Political leadership is lacking

With political leadership we can move forward. In some countries this has been a mayor who cycles. We need an Active Travel Commissioner to create the necessary momentum. Currently, that is not likely here in Canberra, but we can look to the budget, that is only weeks way, for good news.

As Canberra’s population will get bigger, space will be of a premium, which means we need to reallocate the space and the subsidisation from one mode of transport to another. Slow transport – walking, cycling and public transport – is quicker than fast transport – the private car. The car is a failed business model for modern cities. Cars beget congestion.

We need to think ahead. The city is built and renewed one section at a time. Decades can pass before an area is improved. Woden is being renewed now after 50 years. In the Netherlands, the decision to support cycling was made in the 1970s. Today, after 50 years, the task of making infrastructure cycling friendly is still ongoing. Making cities liveable is an intergenerational duty and endeavour.

Cycling is about social change. We must encourage our children to walk and ride to school. We give our children this freedom when we choose local schools. Bringing things closer together not only liberates children but also us parents. We then consider other ways of getting around and finding services – such as our local shops.

Cities are for people. Urban planning understands that we build relationships through daily interactions we have with people that we meet incidentally, while going about our normal business. Good urban planning is about designing our cities so that we mingle in our daily lives. Our current transport model focuses on the destination, where the community is a product of the journey.

In the ACT, Health is the largest single budgetary expense (50% of the budget). The road safety vision of ZERO deaths is now superseded by the concept of “beyond zero.” The lack of physical activity in our lives is killing us. It is the product of the cities we have built and lives style we have adapted. We now see physical activity as sport and something “extra” you do. At the same time, all of us know that walking to the bus, riding to work, and taking the steps rather than the lift, bring real health benefits.

The answer lies at our feet. It has all been done before…

Many European cities have succeeded where the UK, USA and Australia have not. The latter low cycling countries, where only about 1% cycle, need to look to Europe – not each other – to see how it is done. 40% of Europeans ride their bike on a regular basis. We do not need to reinvent the wheel but rather copy best practice. Looking at Denmark and the Netherlands would be a good start.

Enjoy your cycling. 🙂

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