Budget Response: We need better investment in Canberra’s active future

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The budget announced this week by the Barr Government delivered on promises to ACT bike riders at last year’s election, but needs to go further to fulfil the promise of Canberra as the active travel capital of Australia.

The 2017 ACT budget has provided the required funding for the pre-election commitments of the Belconnen bikeway and some funding for cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

“We can certainly say that it meets the minimal requirement to enable the pre-election Labor commitments” said Pedal Power ACT Executive Officer John Armstrong.

“Commitments to preventative health measures and a move to reinforce safer cycling in and around schools are both great initiatives and areas strongly supported by Pedal Power ACT. Yet such commitments appear to stop there and provide no further support.”

The release of this budget coincides with a change to the title of the Minister for Health to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing, and the development of a Preventative Health Strategy. Pedal Power ACT applauds these gestures, and hopes that the Government can find a way to properly fund a significant investment in preventative health.

“The 2017 budget figures tell the story of a city locked into a system of sedentary, motor-led transport and ongoing pressure on our health system with population-wide increase in the rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity,” Mr Armstrong said.

He commended the stated $13.9 million investment to promote cycling and active travel, but pointed out that much of this sum represents existing expenditure for the Government. The 2017 budget provides no additional funding to meet the ongoing community path maintenance demands and catch up with the backlog from underfunding.

“The deteriorating condition of paths makes it difficult for Canberran families to get out and be active,” said Mr Armstrong.

There is a commitment to an additional $30 million of walking and bike riding initiatives over four years in 2016 as part of the Labor-Greens agreement.

“Government has underfunded active travel in this budget. There is now real scope to significant allocation in this area in future budgets – because the additional funding does not appear in the 2017-18 budget” said Mr Armstrong.

In the lead-up to the 2016 Election, Pedal Power ACT advised that $120 million would be required to support and encourage active transport participation and deliver on Barr’s vision for a ‘compact and competitive’ city.

“The Government’s vision for Canberra’s future appears short-sighted,” said Armstrong, when comparing the recommendation with projected expenditure.

“Some of the budget measures will inadvertently help to promote the uptake of active transport, such as the rise in motor vehicle registration fees and parking fines.”

“I encourage the Government to invest in active transport infrastructure and promotion that will make Canberra as healthy, clean and safe as possible.”

Pedal Power ACT continues to recommend that the Government improve the poor bike path connections in and around town centres. While Tuggeranong and Gungahlin have received funding for improvements that include active travel upgrades ($8 million), many other projects such as the Molonglo to the City super bikeway, Woden Town Centre, Weston Creek Group Centre, and West Belconnen connections to Belconnen have received nothing in this budget, despite years of planning work and feasibility studies.

Pedal Power welcomes active travel infrastructure budget allocations, including:

  • $4.7 million for a bikeway linking the University of Canberra, CIT Bruce, Radford College and GIO stadium with the Belconnen town centre.
  • $4.2 million over four years to address some pedestrian and cycling infrastructure needs.
  • $2.2 million for safer walking and cycling around 20 schools across the Territory.

Pedal Power ACT also welcomes funding to assist the development of a cycling tourism strategy, and looks forward to a significant investment from the ACT Government in the implementation of a strategy that promises to bring a massive boost to our local economy.

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