I wrote the following to a Mr Cameron in 2007 🙂
Today’s Observer p37 has an article “Why the middle classes are getting on their bikes”. May I commend you stealing what the Dutch have done, and using this as a touchstone to see if the Labour Party will steal it from you?
John Major used the image of the spinster cycling to Church. There is something particularly conservative about the bicycle that has not really been made clear. Labour tends to do things without much passion – bureaucratic, boring responses.
The following is an Australian approach that is worth nicking!
Cycling is the most healthy, affordable and ecologically sustainable form of transport available.
It has the potential to significantly improve the quality of our towns and cities and improve the health of the community and environment while also saving individuals and the community money.
Australia Cycling’, the National Cycling Strategy, estimates that each kilometre travelled by bicycle saves the community 60cents. At the moment, this potential remains largely unrealised in Australia with only approximately 2% of trips being made by bicycle.
In contrast, 28% of trips are made by bike in the cool climate of the Netherlands. The Dutch are the only Western nation not to have increased in obesity since World War II and studies have shown that this is primarily due to the large number of trips made by bicycle. The so-called ‘cycling culture’ in the Netherlands is not due to the genetic disposition of the Dutch or the lack of mountains in the Netherlands.
Neither biology nor geography are responsible. Rather, national government policy is. In response to both the oil crisis in the 1970s and falling cycling numbers, over the last thirty years the Dutch government has deliberately invested over $20 billion in cycling infrastructure and promotion.
If we build cycle paths and cycle-lanes and if we make it attractive and accessible for people to cycle, then Australians will do so. The evidence shows that there is latent demand for cycling in Australia.
Given the choice, most people would rather not spend more time in cars, but outside either walking or cycling.
To support the health and bank accounts of the Australian people, the Commonwealth Government needs to do take at least five bold steps.
First, it needs to lead a shift towards sustainable transport and land-use planning. This would mean allocating a greater share of the Commonwealth transport budget to active transport (walking, cycling and public transport). The Commonwealth Government could look towards models such as the Transportation Equity Act for the Twenty-first Century (TEA-21) in the United States and the multi-modal transport appraisal used in the United Kingdom.
Second, the institutional arrangements for transport need to be reviewed. Federal, state and local government responsibilities and financial and taxation measures including the Fringe Benefit Tax concession for company cars, need to be examined to see what changes might support greater use of active transport.
Third, the creation of a National Mobility and Access Strategy and an Office of Active Transport with a reasonable budget would enable the cross-departmental programs to support active transport measures to be identified and undertaken.
Fourth, the national cycling strategy must be adequately resourced and funded.
Fifth, the Commonwealth needs to coordinate and fund a nation-wide program of comprehensive cycling education for children and adults. Campaigns to encourage the use of sustainable transport modes in all local government areas could also be supported. While every child in Australia learns to swim, not every child in Australia learns to ride a bike, an equally important life skill. With more children able to ride, there’ll be less need for parents to spend time and money driving their children to school.
MSc BA (Econ) Dip Soc Studs FCIH
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