The Please Tony! campaign was launched this week at the Velo-City Global 2014 conference in Adelaide, by Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards. You can help! (instructions at the bottom).
The good news is that the number of Australians riding bikes is on the rise. The National Participation survey shows that 3.6 million Australians are bike riders. Between 2003 and 2012 an additional 72,200 Australians started riding to work. However, 56% of Australians over 18 years of age are inactive or insufficiently active to improve their health, and that number is increasing. Between 2001 and 2012 an additional 1.8 million Australians became sedentary or only achieved a low level of exercise.
People have been categorised in terms of their attitude to cycling as: the strong and fearless (1%), the enthused and confident (7%), the interested but concerned (59%) and the no way no how (33%). The massive 59% of the population who are interested in riding a bike but are concerned represents an enormous opportunity to solve Australia’s inactivity crisis.
A recent Australian study investigated why people don’t ride a bike for transport, and the main reasons given were:
unsafe road conditions
speed/volume of traffic
don’t feel safe riding; and
lack of bicycle lanes/trails.
All of these concerns can be resolved by investment in separated bicycle infrastructure. And the evidence shows us that when separated bike lanes and paths are introduced, the number of riders increases. It's true: if you build it, they will come!
Governments across Australia know that bike facilities are vital. They’re doing their best and have delivered hundreds of kilometres of separated bike facilities. However, progress has been slow, piecemeal and difficult.
While figures are unclear, it is estimated that in the 2011-2012 financial year Australia’s state and local governments spent a combined total of $220 million on bicycle-related projects. Spending from the federal government has been insignificant in the past decade except for $40 million spent as part of the economic stimulus package. At this rate of investment, Australia will not have a decent network of separated bicycle infrastructure for 40 to 50 years. For many Australians, this will be too late.
Every year inactivity costs Australia $13.8b in healthcare, productivity and mortality costs associated with physical inactivity.
If we overcome the concerns of the 59% of people who are interested in riding, we could save 64% of the cost of physical inactivity, which would be a saving of $8.8b each year. There are also considerable additional savings to be made on the costs associated with congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. So a $7.5b investment on bike infrastructure makes good economic sense.
The federal government recently committed to spending $12.4b on fighter planes and $50b on transport infrastructure projects. In that context, $7.5b on bike infrastructure is a reasonable amount to request.
Construction of bicycle infrastructure is relatively inexpensive compared with other modes of transport. The estimated average cost to plan and build separated bicycle infrastructure is $1 million per kilometer. This accounts for the cost of planning, engineering, all building works and ancillary works. Therefore, $7.5b will add approximately 7500kms of separated bicycle lanes and paths across Australia. This commitment would transform the whole of Australia into the most bike friendly and active country in the world.
Call to action: write to Tony
So we’re writing to Tony, and we’re asking every bike group, bike rider and person interested in riding to also please write to Tony, asking him to please spend $7.5b on separated bike lanes and paths.
Go to Bicycle Network's Please Tony! campaign page to gather a list of arguments to make in your email/letter.
What we need you to do:
- Write a letter to our Prime Minister Tony Abbott either by visiting his website or sending an old fashioned letter to P.O. Box 6022, House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT, 2600.
- Make sure you include the heading: Please, Tony! Spend 7.5b on separated bike lanes and paths.
- Show us and your fellow bike riders that you've written to Mr. Abbott by visiting our "Please, Tony!" campaign page on Change.org and adding your name to the list of people who have sent him a letter.
If you're interested, here's more detail and references for the figures quoted above.