Active travel faces many barriers. One is our perceptions of a safety, or fear. As a society, we seem to be getting more fearful. Our perceptions of safety are important. Psychology and neuroscience has come a long way to explaining our nature. The availability cascade is a contributing factor in our perception of risk.
Our memory is very short, so we quickly lose perspective of what was, and take the new as the natural order of things, as though it always was, but there is nothing normal about it. This article relates to the environment but it can be applied to our culture and seen in politics.
We have many cognitive biases. Thought experiments can illustrate to us our cognitive preference for the status quo. Status quo bias can be detected many ways. Status quo bias is interesting from a psychological perspective but also political as it explains societies conservative nature.
Active travel means changing culture. You need to address cultural icons of which the strongest are a “rite of passage”. Traditionally in Australia, getting your drivers licence has been one of those rites.
Political philosophy: how can be Government justify taking a stance in the interest of good of the people. The status quo is not ethically the best position. When the government has ample evidence that the status quo is harmful and threatens society in the long term, how can it justify change. Political leadership is just that. The implications are true for cycling too, which requires political leadership to pull the switch.
The Territory Plan is part of the reason why good, fast cycling infrastructure between town centres for commuting cyclists – cycle highways – has not been and is not likely to be built. The ACT planning has been critiqued for hampering innovation. The comment, while likely directed at urban architecture, is still true for urban planning and design. Cycle highways are not possible without inclusion in statutory documents, such as the Territory Plan.
A brief introduction of active travel at a non-technical level. This submission is not about the technical aspects of active travel, which is well documented in the ACT Active Travel Key Documents. Combined with Austroads Standards there is enough there to build a good network. We are not failing because of a lack of standards. Rather the problem lies elsewhere.
This section provides data on the trends, risks, and costs of Canberra car culture, where vulnerable road users have ‘no place on our road’, and the young and the old are particularly at risk. They are disadvantaged not only due to cognitive (or physical) limitations but also due to the lack of options. Some of the best reasons for fixing active travel in Canberra are health, human equity, and safety.
Section 3 is about the ACT and Australia, and three studies. Australia is a low cycling country. International studies provide a benchmark for good practice but it would be beyond the scope of this submission.
The UK is another low cycling country, like Australia. In 2020, it was jolted out of its slumber with COVID-19. Cycling is now being championed and sponsored at a national level. After many decades of slow change things are now agile. The change is illustrated by the way the UK Government now thinks and talks about cycling. When there is decisive change sponsorship, things can happen quickly.