Page 1627 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 12 May 2015

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Not only is it good for our health, environment and wellbeing; it is good for government. Even walking to the shops or bus stop offers benefits to health, social interactions, congestion levels and community wellbeing, all of which are important outcomes for our community. Active travel helps prevent lifestyle-related conditions such as depression, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The consequent gains in health and welfare lessen demand on the public healthcare system and allow people to live more active and healthier lives, which are all positive outcomes from this strategy.

Improvements to walking and cycling infrastructure can widen the catchments of our public transport services and therefore provide more efficient services. They also build demand for public transport and support the case for further investment. Traffic congestion in urban areas, and the consequent economic cost, is a central reason for considering other transport modes. By 2020 traffic congestion is estimated to cost $20 billion across Australia. Shifting to more walking or riding, particularly for short journeys during peak periods, greatly improves the function of transport systems and provides other benefits such as increases in local business activity and social capital. Depending on the location and time of day, walking and cycling can reduce traffic congestion costs by around 21c for every kilometre walked or cycled.

Walking and cycling are low cost and environmentally friendly. They place minimal pressure on natural or economic resources. These activities consume no fossil fuels, take up a minimum of space and impose little impact on other users. The more trips taken by walking and cycling, the more we reduce our environmental footprint. It also reduces the need to invest in energy-intensive infrastructure and helps government meet its environmental goals around emissions reduction, which not only provides local benefits but also helps to contribute to Australia’s efforts to reduce emissions, to the benefit of people everywhere. The ACT’s efforts in this area are particularly important at the moment, given the stance of the federal coalition government on the issue of emissions reductions.

Active travel also delivers on other key government policies which benefit our and future generations. Such policies include transport for Canberra, the ACT planning strategy, the ACT climate change strategy, towards zero growth, and the healthy weight action plan. Good provision for walking and cycling is a feature of the world’s best cities. Canberra’s design, particularly its wide vistas and avenues, is well equipped to provide ample opportunities for walking and cycling.

Government has a major role to play in realising these opportunities and encouraging active travel in our city. By prioritising active travel initiatives, the government can make healthy lifestyle choices easier, enhance social interactions and build further patronage of public transport, leading to wins all round.

MADAM SPEAKER: Before I call Dr Bourke for his supplementary question, let me say that it is possible, Dr Bourke, that your question would have been better directed to Mr Gentleman as the Minister for Planning, because the administrative orders have him, as the Minister for Planning, responsible for active transport—not as the Minister for Roads and Parking. That is why I was confused. Dr Bourke.

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