“The value of cycling in Sydney has been undermined by hysterical claims that bike riding will cripple the city’s economy, misleading stories that distort data to proclaim that less people are riding, and wilful ignorance of good practice overseas,” said Sydney’s Mayor Clover Moore.
Recent horror stories about Sydney’s ‘War on Cyclists’ might make many Canberrans feel smug about our highly-valued cycling culture…
In Canberra we are fortunate that the ACT Government recognises the value of active travel.
Cycling and walking are promoted as forms of transport, and when evidence that these activities are being threatened comes to light, the Government has taken steps to address this.
And yet Canberra roads continue to be dangerous for cyclists.
Data from the recently-released 2015 ACT Road Crash Report indicates that the only upward trend in casualties were those involving vulnerable road users. This trend was exemplified late last month when a bus struck a bike rider on Northbourne Avenue during morning peak hour.
The report recognises that the ACT has a greater cycling participation rate than the national average, and it is to their credit that the ACT Government has started to introduce reforms aimed at making the roads safer for cyclists and other vulnerable road users.
Recent implementation of recommendations from the Vulnerable Road User Inquiry – which include making it illegal to throw things at bike riders, the minimum overtaking distance laws and riding across crossings, discussion about helmet laws and new driver competency – are encouraging, but there is far more that the Government needs to do in order to show Canberrans that cycling is a safe and valid form of everyday transport.
A recent Transport Canberra survey showed that nearly a third of ACT survey respondents would be very unlikely to encourage their children to walk or cycle to school.
With childhood obesity becoming a massive problem in affluent countries like Australia, this should set off alarm bells.
Not everyone can cycle, but support for programs such as Fitability means that more Canberrans get to experience the joy and freedom of recreational cycling.
So what else could the ACT Government do?
Safe separated bike lanes on Canberra streets would help more people feel confident cycling on the road.
An awareness campaign that illustrates the social, financial and environmental benefits of cycling.
Finally, informing the public about the very safe and extensive cycle paths throughout Canberra, means those that are able are given every opportunity to enjoy the health and economic benefits of cycling while largely removing the need to cycle near cars, trucks and buses at all.
Pedal Power ACT is holding an Election Forum on September 27 for Canberrans to put these questions to politicians and candidates. Everyone is welcome to come along and let our potential new Government know that cycling and active travel is important, and there is more to be done.
Anne Treasure is a communications consultant living in Canberra. She is currently working with Pedal Power ACT and Capital Cycling.