The Australian Commonwealth government’s Department of Infrastructure and Transport has released for public comment (comments accepted unto January 31, 2013) its draft report, Walking, Riding and Access to Public Transport.
The draft report explores how the Commonwealth government can work with other governments (state and local), business and the community to encourage and support walking and riding as part of the transport systems in Australia’s cities and towns.
As the draft report notes. More people regularly walking, riding and catching public transport can contribute towards:
- Increased capacity in the transport network
- Improved public health and reduced healthcare costs
- Improved community wellbeing and social cohesiveness
- Reduced environmental impacts.
The draft report explores options to increase participation in walking, ridge and public transport as part of the overall transport mix through:
- Planning: Including walking and riding when planning for land use and transport through (a)working within a clear hierarchy of planning and (b) designing networks of continuous, convenient connections.
- Building: Building appropriate infrastructure for walking and bicycling needs through (a) creating safe environments for pedestrians and bicycle riders and (b) incorporating pedestrian and bicycle facilities when building other infrastructure.
- Encouragement: Encouraging greater participation in walking, riding and public transport through (a) leveraging infrastructure investment and (b) planning consistent standards and guidelines, monitoring and evaluation.
The Department of Infrastructure and Transport is seeking our views on walking and riding for transport purposes, and improved access to public transport to guide the Department’s policy development process. My particular interest is related to cycling for transport purposes and hence my submission is reflective of this interest.
To make the submission process easier, the Department has drafted six specific questions which respondents can address all of the questions or some of the questions or if preferred write a more general response. I have chosen with my submission to address the six questions. If you find anything of value in my submission please do not hesitate to use the material in your own submission. The more submissions that are made the more chance we have of influencing policy and the development of safe cycling infrastructure. Please visit the Department’s websitefor the online submission process.
Submission on the draft Walking, Riding and Access to Public Transport Report
As alluded to early, the draft report has six questions which the government would like addressed in response to the draft report, Walking, Riding and Access to Public Transport. The questions and my responses follow.
20-minute walking and riding networks
Background: The draft report (page 8) adopts the position that walking works best for short distances up to 20 minutes (two kilometres) and is more likely to occur in locations with convivial streetscapes; good access to public transport; and a wide range of nearby destinations such as shops, schools, workplaces, recreational activities and services like a post office or library.
Bicycle riding is seen as being suitable for regular trips up to 20 minutes (five kilometres) and whilst longer distances are possible, the view is taken that such longer distances would not appeal to a majority of the population. Riding is more common in areas with well-connected bicycle pathways that allow people to ride from door to door safely and easily, and where secure facilities for parking are available.
1. How can we better plan for comprehensive 20-minute walking and riding networks around central business districts, major activity centres and and major education and health campuses?
- I support the position taken in the draft report in that all planning for community developments and planning for transport infrastructure should include and put as a top priority;
- The development of comprehensive and continuous (door to door) cycling and pedestrian networks;
- Such networks should provide priority access to public transport hubs;
- Such networks must provide a safe environment, separating users from motorised traffic;
- Require all new buildings to include end-of-trip facilities
Access to public transport
2. How can we improve access to public transport (train stations, bus, tram and ferry stops) through better walking and riding connections? What are the roles of local, state and territory and Commonwealth governments?
First and foremost sufficient properly managed secure cycle storage facilities must be provided at all major train stations and ferry stops. Again the priority should be given to cycling and pedestrian access OVER the motor vehicle. Put in place proper decent means of accessing the train station within the catchment area, a means of access that is safe for vulnerable road users, that puts them first. For example prioritise entry to the train station area to pedestrians and cyclist over the motorist, not the other way around. People living within a 800 metres to a kilometre of a train station should walking to the station, not driving to the station.
This is without a doubt the responsibility of the state governments but the Federal government could also have a say in this by imposing conditions on grant funding.
Encourage better planning and building
3. How can the Australian Government, through its various programs, encourage better planning and building of networks for walking and riding?
Guidelines such as those issued by Austroads should be given legislative authority meaning that State and local governments must comply with them; rather than doing as they wish dependent on their own attitudes to various forms of transport.
Legal liability obligations should be imposed on local and state governments where they build infrastructure or fail to maintain it that results or has the potential to result in serious injury or worse to users.
I also support view that the Nation Building 2 program prioritise projects that facilitate further improvements to the efficiency of our urban transport systems and that all funded projects must include developments that facilitate alternative transport modes.
Avoid costly retrofitting
4. How can we ensure that appropriate infrastructure for walking and riding is include when other transport infrastructure is begin constructed so that we can avoid costly retrofitting at a future date?
The West Australian State Government now includes cycling infrastructure as part of all major transport infrastructure projects. All state and local governments should adopt the same approach.
Other programs and incentives
5. How can governments, businesses and the community work together to leverage infrastructure investment with other programs and incentives to encourage greater uptake of walking, riding and public transport?
We currently have with some employers the opportunity to salary sacrifice the purchase of motor vehicles. Interesting such programs actually encouraging more driving due to fringe benefit taxation rules. I suggest that serious consideration be given to extending this program to allow for the purchase of bicycles and that tax incentives be given for such purchases. A review of the fringe benefit tax is also required to change this encourage to drive more rather than less.
The United Kingdom also has a Ride to Work program; again a review and consideration of such a program should be undertaken with the aim of adopting a similar program in Australia.
6. How can we further achieve consistent standards for facilities, road rules and vehicle design to ensure the safety and convenience of all road users?
I support the view that legislative backing be given to the Austroads guidelines and that state and local governments should ensure compliance with same when building new infrastructure or modifying existing infrastructure.