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Bicycle SA has been advocating for better cycling conditions this week in Canberra. CEO Christian Haag explains. 

The inaugural Australian Bicycle Summit was held in Canberra this week. Representatives from numerous state advocacy organisations met to set a national approach for cycling advocacy to the Commonwealth government. Significantly, around 70 representatives of the bicycle industry also attended to advocate on the issues affecting the many wholesalers and retailers across the country. This is a first for the cycling industry sector – a sector that is valued at over $1B annually and employs over 10,000 Australians.

The two-day get together incorporated a full day workshop, a parliamentary dinner and a series of meetings with ministers, senators and key advisors.

The full day workshop provided the opportunity for each of the state organisations to share the critical issues of the day and for a broader discussion on the current policy and investment setting from the point of view of the commonwealth. The chance to face-to-face with our interstate colleagues is highly valued.

As expected, there was consensus on the need for increases in federal infrastructure funding for cycling specific projects. In achieving our mission to get more South Australians riding and the need to mitigate the perceived and real barriers relating to road safety, all acknowledged that higher quality bicycle infrastructure across metropolitan networks continues to be an matter of urgency.

Casual observers would already be familiar with the federal Coalition’s mantra that big infrastructure projects are the priority, for example Sydney’s multi billion dollar WestConnex road infrastructure program. But as we have so often seen, the construction of more freeways simply creates more congestion and longer travel times.

“the construction of more freeways simply creates more congestion and longer travel times.”

In this regard, the bicycle sector are advocating against the hugely powerful interests of the state motoring organisations that align with the multi-national corporate funders of the public/private partnerships that seek benefit from the massive highway expansion projects.

With regard the funding relationship between the Commonwealth and States, custom and practice provides for each state government to make their own determinations as to how Commonwealth infrastructure funds are to be spent – subject always to political sensitivities. Our position is that there should always be mandatory cost benefit analysis attached to infrastructure spend because, as we know, any spend on cycling infrastructure yields a far higher return to our community than any spend on “more roads”. (Read Here for more information on our position.)

In this regard, the terminology from the Commonwealth is “Positive Provision”, which in our language means that for any new infrastructure projects, cycling needs will always be catered for. So if for example a freeway was to be built, “positive provision” would see dedicated (read separated) cycling infrastructure incorporated into the build process. The Stuart O’Grady Bikeway that parallels the Northern Expressway is an example. In effect this is providing “future proofing” infrastructure for the future significant residential developments that is currently being developed in that part of our northern community.

Currently our state government honours the ‘Positive Provision’ requirement from the Commonwealth. We have one of the few state governments that actually respect this “expectation” from the Commonwealth.

Bike SA’s position remains unaltered, that while this is a positive working environment with government, much more can be achieved through a more strategic investment approach to ensure that for those 60% of Australians who would ride their bike more if they felt it was safe to do so – would do so.

 In this regard Bike SA will continue to work productively with the relevant state agencies.

The Summit workshop also addressed the issue of health and education and how we might better advocate for greater acknowledgement of the public health benefits of appropriately funded active travel initiatives aligned with the need for a national physical activity strategy.

And equally, how we can work to encourage a more active engagement in getting more children riding for travel and play.

At the end of the day, lets just remember that for those of us who choose to replace the average 20 minute car journey with a bike ride, they are contributing $21 to the national economy in overall savings of health and congestion reduction. So as you can see the economic argument is clear…!

The parliamentary dinner was exceptionally well attended. The keynote speech was provided by Rose McArthur from Transport London for the Olympics and 2018 Commonwealth Games. Her story highlighted how London has achieved an outstanding transport legacy from the Olympics. It’s a lesson for all cities that invest so significantly in such world sports events and the fact that the UK national government has as recently as last week announced £114 million in founding to get more people riding bikes.

The following day saw Bike SA meet with Minister Scullion’s advisor in relation to our Bikes Palya program currently being delivered in the APY Lands as well as Greens Senator Janet Rice.

Bicycle SA works hard to ensure we have better cycling conditions for everyone that rides a bike. Become a member today.