The National Cycling Strategy aimed to double the number of people cycling in Australia by 2016. This has not been achieved. According to the 2015 National Cycling Participation Survey, cycling numbers are basically unchanged.
Unfortunately, Australia remains over-supplied with glossy reports, brochures, plans, targets, reports, guidelines, strategies and consultancies, and short on actually building & maintaining safe, connected, quality infrastructure for bicycles that anyone would be happy to use.
To increase participation in Australia, we should focus on delivering best-practice routes for bike-riding, quickly.
Australia – and the ACT in particular – is still a car monoculture with bicycle transport tolerated at the margins. This country appears focused on moving vehicles rather than people. Widening roads attracts more traffic, and yet the ACT Government continues to take this approach to solving congestion problems.
The 2016 report show there is still a major shortfall in the number of women riding, which suggest that conditions still tend to favour the ‘strong & fearless’. Not enough is happening to make riding a bike an attractive option for women & children.
There is a general lack of political will and vision to build safe ACT-wide infrastructure. A line of paint on the road is not a safe bike route. It’s a safe bike route if you’re happy to let your 8-year-old ride on it.
There are signs things are changing but we are a long way from best practice.
Achievements noted in the 2016 Implementation Report include:
- $121.8m spent nationally on cycling networks in 2016
- several programs to encourage cycling
- cycling included in various State & Territory plans, guidelines & strategies
- 29 cycling deaths in 2016 was the lowest annual figure for 10 years (but not much below the 16-year average)
- continuing strong national road safety campaigns
- minimum passing distance laws in 4 States & the ACT
- some technical progress on counting cyclists
- bicycle parking standards
- some improved guidance on cycling facilities
- adoption of international expertise, eg safe/active streets & Cycling Without Age
- improved ACT driver education about vulnerable road users.
A $15.6m cycling investment is listed against the ACT for 2015-16. This equates to about $38.50 per head of population, based on the ACT Treasury’s population estimate of 405,447 for 2017.
This does not include federal money, although it does include ACT contributions to the small number of federally-funded active travel projects in the ACT.
However, not much of this is new money to build separated, linked bike paths that the whole 8-80 age cohort would feel safe using. The main focus has been on plans and reports, with relatively little spent on separated bicycle facilities in the town centres, where they are long overdue.
This inertia also affects the federal government, although the inclusion of Stephen Hodge from the Cycling Promotion Fund on the Commonwealth’s Cities Reference Group overseen by Angus Taylor a positive development.
Two promising developments in the ACT are:
- Belconnen bikeways, including a commitment of $4.7m to build a cycleway from Belconnen Town Centre to the AIS. This should become a showcase for what can be achieved.
- The upgrading of the Sullivan’s Creek shared path between Dickson and Civic.
Promising international developments
The report notes aspects of international practice which Pedal Power ACT recommends the ACT follows:
- a UN call for 20% of transport budgets to be allocated to non-motorised transport
- bike share schemes
- protected cycleways, eg London
- child education
- cycle tourism
Developments in Australia
The ACT Ride or Walk to School program gets a special mention, as does the Active Streets program around school access. This is a priority as the ACT lags the national average by about one third for cycling participation by children under 10.
The ACT has just held its first Ride and Walk Week, organised by a small but increasingly effective Active Travel Office.
The Cycling Without Age program, which had its Australia-first launch here in the ACT was also praised in the report.
Things around Australia mentioned in the Report, and from which the ACT could learn, include:
- promoting recreation activities
- bike-friendly workplaces
The Strategy has now been extended to 2017 to allow time for a fourth biennial Participation Survey.