30 March 2022

Bike-riding with no helmets, reduced parking, car-free days floated as active travel ideas by Greens

| Lottie Twyford
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Two cyclists on a bike path

Would you be more likely to ride a bike if you didn’t have to wear a helmet? Photo: File.

Car-free days should be trialled, speed limits should be reduced, parking should be limited and people should be able to ride a bike without a helmet – all in a bid to encourage Canberrans to try active modes of travel.

That’s according to a recent discussion paper from ACT Greens spokesperson for active travel Jo Clay, which presented a series of proposals intended to help move the ACT away from its current reliance on cars for transport.

“We need more active travel. We are in a climate crisis and around 60 per cent of our tracked emissions come from transport,” Ms Clay said.

“Congestion in Canberra is also a problem and it is getting worse at a rate over three times faster than most Australian capital cities. We have to do more to help Canberrans choose the original zero-emissions transport method of active travel. We need to make active travel fun, accessible and safe for everyone.”

Among what Ms Clay described as the “package of ideas”, she identified major areas of focus: that the government plan ahead for active travel, that it builds and subsequently maintains a network of footpaths and shared paths, that it promotes active travel by removing legislative and planning barriers and lastly, that it learns what is working locally and in other jurisdictions.

“The ACT Government has set really ambitious goals for active travel but we are not increasing uptake fast enough to reach those goals. If we want a different result, we need to do things differently,” Ms Clay said.

Jo Clay

ACT Greens MLA Jo Clay said more can be done to promote active travel. Photo: Region Media.

The discussion paper identified 22 proposals that could help encourage the take-up of walking, cycling and even e-scootering or catching public transport.

Many of them focus on a need to improve the shared and cycle path network, not only through building more paths but through better maintenance of networks, both existing and newly-built.

According to the paper, the government should spend the equivalent of 20 per cent of the capital works road budget on dedicated purpose-built infrastructure for walking, cycling and active travel.

It also suggested that an audit of footpaths and shared paths is publicly reported on an annual basis with a target of 90 per cent to be maintained in ‘good condition’.

Another change could be ensuring traffic light sequencing benefited pedestrians and riders over cars.

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On the more “innovative” end of things, the paper suggested trying out car-free days and car-free zones in each electorate.

The government could also trial removing some roads completely or at least reducing their size to make more space for the community and bicycle riders and less space for cars.

Reducing urban car parking, decoupling parking from apartment sales and introducing slower speed limits, along with amending mandatory helmet laws were also suggested.

According to the paper, “cycling participation dropped when mandatory helmet laws were introduced in Australia” and suggested an exemption could be in place – similar to one in the Northern Territory – where riders only have to wear helmets if they ride on the road.

“This off-road exemption could be trialled and the effect on participation measured to see if this increases cycle commuting, especially for short distances within suburbs,” the paper read.

The active travel discussion paper is open for consultation until 30 April. Send an email to clay@parliament.act.gov.au to contact Ms Clay’s office.

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21km from home to the office. 21 mins by car, 81 minutes by bike, 78 minutes by bus… Nope. Simplest way to reduce emissions would be to allow all office workers to WFH full time. That would save me 200km+ travel and $100 while significantly reducing wear and tear on infrastructure.

Philip Pellatt1:30 pm 02 Apr 22

The Greens’ dictatorial edicts are now more extreme than the anti-vaccers!
They need to remember that they are only in government because Canberrans did not want to vote Liberal at the last election because of that party’s extremely conservative views then, and the Labor party needed them only to be able to hold government.

Brain injuries are horrendous for the person injured and their families, as well as expensive for communities and taxpayers. That’s why helmets need to be mandatory, just like seat belts. Having seen the devastation of brain damage from falls, let alone accidents at speed or with high impact, I think we should do all possible to prevent it. Fortunately contact sports are finally recognising the risks, so to go backwards and let people ride on roads without helmets is regressive and rather stupid.

Time to give pedestrians equal rights to bikes and cars, by prioritising their needs. I see no reason that a single person in a car should have more rights than a single person on foot or on a bike. Most cars only have one person in them, so they should not have more right to travel than the person walking or on a bike. Slow the traffic in the inner suburbs and ensure that there are frequent places to cross safely on all roads except major highways where pedestrians do not need to go.

If car drivers aren’t willing to slow down, they can fund the flyovers for pedestrians and then our kids can learn that walking to school is safe, fun, good for their mental and physical health unlike being a passenger in a car.

License bike riders so they can be identified when they break the law. Do not license them until they learn the rules of roads, crossings, traffic lights and shared pathways.

Children walk to school in other cities because it is safer to do so, with well-planned pedestrian crossings, traffic lights and reduced suburban speed limits. In Canberra cars are prioritised with major roads difficult to cross (eg Canberra Ave) to get to schools on the other side (try getting from Kingston to St Clares, St Edmonds or even Forrest Primary). So kids learn that cars are essential to get to where they need to go safely. Those habits carry on into adulthood, because walking across major roads is not facilitated with frequent safe crossing places.

When I asked the ACT government about a crossing over Canberra Avenue for kids needing to get to the schools, I was told that wouldn’t be possible because it would slow the traffic. Isn’t that the point? I also suggested a walk over bridge, but apparently that’s a problem too.

Then there’s use of existing crossings on the same road where the time allowed to walk across is not enough to do so safely for even a fit person, let alone an older or disabled walker.

There should be a PCR test for gene pool anomalies of Greens politicians

Queanbeyanite12:21 pm 31 Mar 22

I wouldn’t consider not wearing a helmet cycling. However, I understand one of the friction points preventing young women from cycling to work is “helmet hair”. I think if you’re just riding less than 10kph on a cycle path on your heavy ‘Copenhagen’ style bike then you should be left to your own personal responsibility.

Queanbeyanite, Who rides at only a mere 10kph going to work. Never get there in time. I didn’t when I worked. Never had a problem with helmet hair either. I wore a helmet, and in winter, a balaclava too, which also never upset my hair.

As usual, silly naive ideas by the ‘Greens’ who do not want to give people freedom of choice and want everyone to conform to their ridiculous ideas. These stupid proposals show a clear display of no understanding or consideration of how people really live their lives, or for all people in the community. Many elderly people really need their cars and cannot stand around at bus stops, so do disabled people who need their own vehicles, and people who have to drop their children at childcare. Some people just like to drive a car as it might be the only time of day they get to themselves. I wish these ‘greens’ would go away and stop insulting, demeaning and hassling the community.

HiddenDragon6:27 pm 30 Mar 22

We’ll know they really mean it when they lead by example – no ratepayer-funded vehicles or parking spaces for ACT MLAs or public servants.

The only “crisis” we have in this town is too many ratepayer-funded pests diverting scarce resources from away from basic services and on to their obsessions.

A couple of days ago the ACT Greens were suggesting a tax be imposed on commercial property owners, who had vacant property and now this lunacy.

Maybe the ACT Greens could ask the Transport Minister whether the TC network can carry the people who currently drive and whether LR 2a might impact the bus timetable?

The ACT Greens could then speak to the Health Minister to clarify whether there is a pandemic and whether travelling on crowded public transport is a safe form of transport? The Health Minister could also be asked whether riding bicycles without helmets might impact Canberra Hospital’s ER waiting times? You know, the waiting time is already the worst in the country!

And now for something really scary. Just imagine if the Greens held the balance of power in the Senate in the upcoming Federal election!

The helmet is there to protect you from injury, I know it’s an inconvenience, but so is ongoing daily nursing for you and your long term brain injury. If you had just worn a helmet you wouldnt require that long term health care, at the expense of the tax payer.

I can’t believe we actually are having this conversation.

Those in favour of dropping helmets for non road cyclist should check out the injury stats in this 2018 Canberra Times article https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6139544/surging-canberra-cycling-injuries-twice-the-national-average-new-report-reveals/?cs=14264 In particular the Chief Health Officer’s observation that the most serious cycling injuries happen on roads and on shared paths. “……the severity of a cyclist’s injuries depended on the riding environment, with more severe injuries occuring on shared paths and in traffic compared with bicycle lanes.”

Greenies have backed themselves into a policy dilemma with this paper. Page 17 says-

“Bike theft has increased. We need a design solution to this problem, because it is very difficult to police. Many Canberrans would like to use ebikes or good-quality bikes but these are expensive, and people don’t want to leave them outside in high-risk areas without secure parking.”

The greenie attitude of soft on crime, soft on drugs, soft on teenage offenders, soft on criminal families, soft on bail, soft on sentencing, soft incarceration, soft on reoffending, understaffed police, result in increased bike thefts.

It’s a fantastic proposal document. I think the issues raised below about public transport frequency and coverage are valid, however- it’s a chicken and egg situation- public transport can’t grow while it’s so poorly utilised- this proposal is a first step to increasing use of public transport as well as active transport. Electric bikes are also a wonderful commuting option- they are fun, fast, have much lower environmental impact than driving, free to park, no traffic jams, build exercise into your day and provide the convenience of travelling when you need to- rather than based on a bus or light rail timetable. They are really viable for a 15km commute. I use mine in preference to driving because it’s so much more fun – It takes me 35 minutes to commute 13.6km to work on a recumbent e-bike and I am not a fast bike rider. I also have a trailer I use with it that can pull 50 or 60kg so I can do a fortnightly food shop using the bike. The only issue with e-bikes is security- you need a motorbike padlock as they are very attractive to thieves.

Some strawman arguments in some comments. Brought up every time that alternative transport to driving is mentioned. No one would expect the handicapped, or the plumber, etc on the way to a job not to drive.

Scratching at straws here people.

What exactly do you think “car free days” and removing roads mean if not to stop people from driving?

How is that a strawman when these ideas are being put forward by the proponents?

How about making public transport useful? I used to catch a bus but with the redesign of bus routes and removal of services I was forced back to driving to work. The choice was a 15 minute drive or over an hour on the bus. Previously it was a 20 Minute ride on a heavily used express service. It also catered for school kids who I now see their parents driving them to school. Forget innovation how about practical use of the resources available now. Don’t get me started on an inflexible tram system that cannot adapt to needs of users but expects commuter’s to accept routes that excludes any other option. Long live the car if these “smart” people can’t comprehend how a decentralised city needs options to move people over a distance that precludes bikes or walking to a destination in a timely manner.

If the goal is to reduce emissions and congestion, then offering the community members who need and want to move about the city good, frequent public transport while at he same time making parking for individual cars very expensive is the way to change behaviours and thus make the biggest impact on the problems. Frequency on all routes and on all days is essential if you want people to use public transport.
is wearing a helmet really a disincentive to using a bike for getting about – the risk of brain injury isn’t all that attractive, surely.

Those fairies in the garden have awoken early

“Floated” appears to be the right description for these ideas. Generally this will only affect the inner Northsiders as this form of transport infrastructure changes (walking paths, cycleways, reduced parking, car free days etc) sound like Canberra CBD issues. These measures would be underutilised in the far off and poorly acknowledged towns of Tuggers, Gungahlin, Molonglo, Belconnen etc (ignored by the Labor/Green City Council) where we have longer distances to travel. The riding a bike without a helmet day could be made a public holiday …what about ‘Crash Test Dummy Day’, just a little bit more to do for our overworked and under resourced hospital system. As for me, I will park my magic unicorn in the garage and laugh at the Northsiders for electing these delusional dreamers.

Please fix the public transport first. It shouldn’t take an hour to get from tuggeranong tc to Belconnen tc. We shouldn’t be forced to walk 10 minutes to get to our destination, even though there is a bus stop right outside it. This incentivises people to drive, after all, assuming no crashes on the parkway, it’s 20 minutes. Don’t even get me started on the suburban services. Since the introduction of the new, more efficient bus timetable, my door to door commute has gone from 40 minutes to 80 minutes. How does that incentivise public transport usage over cars? Fix public transport and your half way to reducing traffic flows.

Please do not forget peole who are unable to access active travel such as people with disabilities and the aged. They can be terribly isolated if unable to get public transport or their carers are inable to transport them. Maybe focus of getting school pupils to walk to school rather than having a mad drop off and pick up time. – they need the exercise.

Thank you! That was exactly what I was thinking. People with disabilities need to have their car to go point to point and not have to walk for very long and the parents doing school drop off on the way to work would be penalised.

SO the 40km/h limits where it was drilled into us about safety are purely about screwing over anyone in a car.
Another attack on working parents.

Jenny Graves2:18 pm 29 Mar 22

As a 68 year old with low bone density who has never managed to master riding a bike, this fills me with horror! I’m prepared to walk up to half an hour or so but any more and I’m pooped. If they really intend to do these things, they will have to make bus travel much more inviting, by increasing the routes and making them more often. Otherwise, some of us oldies will be housebound!

davidmaywald1:21 pm 29 Mar 22

It’s great to see innovative ideas and policy options being debated… Helmets are not needed for every type of bike riding. There are lots of things that we can do to empower Active Transport choices. Good on you Jo and ACT Greens. 😉

Where I work there is no public transport and riding your bike is a death wish

Where I work parking is expensive for private motor vehicles and, being close to a number of Rapid services many people choose to catch public transport or or cycle or use motor scooters.

“Congestion in Canberra is also a problem and it is getting worse at a rate over three times faster than most Australian capital cities.” That’s exactly what I’d expect when you remove the “turn left at any time” lanes and make everyone wait at the traffic lights.

And sure, undo the mandatory helmets rule for cyclists – it will make it easier to determine who has nothing worth protecting.

I wonder about the Greens some times. It’s as if the Kool aide they drink depletes their brain cells. Hey Greens, shave a stack without wearing a helmet. See how you go. Maybe put that in the same basket as don’t wear seat belts, because you have airbags

The government participated in the greatest man-made environmental disaster so far this century. Over 1 billion disposable masks have ended up in the oceans and they are now the most common form of litter around Canberra. The ACT government is completely untrustworthy on any further environmental changes.

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