Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 05 Hansard (Wednesday, 5 May 2010) . . Page.. 1827 ..
Dr Mees, we have fallen into the trap of using density as an excuse for doing nothing or doing little. The Greens believe that it is wrong to argue that the Y-plan, or Canberra’s geography or density, means that we cannot revolutionise our transport and match the efforts of other progressive cities around the world.
I want to point out some of the other benefits of increased active transport. As Ms Le Couteur mentioned, cities that embrace active and sustainable transport reap significant and ongoing benefits. Some of these are obvious every day, such as reduced air pollution. Others are more indirect. For example, active transport is a great way to create vibrant public spaces. These are endangered in our modern cities. Neighbourhoods and city centres that have high levels of walking and cycling strengthen the community through increased social interactions. They also improve safety by getting more people on the streets. This is endorsed by people like Cheryl Wright from the Heart Foundation of Australia.
Fostering active transport also addresses inequalities across age, gender and socioeconomic status. Research suggests that it is a more equitable and inclusive form of promoting physical activity than organised sport and exercise programs. When policies focus on private vehicles, they can increase the risk of social exclusion for disadvantaged groups.
Making a city friendly for active transport also makes it child friendly. Children have special mobility and safety needs. Part of Ms Le Couteur’s motion calls for the development of a safe routes to school program targeting one of the easiest areas where we can help children—to walk and ride to school safely. We need to be looking at getting them back on the bike, getting them back walking, getting that culture going. Not so very long ago it was rare for a child to be driven to school. The health benefits for children through the exercise involved in walking or riding in an active transport manner are quite obvious.
Safety is another benefit of active transport. Places that are peopled are safer places, places that have natural surveillance. Where people feel safe, they are more likely to walk and ride. One of the items in Ms Le Couteur’s motion recognises how important it is that people feel it is safe to walk or ride, especially at night. The motion calls for a review of the lighting on pedestrian and cycling paths around Canberra. I am pleased that in this budget the government has started to provide more lighting for cyclepaths and walking paths in Civic and Ginninderra.
Increased active transport also brings considerable economic benefits to a city. Recent research commissioned by the federal Department of Health and Ageing quantified the overall benefits to the community of the current level of cycling. It determined that it was worth over $220 million each year just through reduced congestion, reduced emissions and reduced disease and health problems. Australia’s level of cycling is very low.
Research from around Australia and the world has shown how slower travel creates more business for local shops and cafes. A recent report from the non-profit group Transportation Alternatives aggregated studies of liveable streets performed in other cities around the world that found significant economic and social benefits that could