Let us share the transcripts of three gems from Australian commentators in the Step away from the car 2.0 podcast, recorded at the Australia Walking and Cycling Conference. One of our favourites is Getting There Faster by Slowing Down, featuring Paul Tranter, an academic, here in Canberra.
9.1 Getting There Faster by Slowing Down
Enjoying life has much to do with slowing down and smelling the roses. As traffic gets worse in Canberra, riding the bike to work will be faster than taking the car.
Increasingly, we have come to understand that by optimising our cities built for cars we are providing poor quality of life for people living in them. We can do better, as has been demonstrated by some European cities.
“For over a century, we’ve been told that Faster Is Better, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Associate Professor Paul Tranter goes as far to as to contend that over reliance on cars steals our time, money and health. Slowing down whole cities can improve public health, drop infrastructure costs and increase our sense of community.”
Getting There Faster by Slowing Down – feat. Paul Tranter, Step away from the car 2.0, Australia Walking and Cycling Conference, walkingandcycling.com.au, accessed 17 March 2021
Trapped in your car. In this series, we explore different ways to step away from the car. In our fast paced world, we’re constantly hearing messages to slow down. We generally understand that advice to be for individuals. But what if we approach it collectively and look at slowing whole cities down? Associate Professor Paul Tranter, talks about cities that have done just that, and not looked back.
Paul Tranter 0:35
On Paul traitor. I’m from UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy. In 1989, I had to study leave in England, and I met some people who were doing some research on children’s independent mobility in England and in Germany. Children in England had lost their levels of ability dramatically from when they’d done similar research in 1971. But the German children still had very high levels of freedom. So I came back to Australia, the children weren’t doing very well, very low levels of freedom.
Is this to do with city design?
Paul Tranter 1:09
City design is certainly part of it. So if you design cities around high speed transport, then it makes it very hard for parents to let their children walk or cycle.
So how important is it that children keep this sense of active transport and a sense of play?
Paul Tranter 1:25
If you ask children, especially primary school children, how would they like to travel, and majority of them say we’d prefer to walk or cycle and also, it’s really good for their physical development, social connection, playful experiences with their peers, and also with other people in the community. And that’s really important for their mental health as well as the physical health,
You’re part of his push to slow areas of our cities down.
Paul Tranter 1:53
We’ve been told for about 100 years now that faster is better. And that speed will give us all these advantages. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out like that. When we increase speeds in the city, the city changes in response in particular, the city sprawls the shops, and schools and services are now spread further away. If we can start slowing down and slowing down means two things, slowing the speed of motorized traffic, especially in residential streets. The second thing is switching modes or getting more people to walk and soccer and use public transport. We can do that we can improve health in multiple ways we can improve human health, we can improve economic health, and environmental health in human health, if we can reduce the speed of traffic that makes the streets safer, and it also makes them more pleasant. Not only will it reduce road crashes, and reduce the severity of road crashes, but it also makes the streets feel safer and feel more pleasant. That means that more people are likely to walk in cycle, and more people are likely to let their children walk and cycle. If we can get more people walking and cycling, then they have a greater connection with each other. The level of social connection is a really important part of human health. Then there’s economic health. If you can survive in the slow modes of transport, you save a huge amount of money. Some recent research in Melbourne has shown that comparing a slow household that walks in cycles locally and uses public transport to go into the CBD. They’re spending about $25 a week on transport. For a two car household that never uses public transport, they could be spending $300 a week. The other economic benefits for individuals if you walk in soccer more your medical bills will likely be lower as the medical bills for the entire city. If you take a retailer’s and study after study has shown this, that retail is used to think, oh, we need parking right outside our shop. They don’t, they’re much better off with car parking. And with either street cafe or bicycle parking, they’ll do much better for entire cities, in terms of the amount of money that you spend on transport cities that are dominated by the fast modes, cars have to spend a lot more on infrastructure. And you can see that in the percentage of city income spent on transport, which in Australian cities is about 13%. In European cities, it’s about 8%. And interestingly, people spend less time traveling per day than in the high speed cities.
How would you go about doing a transition to a slower city?
Paul Tranter 4:36
It’s a real challenge. We have been told for 100 years that speed is good. So getting around that is going to be incredibly difficult. One suggestion is to use a child friendly cities approach. When people think about the well being of their children. It helps them to think more collectively about what’s good for all children in Australia, and all A lot of particularly English speaking countries, there’s a, there’s a mindset that you have to protect your individual child. This is done in a very individualistic way. So you do it by driving your children to school to sport to ballet to their friends. So parents get caught in this trap. Whereas in other nations, particularly Switzerland, Finland, Germany, even Japan, children are much more likely to be allowed to walk and soccer school by themselves. One, the parents get their lives back. And two, the children get to have playful experiences on the way to and from school. One example I like to use is, Professor Karen Malone is an expert in child friendly cities, she visited Japan, and she was amazed to see groups of kindergarten children just walking to school without an adult. So she asked a Japanese colleague, why they’re now adults looking after the children. And the answer from the Japanese colleague was surprised they didn’t understand the question they said. But there’s heaps of people looking after the children. There’s the other bit of students, there’s a cyclist, there’s the shopkeepers we’re all looking at for children. Whereas in Australia, we haven’t got that collective responsibility for other people’s children. And I think we need to start thinking about how to improve the health of the whole community. Rather than thinking individually, how to get your own child safe, or how to give your own child the best opportunities of success in a consumers world. It sort of works both ways. If you can slow everything down, so that people can get out and walk around and talk to each other, you can develop a sense of local community. There’s an Australian researcher and thinker called David in which and he argues that there are three things you need to do to generate a strong local neighbourhood based community, the first thing you need to do is go for a walk around your neighbourhood. The second thing you need to do is go for a walk around your neighbourhood. And you can probably guess what the third thing is. And what that does is the first time you go for a walk around your neighbourhood, you might meet someone and nod to them. As you do that more and more, you get to know people. And pretty soon you start to get to know people in the local community that you wouldn’t even know existed if you drive through the neighbourhood. And one of the reasons for that is that when you drive the faster you drive, the narrower is your field of vision, your zone of vision, if you’re driving at 25 kilometres an hour, you’re aware of people on the side of the road, once you start driving it, you know, 4050 kilometres an hour, your vision is very much concentrated on the road ahead. But when you’re walking or even cycling, there’s opportunity for some social connection, which is explained earlier is really important.
These cities that you were talking about in Europe, were they full of cars and have managed to change from there.
Paul Tranter 7:44
Most European cities up until the 1970s have followed the trend to increasing speed, more car based transport. A lot of European cities probably starting in about the 1970s decided that this wasn’t working, they started to introduce policies that would restrict the freedom of cars to drive at speed. And one of the most interesting examples comes from Austria, were in the early 1990s, the local government decided that they would introduce a blanket 30 kilometre per hour speed limit across the entire city. People didn’t want to do it. But the city government decided to do it anyway, on the argument that, how would they know whether they want it or not until I’ve experienced it. So they introduced it very carefully with a lot of community consultation. After two years, the majority of people including the majority of Madras, were in support of it. It made the streets more pleasant safer, more people walking in cycling, lowered pollution levels, lowered noise levels, it was accepted. More and more cities in Europe are doing that Introducing 30 kilometres per minutes across huge areas. When you do that 30 kilometre area becomes the norm. And the whole city saves time. Partly because they’re not using cars because cars steal our time our money and health. And very few people are aware that for the average driver you spend more time earning the money to pay for the car than driving the car.
Associate Professor Paul Tranter is a geology at uni New South Wales concerned about the dominance of speed in urban planning and its effect on children’s well being. You’ve been listening to step away from the car recorded at the 2019 Australian walking and cycling conference by Suzanne Reese and Nikki Paige and produced at Radio Adelaide.
9.2 Urban Density is Good for Us All
The way we are building cities is changing because it must. Urban planners encourage medium density – a compromise between urban sprawl and high rise. Medium density housing can make our suburbs more liveable.
Urban sprawl has many costs but in Australian cities it is still the norm, so we tend not to think about the alternatives – or the costs.
“So there are costs, although hidden, from doing what we’re doing now. And what we’re trying to do with our research is make those costs explicit, so people can actually see it’s not cost free. Doing what we’re doing now, in fact, is very costly. And then what we need to do is actually make that visible.”
Living in a place where you can get to your work, support services, entertainment, and shops without a long car drive is good for the health of individuals, communities, and the planet. Professor Billie Giles-Corti is a public health researcher committed to gathering the evidence to drive that change.
Urban Density Is Good for Us All – feat. Billie Giles-Corti, Step away from the car 2.0, Australia Walking and Cycling Conference, walkingandcycling.com.au, accessed 17 March 2021
Are you trapped in your car? In this series, we explore different ways to step away from the car. Since the time of the Roman city planning has always been about public health, but researcher, Professor Billie Giles-Corti says the issues are different now in the 21st century. And the answer is density.
Billie Giles-Corti 0:33
We are designing our cities so that people drive everywhere, and that means they’re physically inactive, they’re more sedentary. So when we have urban sprawl, people are having to travel further to work. And so they’re spending more time sitting, that I have time when they get home, to do things in their neighbourhood. So they’re not even doing recreational activity. So it actually has an impact on physical health, so through their physical activity, but it also has effect on mental health and community health, you know, in terms of people not being socially isolated in interacting with one another. So and of course, it’s got an environmental impact as well. pollution, noise, and climate change are all going to have massive health, public health impacts, stress, respiratory problems, from driving, basically. You know, putting young families out on the fringe of cities where there is no money to because we can’t afford to provide it in a timely way, does not look good for the child development outcomes for those kids. And I think we have responsibility for those of us who live in areas which are more established, I’ve got all that amenity to make sure that those people have actually access to amenities. I do think that we’ve got a climate crisis. And I do feel that we need to reduce the amount of driving there do. I’m a values driven researcher, my value is health, that what we should be doing is designing our cities to make people healthy. And so that’s really what my works about is, how can I help city planners, transport planners, urban designers, landscape architects create the sorts of cities which are healthy and more sustainable. We need integrated planning across all the systems. What happens is, you know, the transport planners do their bit and the land use people do their bid. And we’re starting to change, so we’re starting to see transit oriented developments, oh, how sensible is that, that you have urban design around the train station that makes it walkable so local people can walk locally and locally, and perhaps even better if it had cycle facilities, infrastructure, higher density housing on the train station itself, which means that you’ve got more people living closer to that and but as long as it’s got amenity. Now, I want to really emphasize that when I’m talking about the need for density, in cities, it really isn’t just density, but density sake, it’s I call it delightful density, because it has all the things that make a place liveable amenity shops and services, we need to have the integrated planning, transport, land use and infrastructure with the idea that we create places where people can live locally and not have to travel so far to get to work.
You’ve also talked about biodiversity being part of that delightful density?
Billie Giles-Corti 3:03
Absolutely. I mean, I think one of the biggest challenges we’ve got is the way we’re doing our density at the moment is often a battle axe block, or it’s redeveloping a housing block, and then putting apartments on it. Well, that takes away all the greenery. It’s bad from the point of view of biodiversity, it’s also affecting heat island effects. So it makes a plate the area’s hotter. So we’re losing biodiversity, because of our push to have density, and I’m a big proponent of density, but it needs to be density done well. And I call it delightful density, because it takes into account that we need to be planning and designing with biodiversity in mind, but also the destinations, because if you’re going to start putting density in and still people having to drive, well, that’s kind of what more cars on the road. And it’s going to be counter to what we’re trying to do here to promote health and wellbeing for individuals and the planet.
So that’s where the jobs come in having employment around the places where people live.
Billie Giles-Corti 4:02
Yeah, well, I think in the past, what we’ve done is designed activity centres to be mainly retail centres, and not a true mixed use with different types of commercial housing. In the UK now, at big shopping centres, they are converting them to put housing there so that, the older people who want to downsize can move over to live there, and then that frees up their house for another family to move in that needs a larger house.
I guess it often comes down to money, doesn’t it? does it pay, people trying to make the buck quickly, either as developers or as people with municipal budgets or whatever?
Billie Giles-Corti 4:44
Why, like the question, what’s the cost of not doing something? So the short term gain is that we spend less money, but the long term costs of those decisions on putting more cars on the road, so we have to build more roads, affecting the environment, which is going to have huge impacts on all. And also social costs. So you build areas affordable housing on the fringe of cities with no amenity, which means that people don’t have anything to do. And you can guess what that when kids don’t have anything to do, they get into trouble. There’s lots of costs of not doing something, even though it might cost more in the short term. One of my some of my team members have been doing some really interesting research looking at the health impact of out of suburban low density environment compared with medium density in the middle ring of a city. And what they found is that there’s a huge health impact from building the out of suburban development. In fact, they found with a population of 21,000, there would be a saving of over the life course of $94 million for that population, if they lived in a high density area with more amenity because of the health benefit. So there are costs, although hidden, from doing what we’re doing now. And what we’re trying to do with our research is make those costs explicit, so people can actually see it’s not cost free. Doing what we’re doing now, in fact, is very costly. And then what we need to do is actually make that visible, because otherwise we think it’s more expensive option, I don’t know that it is. So you can achieve a lot of great outcomes with medium density, you don’t need to go high rise. But in importantly, it needs to have amenity because otherwise it’s just high rice sprawl or medium price sprawl. And so you need to have all the amenity that you need for daily living and good public transport. That’s really critical. And there’s people now putting that evidence out there from the development industry, that there is money to be made from building walkable urbanism. In fact, we estimate that there’s a large number of people living in the suburbs would rather be living somewhere else, we’ve got some figures on that. So I think that it would sell well, if people would be prepared to give it a go and build it.
The continuing problem really is that we have politicians who work on a short term cycle the immediate costs rather than the long term costs. And often they’re the people who are driving the policy that frees up the money, aren’t they?
Billie Giles-Corti 7:14
We are saying in policies now let us you know, strategic documents for planning of cities, that we do need to think about sustainability and liability. There is a growing awareness about how we need to do it. But I think where we’ve got a responsibility, as you know, people who are trying to change our cities is to work out well how can we do it in a way that benefits people? And I really would love that to get picked up and made into sort of design guidelines, because I can see why the community gets upset. You see politicians do what the public want. So as members of the community, it’s up to us to be able to advocate for delightful density. Melbourne’s population is going to double by 2050. Do we want to all those people living on the fringe to have no amenity, because we can’t afford to build the hundreds of schools, the hundreds of everything that we need, in one local government area, and Melbourne is 54 babies a week being born. That’s two classrooms of children. That’s childcare, preschool. Its primary schools, high schools, it’s all the recreation opportunities. I think we need to demand that things are done. Well. I think that’s what we should demand. Because it has to be a partnership. We can’t do it by ourselves, but just by putting out you know, save our suburbs, not in this area. It’s a complex thing. But I think putting our hands over our eyes and saying we don’t want this to happen is not the answer. Take responsibility to get a good result and not just make it so politicians won’t act, do act, but do it in a way that we’re satisfied with and bring the industry along with us. The development industry want to sell products, housing estates. And some of the developers want to do a better job, they want to make it better, because I realized that they can also make money out of urbanism, as I call it, replicating some of our old suburbs in the outer suburban areas with good public transport, shops and services nearby. And I think we should be encouraging to do that, because that’s a much more sustainable way of living.
Professor Billie Giles-Corti, public health researcher from RMIT and a principal Research Fellow with the NHNMRC. You’ve been listening to step away from the car recorded at the 2019 Australian walking and cycling conference by Nikki Paige and Suzanne Reese and produce that Radio Adelaide.
9.3 Cycling cities is about not re-inventing the wheel
Cities that have prioritised cycling have never looked back. However, the transformation cannot happen without strong leadership. We need to appoint a Cycling Commissioner to get us moving.
The lack of leadership in Canberra has been an ongoing woe. The UK has demonstrated one approach to fixing this.
“One of the things that Manchester has done is really get the governance right for cycling. It set up a metropolitan governance, so that’s a lot of local government areas are brought together under one Regional Council. The mayor there has really prioritized cycling by appointing a Cycling Commissioner, very high profile person, Chris Boardman, he is really shown some very strong leadership.”
As Australia grapples with questions of how to encourage more walking and cycling, Churchill Fellow Jo Cruickshank looked to cities that have already come up with some answers. Jo is a Senior Policy Officer with the Northern Territory Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics. She speaks here about what she learned from European cities that have wholeheartedly embraced cyclists.
On NOT Re-Inventing the Wheel: What Australia Can Learn from Europe – feat. Jo Cruickshank, Step away from the car 2.0, Australia Walking and Cycling Conference, walkingandcycling.com.au, accessed 17 March 2021
Trapped in your car. In this series, we explore different ways to step away from the car. Churchill fellow Joe Cruickshank, in 2017, exploring overseas cities to see how they cater for cyclists so that Cycling is both safe and enticing.
Joe Cruickshank 0:23
My name is Joe Cruickshank, I’m from the Northern Territory, and I’m here at the conference talking about my Churchill fellowship bindings. Earlier this year, I was very fortunate to receive a Churchill fellowship to investigate cycling and walking in Europe and the UK, I focused on some of the world’s best cycling cities, the Netherlands and Denmark, but also in some places, which are just starting their journey and becoming cycling cities, and some smaller regional centres such as Bordeaux in France, I met with who would ever meet with me, so politicians and journalists and public servants and local government. Also, everywhere I went, I borrowed a bike or I hired a bike and took a picture of what made these cities different. Why were they different from Australian cities? Why did they have such high levels of cycling? Or why were they focusing on cycling? In a lot of places, they found that the most liveable cities were those cities which prioritize cycling and walking. One of my inspirations to the project is an index called the Copenhagenize Index. And they use criteria such as good infrastructure, the levels of cycling the levels of inter trip facilities, the programs are there to support cycling.
We’re certainly looking at cycling not just as a leisure activity.
Joe Cruickshank 1:42
Very much so. My focus was really on cycling to transport, a cycling for short trips, so trips to work or trips to the shops or chips, the supermarket, and where trips are maybe a little bit longer looking at cycling to public transport and combining cycling public transport for a transport trip. I started in Manchester in the north of the UK. It’s a big industrial city. One of the things that Manchester has done is really get the governance right for cycling. It set up a metropolitan governance, so that’s a lot of local government areas are brought together under one Regional Council. The mayor there has really prioritized cycling by appointing a Cycling Commissioner, very high profile person, Chris Boardman, he is really shown some very strong leadership. And so the momentum is really gathered there. Some of the projects that mentors put in place is a major road through the centre of the university district, Oxford road, used to be all types of traffic use the road, but now it’s just buses, taxis cycling and walking. And it’s been enormously successful, high levels of cycling, high levels of walking. And a great feeling of liability along that corridor. Other cities that I visited Bordeaux, in France, is a really interesting case study of what happens where they are restricting vehicle access into the city centre. So they have a mode share of around about 15% cycling for all trips in the city, which is really quite high. It’s got a beautiful medieval city centre, and restricting traffic in that city centre. It has a thriving centre as people cycling, there’s people walking, it’s busy, has a lovely feel to it. But amazingly, it’s very quiet. The lessons of slightly different centres, the Netherlands. A lot of cities and towns across the Netherlands, very high levels of cycling, great integration with public transport. Looking at Denmark, Copenhagen, very high levels of cycling for trips, local trips. In Denmark, in particular, there’s not a lot of amazing infrastructure. It’s about space, providing space on the road for everyone. So there’s vehicles and there’s positions and there’s space for cyclists.
One of the things that I am picking out from this walking and cycling conference, is the fact that the cities that have tried this haven’t really looked back.
Joe Cruickshank 4:00
And definitely that’s something that’s happening. A good example, in Bordeaux, a major bridge into the city centre. In about 2017, there was a proposal for a trial to restrict all vehicles on the bridge into the city centre, I need to have trams, buses, cycling and walking. And at the time, it was a lot of controversy. People thought that this just wouldn’t work. But again, with strong leadership from the mayor, at the time, the project went ahead as a trial. And the results have been phenomenal. The number of people using public transport has increased. The number of people cycling walking is increased. And interestingly, a large percentage of the people now cycling and walking used to drive. Nobody wants to go back to the road having vehicles on it and the businesses are thriving.
Australia is in quite a different position. What things did you pick up that would help us do this transition.
Joe Cruickshank 4:56
We are obviously at the beginning of a long journey. There’s not One action. It’s like a recipe of actions that we need to put in place to get a change. Infrastructure is really important having separated infrastructure for cyclists, so people feel safe or they perceive they are safe, really strong leadership is essential. Also important is some behaviour change programs to support the infrastructure. The cities that I found were really successful, had a very comprehensive approach, not just the infrastructure, but the change programs, which was ongoing, they didn’t stop there still going now. Advocacy: So having the community to show the demand for change was really important. Where efficacy government and community work together, that’s also a real recipe for success.
So when you talk about these behaviour change programs, what are you referring to?
Joe Cruickshank 5:51
Yeah, so that might look like a way to engage with the community to change the travel that they’re doing, because a lot of travel is a habit. So if you drive to work, you your habit is to drive to work, you do that every day. So it’s about people trying to change what they’re doing, and just try something. And there might be a program such as it might focus on a workplace, there might be some incentives, or there might be a challenge between workplaces to try things differently. You might focus on a school, look at how people are traveling to school, and encouraged the school children to have a ride to school day, or there might be incentives for bringing your wheels, whether it’s a scooter or bike or walking. So it’s like setting up a program which has got ongoing engagement broadly across the community, providing bike education skills, something to initiate that stepping out of your car, and trying something a bit different.
Trying something a bit different is quite important, isn’t it?
Joe Cruickshank 6:48
That’s the big challenge. And once you do change your habit and your habit becomes to cycle or to catch public transport or try something a bit different. It actually feels odd to go back to driving.
Did you look at what’s going on in Australia?
Joe Cruickshank 7:01
When I’m not studying with the Churchhill Fellowship, my position is working with the Northern Territory government. And I work in the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics. So I’m aware of what’s happening you certainly in the Northern Territory, but then I’m in touch with my colleagues elsewhere. So certainly know where things are happening in Australia.
Where do you think would be a good place to start with what’s happening here?
Joe Cruickshank 7:22
The infrastructure is something that we can we can work on. Infrastructure does cost money, and so it’s probably something that will take a little bit longer. Talking about behaviour change, there’s some small things that we can do make some changes, educating drivers about being more aware about the cyclists. So in the UK, there’s a program we’re driving instructors who are teaching learner drivers how to drive, taking the driving instructors on a bike education course, and raising awareness with them about what it’s like to be on a bike and feel with vehicles around you. So that then the driving instructors can pass that on to the learner drivers that they’re teaching.
So what’s the most exciting thing that you saw on this trip?
Joe Cruickshank 8:08
Yeah, so many exciting things. You know, in the Netherlands, you see in the city of Utrecht bike parking at the station there for 22,000 bicycles. On my last day in the Netherlands I sent myself a little quest to find the Hoven Ring in a town or city called Eindhoven. So I ended up cycling to the station, I think catching three trains to get to Eindhoven and then pedalled to the hoven ring and it’s basically a floating a bike roundabout, and it sits above a very busy intersection road intersection. That Hoeven Ring literally floats above the intersection, and it’s suspended from a central sort of column, and it’s the connection of four major bike paths. It was snowing at the time, and there was continuous flow of cyclists moving on to the roundabout, around the roundabout and off again, it really is quite a sight to be seen.
Joe Cruickshank is a Churchill fellow and Senior Policy officer with the Northern Territory department of infrastructure planning and logistics. You’ve been listening to step away from the car, recorded at the 2019 Australian walking and cycling conference by Suzanne Reese, and Nikki Paige and produced at Radio Adelaide.
 P. Tranter, ‘Getting There Faster by Slowing Down’.Step Away From the Car 2.0, <http://www.walkingandcycling.com.au/getting-there-faster-by-slowing-down/> [accessed 7 July 2021].
 B. Giles-Corti, ‘Urban Density is Good for Us All’.Step Away From the Car 2.0, <http://www.walkingandcycling.com.au/urban-density-is-good-for-us-all/> [accessed 7 July 2021].
 J. Cruickshank, ‘On NOT Re-inventing the Wheel’.Step Away From the Car 2.0, <http://www.walkingandcycling.com.au/on-not-re-inventing-the-wheel/>.