ACT active travel investment: comparison from multiple sources

L Kingston. Photo MomentsForZen, Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If we want to get the job done, how much is really enough? Comparing the active travel pledges from the major parties at the 2020 ACT Election with historic benchmarks.


The chart below shows the 2020 ACT Election pledges compared to benchmarks for active travel. The party with the best offer is the ACT Greens and the worst is ACT Labor, but even the offer from the ACT Greens falls short of Pedal Power ACT’s 2019 budget submission. 😦

2020 ACT Election pledges compared to benchmarks for active travel.


The one single factor which has crippled the ACT cycling agenda is lack of funding. The Canberra Progressives have said that the transport budget should be split evenly between light rail/active travel, and roads. The amounts listed are totalled over four years (not per annum).

Investment (millions)Pledge 2016 Spent by 20202020 pledgeComment
ACT Greens$60$30$80best offer
ACT Labor$30$20too little
Canberra Liberals$5too little
2020 ACT Election: What the parties have pledged. Funding of cycling infrastructure in the ACT.

How big is a million?

Big numbers are tricky because they have very little meaning to us. Is a million big, and compared to what? We do better when we compare the party pledges with historic values and benchmarks. For example, knowing that building a separate bike path in Melbourne costs about a $1 million/km (including bridges and drainage) adds a little perspective.

It is also important to compare like with like. The ACT Budget documents are always for four years, so it makes sense to use this period as it is what we will most likely hear quoted (not the per annum figure).

For clarity, the capital investment in new paths (new) is listed separately to the maintenance works for existing paths (maintenance).

Each source in the left column is detailed in the following sections.

SourceBenchmark (millions)
ACT 2019 budget$32 – new
$18 – maintenance
Pedal Power ACT budget submission$110 – new
$53 – maintenance
20% of the ACT transport budget$217 – new and maintenance
Comparison of investment in active travel in the ACT with other benchmarks.

ACT 2019 Budget

The active travel capital investments in the ACT for the 2019 budget was $32 million over four years (2018-2022). Breaking it down looks like this:

Path maintenance funding over four years (2018-2022) totalled $17.9 million. A further $1.2 million was invested in maps and signage and $2.5 million for work improvements around schools.

Pedal Power ACT budget submission

Pedal Power ACT makes an ACT Budget submission every year. Their recommendations are a good reference.

Pedal Power ACT recommended the ACT Government should invest in active travel and related programs. It recommended:

  • increasing, over four years, maintenance to $53 million
  • capital works of $110 million.

20% of ACT transport budget

The 20% rule is the European benchmark for active travel. The recent plans in the Republic of Ireland is an example of this.

Applying the “20% of transport” rule in the ACT would mean the active travel capital investments would be $216.8 million over four years. In other words, Pedal Power ACT recommendation is about half that.

In the last ACT Budget, $271 million was spent on transport. Using the 20% rule from the Republic of Ireland that would mean the active travel capital investments in the ACT should be $54.2 million per annum. From the last budget, we know the planned active travel capital investments is $8 million per annum. The 20% target would mean a 6 fold increase over the previous ACT Budget.

ACT Budget 2019-2020 YourSay accessed 17-6-2020
ACT Budget 2019-2020 YourSay accessed 17-6-2020

Republic of Ireland

After talking recently about the investment in cycle networks in Paris, it was good news to find the Republic of Ireland has followed.

“A former bike shop owner has secured a substantial financial settlement for active travel in the Republic of Ireland. For the next five years, cycling and walking schemes—including protected cycling networks and expanded sidewalks—will receive €360 million annually.

The settlement was secured by Eamon Ryan, leader of Ireland’s Green Party, a former co-owner of the Belfield Bike Shop in Dublin, and founding chairman of the city’s cycling advocacy campaign.

20% of Ireland’s transport budget will go to walking and cycling while two-thirds of the rest will go to public transit.”

Ireland’s Green Party Leader, A Former Bike Shop Owner, Secures ‘Astonishing’ Boost For Walking And Cycling, Carlton Reid, Forbes, 15 June 2020, accessed 17 June 2020.
Photo by Skitterphoto on

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