Page 1612 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 7 May 2013

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Members, perhaps that is an endorsement all of us might consider now that these bikes will be legal in the ACT.

A recent Dutch survey showed that two-thirds of people using electric bicycles decided to do so because they found standard cycling too difficult. This demonstrates that electric bicycles can have the very important effect of increasing the pool of Canberrans who can use active transport. Instead of using a car, or even a bus, more and more people will be able to use a bicycle, given the extra help they will be given. As most of us are aware, there are significant personal and community benefits to bike riding.

I can say from personal experience that it is great to see new riders, or people who do not usually ride, out in Canberra, sometimes making use of electric bikes. Perhaps they are trying out a commute on Ride2Work Day or perhaps they are trying out the new Civic cycle loop. The single downside of these new bikes is the unique feeling of confusion and embarrassment one feels as a regular cyclist as you are overtaken by a tiny old lady on a bike seemingly defying physics and age as she zips by on a hill at 25 kilometres an hour. Many a cyclist has questioned themselves before gratefully noticing the small engine attached to the faster bicycle.

Replacing driving with cycling is, of course, very good for the environment. Interestingly, though, surveys overseas show that only about 20 per cent of people were interested in electric bikes for environmental reasons. Electric bikes help to mainstream cycling, attracting a wide range of people because of their convenience. Cycling and electric bikes are also likely to become more essential in the future. Fuel is likely to become more expensive, especially as we come to grips with the realities of peak oil.

The population is also growing more environmentally conscious and looking for ways to contribute. Our population is also ageing, creating a wave of people who will be able to take advantage of electric bicycles. I certainly note there is one very active member of the Greens party here in the ACT who has lived at the top of Warragamba Avenue. For those people who know it, it is a rather large hill. Until about the age of 82, he cycled up it regularly. He has now conceded and gone to an electric bicycle, but it has meant that he can keep on the road and still keep himself very active.

The Netherlands, which is widely thought of as the leader in all things bicycle, perhaps provides an interesting glimpse into the future. According to the Bike Europe magazine, in the last year in the Netherlands sales turnover of electric bikes was larger than that of city bike sales, which for decades had been the most important segment of the Dutch market. Electric bicycles accounted for 42 per cent of the revenue made from all bike sales in 2012.

One interesting issue that the government will need to consider with the growth of electric bicycles on Canberra roads and paths is the provision of appropriate infrastructure. The width of paths, for example, is one issue to consider. Currently TAMS designs trunk shared paths at 2.5 metres wide and high-use trunk paths at three metres wide. This is something I will ask TAMS to consider as it reviews its design

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