Every time I see a person on a bicycle I no longer despair for the future of the human race
~ H G Wells
Melbourne transforms into a city with a vibrant culture of walking, cycling, scooting and skateboarding for 8 to 80 year olds and the infrastructure investment and community awareness campaigns is considered an essential activity for a growing city.
Victoria is a leader in recognising cycling, one form of active travel. It all started with the Geelong Bicycle strategy 1976 which became a forerunner to Bike plans across the world. In 1994 The State Bicycle Strategy, “Victoria for Bikes” recognised cycling as a legitimate form of transport and the need to recognise bicycle planning in the State Transport System. There has been several campaigns to get people active and take advantage of Melbourne especially relating to children walking (VicHealth’s Walk to school) and cycling to school (Ride2School) as well as Ride to Work Day held annually that have increased participation. Schools participating in programs such as Bicycle Network’s Ride2School have more than double the national average of school students incorporating exercise into their daily commute. The program shows schools how to encourage, empower and enable students to get physically active on their journey to school. There are large discrepancies between inner Melbourne and outer Melbourne in relation to infrastructure that enables people to choose active travel as the preferred option, increasing Melbournians reliance on less healthy transport options. Melbourne has some great organisations and institutions doing vital work including local governments, Good Cycles, schools and workplaces We want to acknowledge the good work going on and build on this good will to elevate the profile of active transport and have the infrastructure to support it being the fastest, cheap and best way to get around Melbourne.
Melbourne is on the way to becoming a great city for active travel. Here’s what needs to happen:
- Recognise the well understood health, economic, social and environmental benefits of increasing bike riding, walking, scooting and skating in state transport legislation and local policies across all departments.
- Implement the Victorian Government’s Cycling Strategy 2018-2028,by allocating a budget to it.
- Local governments, with the Victorian Government, work together to develop a Metropolitan Cycling Network through the Resilient Melbourne Delivery Office.
- Active travel is viewed as the main interface between home and public transport and this is a major consideration in the design and development of new public transport stations with appropriate infrastructure given priority over car parking.
- Melbourne takes on board learnings from cities that have transformed their active travel culture such as London (see case study below).
- Plan for Outer Melbourne to have the same access to good active travel infrastructure as inner Melbourne through the provision of new infrastructure.
- Budget to build and upgrade walking and cycling infrastructure giving accessibility and supporting equity.
- Clearly identify safe and continuous walking facilities and cycling routes across our city, providing missing links, enhancing existing routes, and prioritising budgeted maintenance programs.
- Change attitudes across demographics to increase participation and community involvement:-
- in schools, workplaces and the broader community of encouragement and support programs.
- Building on Share the Road and Fair Go campaigns, providing education and information programs to promote appropriate behaviour for all transport users.
- Build appropriate storage and bike parking security infrastructure for bikes
- Recognise the economic potential for building on local national and international tourism. Promote country and city tourism.
Communities that participate in healthy modes of transport and active travel are contributing to environmental sustainability, social cohesion, decreased traffic congestion and improving the liveability of our city.
The direct gross cost of physical inactivity to the Australian health budget in 2006/07 was $1.49 billion, equating to nearly $200 per inactive person per year. Not only does having a more active population have a positive impact on our health budget but also there are many personal health benefits include improved mental wellbeing, reduced heart and respiratory disease to longer life expectancy. There is a risk of injury when participating in any physical activity however the consensus is that the positive health benefits outweigh the risk of potential injury from healthy modes of transport.
In recent decades substantial changes in Australian lifestyles, urban environments and transportation systems has led to increasingly sedentary lifestyles and changes to physical activity patterns among children. Active transport, in particular, has declined dramatically in countries such as the US, UK and Australia, where car travel has become the predominant form of travel (Salmon et al 2005; van der Ploeg et al 2008).
Physically active children are healthier, happier and more socially connected than children who have more sedentary lifestyles (US Department of Health and Human Services 2008; WHO 2008) and are more likely to be active adults, resulting in health benefits across their life course (Trost et al 2002; Kjonniksen et al 2008).
Additional social benefits of increased active transport and reduced motor vehicle use include:
- transport benefits of reduced congestion, car space requirements and costs.
- in 2009 children driven to school accounted for approximately 17% of all trips by people in Melbourne during morning peak period between 8.30 and 9.00 am (Morris et al nd).
- environmental benefits of reduced air, noise and visual pollution
- energy use reductions through fewer car numbers
- lower fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions
- community strengthening through increased social interactions on streets and within neighbourhoods
- improved community safety, as ‘peopled’ places are safer places.
Mode shifts to active transport tick many ‘benefit boxes’ across multiple sectors. (Litman 2009) (see Table 2).
RACV’s car running costs report estimates that it costs between $52 - $87 per week to own and run a car representing a significant financial investment, especially if a household runs multiple vehicles. The costs to the public purse of road infrastructure including bridges, tunnels, flyovers and ongoing maintenance is a significant ongoing direct cost to governments as well as hidden costs of health due to inactivity and air pollution.
Incentivising active transport is dependent on adequate infrastructure being in place. Active travel infrastructure costs compare highly favourably to road based infrastructure costs of building, using and maintaining roads to building, using and maintaining paths for low impact walking and bike riding.
Commit to supporting the fantastic local plans and strategies, and local government initiatives with budget commitment from government and strategic integrated implementation plans.
2017 Car running costs https://www.racv.com.au/on-the-road/buying-a-car.html#operatingcosts
Cycling as part of everyday life article