“We want a government that not only supports but actively works for – invests money and time in – making it easier for more people to ride bikes in Canberra.”
This was the message to politicians at Pedal Power’s 2016 ACT Election Forum in Canberra tonight, where Labor’s Meegan Fitzharris, the Greens’ Shane Rattenbury and Liberal Alistair Coe discussed their parties’ commitments to cycling and cycling infrastructure with leading ACT cycling experts.
Fixing the missing links, promoting cyclo-tourism in the ACT and Labor’s announcement about making the Belconnen Town Centre more bike-friendly were the big winners of the night, with all three politicians agreeing that cycling infrastructure in Canberra needs work if we are to become the cycling capital of Australia.
When questioned about the gaps in cycling infrastructure, Fitzharris admitted that she herself had been frustrated by paths that just end – “I drive past paths like that every day” – and suggested that if elected, a Labor Government would undertake a comprehensive audit process.
Shane Rattenbury’s commitment to “vigorously oppose registration for cyclists” while recognising the benefits that cycling brings to the community was a popular statement at the Forum.
Debate among the candidates regarding light rail and plans for the Northbourne corridor made for the most contentious moments of the night, with Rattenbury expressing horror at “the idea of an eight lane motorway through the centre of our city.”
Deputy Leader of the Canberra Liberals Alistair Coe said all the right things for the Pedal Power audience, but CEO John Armstrong was sceptical that the Liberal Party would deliver anything more than words for bike riders.
The leaders of ACT Labor and the Canberra Liberals not showing up speaks volumes about their commitment to cycling in the ACT, and Pedal Power CEO John Armstrong has called on the major parties to do better in regards to bike riding.
“Don’t distil cycling input into the transport portfolio,” said Armstrong prior to the forum. “It’s much more than that – there’s recreation and cycling tourism, elite sporting events, kids and education. We need integrated policies that address all of these issues.”
Leading up to the Forum, Pedal Power asked voters to participate in a survey about which issues are most important to the Canberra cycling community.
The top issues included fixing the missing links in the current cycle path infrastructure, creating separated infrastructure for bikes, and a Chief Minister who would willingly demonstrate a commitment to cycling in the ACT.
“Once you have a commitment from the Chief Minister to cycling, a lot of the priorities flow from that: funding for infrastructure, government departments prioritising cycling,” said Pedal Power member Roger Bacon.