Audit of Status and Quality of Bicycle Infrastructure Planning in Tasmanian Councils
Holbrook, R, Pharo, EJ and Rooney, M
Occasional Paper, Urban Resilience Research Group
School of Land and Food, University of Tasmania
29 Councils were contacted
"A coordinated approach is very important for bicycles given that riders in the larger urban centres need to access bicycle routes that connect attractors in different municipalities."
Bicycle transport is becoming more important in government policy as a means of efficient transport, particularly as a means of increasing the catchment area for other transit systems. All levels of Australian government have active transport strategies and policies, but the gap between policy and practice is large and the progress on the ground in terms of shifting from our current private car-dominated culture is slow.
In this project, we investigated the status of planning for active transport by bicycle within Tasmania’s 29 councils. Local government was targeted because while state government owns and manages only the high-speed arterial roads, bicycle riders overwhelmingly use the local government owned and managed roads. Specifically, we sought to answer the following three questions:
Which Tasmanian councils have each of three ingredients that make up a good bicycle strategy: an articulated vision around active transport, a plan for putting that vision into practice and funding to enact the plan?
Has the approach to bicycle planning changed in recent years?
What can council employees tell us about the opportunities and challenges with respect to active transport planning?
Questionnaires were presented to each of the 29 councils and an analysis of existing strategies and plans was undertaken to fulfil the objectives of the study. Interviews were conducted with three separate councils (large southern, large northern, small semi-rural). The questions we asked in the initial survey were:
Is there a staff member who does recreational/commuter planning for active travel?
Does the council either have, or plan to have, a bicycle strategy? Is that plan publicly available?
Is there a current works plan to implement the strategy?
Is there a dedicated, recurring budget for bicycle infrastructure?
In total, 23 councils provided answers. Overall, 13 councils (45%) had developed some form of strategy incorporating the use of bicycles in the sense of active transport. Of this 13, only six (20%) had developed a strategy explicitly for bicycles, and only four (14%) had developed their strategy independently of other councils. Fourteen councils (48%) have developed some form of action plan, although the actual form and content of the plan varied from a simple map through to comprehensive planning documents.
Ultimately, five councils (17%) had all of the key ingredients that make up a good bicycle strategy: an articulated vision around active transport, a plan for putting that vision into practice and funding to enact the plan. The largest council by both population density and council staff received a rating of 3.5 because of a lack of detail connecting their strategies with on the ground plans. It is possible that these documents exist but we were unable to access them through public material or through contact with council staff.
Of all the councils contacted only four (14%) indicated that they had a dedicated reoccurring budget for bicycle infrastructure. All of these councils were keen to emphasise that funding was also secured from sources other than the dedicated budget such as capital works programs, open space budgets and grants from both State and Federal Governments.
In recent years, the approach taken by councils when developing bicycle-planning documents seems to have significantly changed from its beginnings in the early 1980’s through to the late 1990’s. Historically these documents would typically encapsulate both a strategy for bicycle use and a detailed plan to implement it. This approach can be contrast with recent bicycle strategies in Tasmania, where as little as 15% of these documents included an action plan as part of the strategy.
Today it is believed that a collaborative planning approach is now the accepted paradigm in planning. This is supported by the statistic revealed in this report that 48% of councils in Tasmania are involved in some form of wider regional bicycle strategy. A coordinated approach is very important for bicycles given that riders in the larger urban centres need to access bicycle routes that connect attractors in different municipalities.
With the Federal Government aiming to double the participation of cycling nationally between 2011 and 2016 (ABC, 2010), the role of local councils in developing locally appropriate, best practice policies to facilitate an increase in cycling is important now more than ever. Ultimately it is the responsibility of both state and local government to plan and manage the transport system, including the provision of cycling infrastructure.