomed the report.

“We commend the finding of the Transport Australia Society that active transport infrastructure is one of the most powerful urban planning tools for enhancing the safety, accessibility and liveability of a city,” she said.

“The Discussion Paper provides a compelling case for establishing a dedicated funding scheme, similar to the $744.5m Federal Black Spot Program, to promote walking and cycling for transport.

“Encouraging more Australians to take up cycling and walking could save the average Australian $1500 a month, enabling economic growth and productivity as well as new spending in associated areas.

“On the eve of the Federal Election, Queenslanders are feeling the pain of the highest fuel prices in Australia, spiralling health costs, excessive parking fees, and unaffordable motor vehicle registration.

“Notably, nearly half of Australian capital city commuters (46%) live within 10km of work, and more than one in four live within 5km (26%).

“Even a small shift of 5% of driver-only vehicles to cycling and other forms of healthy travel will remove over 300,000 cars from Australia’s daily commuter traffic and improve Australia’s overall health profile by reducing rates of overweight and obesity.”

Bicycle Queensland has called on the next Commonwealth Government to invest $500,000 in a National Cycling Strategy, supported by $300m per year for the next three years towards cycling infrastructure and promotion, with recurrent increases to $500 million and more per year in future – in line with international benchmarks.

In a pre-election pitch to party leaders, Bicycle Queensland has called for all parties to ensure more Australians get home actively, safely, and on time.

“Australians are fed up with congestion and a growing network of roads in disrepair,” Savage said.

“Research by the Australian Automobile Association has found that transportation costs are rising at a faster rate than inflation.

“The average family spends more than $18,000 each year just getting from A to B in their car and the cost of owning and running a vehicle increased by over $7000 last year,” Savage said.

“It’s really no surprise that most Australians say they want more bikeways so that they can ride safely to their local schools, shops, parks, pools, and polling booths.

“There can be no doubt that cycling is one of the keys to reducing gridlock, saving costs, and improving Australia’s overall health and wellbeing.

“More people cycling more often would also help to reduce fatalities and serious injuries on our roads, based on the incontrovertible evidence that motor vehicles are at fault in the majority of traffic accidents, and especially those concerning cyclists and pedestrians.”

The Transport Australia Society paper also points to the need for high-level Physical Activity Champions across government and the prioritisation of public transport, cycling, and walking.

“Most Australians would agree that we urgently need to see much greater investment in better public transport and open spaces that are safe for cycling and walking.

“While the 2019-20 Federal Budget already includes record funding of $100 billion over the next ten years for transport infrastructure, not one dollar has been given specifically to improvements for principal cycling networks.

“Our hope is that the next Federal Government will listen to community feedback and make world-class cycling infrastructure an essential aspect of all spending on road and other relevant transport projects.”

Using NSW as an example, people who commute by car or public transport receive government support of between $813 and $1829 each per year.

“Research shows that for every kilometre travelled by bike instead of motor vehicle, the community gains $1 – offering tremendous economic value and significant community benefit,” she said.

“Cycling is also the only truly renewable form of transport. A modest shift to cycling could save around 450 million tonnes per year of carbon emissions, decrease pollution, and preserve air quality, as cars emit about half of all harmful transport-related greenhouse gases in Australia every year and account for about 70% of air pollution in major cities such as Brisbane.

“Australia has the power and the people to achieve a congestion-free transport network, but we need to lift Federal funding beyond zero per cent – increasing it to five, eight, and ten per cent of overall spending in step with other integrated transport strategies.

The most recent National Cycling Participation Survey found a resounding majority of Australians want to see stronger investment in bikeways, and better connections between bike paths and schools, shops, pools, and parks.

“Cycling is one of the easy keys to creating fitter, happier, and better-connected communities,” Savage said.

“About four million people already ride on a weekly basis, and nearly half of all households have one or more bikes.

“The creation of a National Cycling Strategy, supported by strong funding and the integration of cycling across road projects, would spearhead efforts to create an affordable, efficient, and congestion-free transport system, while helping to reduce the nation’s road toll and promote a healthy Australia.

“Our vision is of a future Australia where people from all walks of life can safely and easily enjoy cycling; we would welcome strong action by the next Australian Government to help us achieve that goal.”

ENDS

Read the discussion paper here.

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