Since his re-election last year, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has pledged $30 million to fixing Canberra’s bike infrastructure, and made a New Year’s resolution to ride more.
His government’s financial commitments have made it clear that bike-riding is important to the ACT, and Barr is putting his bike where his money is – posting photos and videos to social media of himself riding around Canberra.
But words can be as important as actions, particularly when your words set the agenda for a government and a city – and the Chief Minister has yet to make a strong statement regarding a vision for bike-riding in the ACT.
Leaders around the world have made a point of declaring their commitment to promote bike-riding in their cities. Many have pointed to the range of benefits active travel brings to a city, including a healthier population and friendlier streets.
In Sydney and Melbourne, both Mayor Clover Moore and Mayor Robert Doyle have stated strong support for bike-riding. In a recent article Moore championed the benefits bike riding brings for business, and indicated that active travel was the solution to Sydney’s traffic problem.
“When I was first elected lord mayor of Sydney, it was the financial services sector and big end of town that lobbied me to build a network of safe separated cycleways.”
Doyle said that he wants Melbourne to be a world leader for cycling.
“The City of Melbourne is committed to making the most liveable city in the world one of the great cycling cities of the world,” said Doyle.
While Boris Johnson might be better-known for his gaffes than his commitment to active transport, it cannot be denied that the former Mayor of London played a large role in making London a world-leader in city bike-riding.
“Cycling in London has never been more popular: the number of bike journeys has risen by two-thirds since I became mayor,” said Johnson.
“Above all, cycling in London has never been more normal.”
“Within a few years, at the current rate of growth, people commuting by bike to central London will outnumber those commuting by car. Cities compete these days on quality of life. London can’t afford to stand still in that – our rivals won’t.”
The former London Mayor Boris Johnson and the current Mayor Sadiq Khan have stated that they want London to be recognised as “a byword for cycling around the world.”
Both Khan and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg increased their city’s expenditure on cycling infrastructure and promotion, with the aim of having their cities recognised as leaders in active transport around the world.
Under the leadership of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago was named America’s top city for cycling in 2016.
Emanuel recognised not only the health benefits that cycling brings to a city, but also the economic benefits when he stated his aims in 2012 “I expect not only to take all of their [Seattle and Portland’s] bikers but I also want all the jobs that come with this, all the economic growth that comes with this, all the opportunities of the future that come with this.”
These leaders all recognise the benefits that bike-riding brings to a city, and what’s more, they made a point of broadcasting their goal to bring these benefits to their cities.
Here’s hoping that the ACT Chief Minister takes inspiration from the leaders of great cities around the world and makes it clear that Canberra wants to lead the way for bike-riding in Australia – for the benefit of all Canberrans.