By Jo Clay, Member for Ginninderra
ACT Greens spokesperson for Active Transport
I’m a long time Pedal Power member and a keen cyclist. I’ve been riding around Canberra for the last 20 years. I ride to work at the Assembly most days, and I ride my daughter to school when I do drop-off. Years ago, I made a T-shirt that said ‘My other car is also a bike’. I love cycle commuting. No traffic jams, no fights for parking, extra dollars in my bank account and no need to go the gym after work. I also love whipping around town for meetings. It’s so much faster than walking or driving there.
More importantly, I represent the party that pedalled… sorry, peddled… cycling so much before last October’s ACT election that it became Canberra’s first ‘cycling election’ – parties had to swing their lycra-clad leg over the top of the bike frame and get on board.
Perhaps most importantly of all, I’m the Greens spokesperson for Active Transport, so if you have ideas or problems or input, I want to hear from you.
Chances are we will already be working on many of the initiatives you want to see.
In the Labor-Greens Parliamentary and Governing Agreement, there is a Greens commitment to direct 20% (or $20 million, whichever is greater) of the capital upgrade budget for roads and parking towards walking and cycling infrastructure. This gives strong bottom-line recognition to the fact that a healthy future in our city must involve more active travel.
Right now, we’re considering what this budget allocation will look like, to make sure we succeed in building and maintaining the separated facilities we need. At the time of writing this, the ACT just went into COVID lockdown, which may delay some of these actions – but watch this space and keep COVID-safe cycling!
We also have a commitment to deliver a community-driven 10-year walking and cycling infrastructure priority plan. We’re working on the details for this now and we’ll make sure we get community and cycle user input into it.
I’m drafting a discussion paper about all the changes we need to increase active transport and make it convenient, fun and safe. These include new infrastructure and better maintenance, driver and road safety education, promotional campaigns, good data on collisions and uptake, and ensuring we include cycle corridors and paths in the planning for all our new suburbs. I’ll be asking Pedal Power members to contribute to that paper and I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!
As cyclists, you’re well aware of the benefits to the community, as well as to individual health and well-being, when more people ride more often. Less traffic congestion, less noise, less diesel and petrol pollution, fewer carbon emissions, less space taken up by heat-absorbing asphalt carpark.
But we need to look at what stops people from cycling, too.
In June, I tabled in the Legislative Assembly a proposed amendment to the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 to add the offence of “Negligent driving – harm to vulnerable road user”. This would quadruple the maximum penalty for such an offence. One of the triggers for this was the horrifying collision late last year in which a cyclist was seriously injured and the car driver was fined just $393. It’s an insult that someone can inflict lifelong injuries and drive away with such a small fine.
The proposed amendment is just one element in recognising the complex set of incentives and disincentives in play when it comes to active transport.
As a result of Greens policies, we now have the very popular e-bike library, allowing commuters to test out the possibility of cycling to work without arriving sweaty and out of breath, as well as the Make the Move campaign, designed to promote active commuting.
But there’s still more to do. What else do commuters and weekend cyclists want and need? How can we better spruik all the things we love about getting on our bikes? Does it matter that Canberra doesn’t have a European city’s population density? What opportunities are we missing for tourism, decentralisation, economic benefit, community well-being?
I’m really excited to find evidence-based answers to these questions. We’ll be seeking community and bike rider feedback in many ways over the next year. We’ll also be running studies from our office. I can’t wait to help make Canberra one of the best cycling cities in the world.