Transport and Infrastructure Council – update on National Cycling Strategy and National Guidelines for Transport System Management
The latest meeting of State, Territory and Federal Transport Minister’s finished in Melbourne on Thursday, 4th August and the Communique reports a number of important decisions that impact on cycling in Australia.
Following the release of Council’s long term vision in late 2015, a strategic work program will be adopted that ‘will enhance Australia’s productivity, competitiveness and liveability’ to drive ‘economic growth, increase employment opportunities, support social connectivity and enhance quality of life for all Australians.’ LINK
As expected, the funding for the Australian Bicycle Council (ABC) has been extended to the end of 2017, a year beyond the end of the current NCS. TISOC (the heads of Transport departments group) will consider options for a national or state/territory approach to active transport from 2018.
Essentially this means that political leadership for cycling in this country is up in the air following a decision by the federal Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development to cease funding the Strategy and ABC last year.
The ABC members and their heads of Departments will now need to work to develop a consensus model that can be adopted that a) continues the standards and research work of the Australian Bicycle Council under Austroads and more importantly, b) continues to drive participation in cycling in this country and create the conditions to make cycling a convenient, attractive option for all Australians who want to give it a go for their daily trips.
Of concern is that while nationally all Transport Ministers have adopted guiding principles to, amongst other things;
Better utilise existing infrastructure
Lessen the need for high cost new infrastructure
Improve the environmental performance of infrastructure and transport systems, particularly mitigating the adverse environmental effects of transport emissions, and
Continue a focus on transport safety (where the poorest performance is clearly impacting cyclists and pedestrians),
cycling seems to be absent in the thinking of the Council or considered as a transport mode which is enjoying increasing support from Ministers and decision makers around the World as it offers significant benefits in precisely these areas.
This will be a key agenda item at the next meeting of the ABC in Sydney in early September at which the Australian cycling sector is represented by Stephen Hodge.
National Guidelines for Transport System Management (NGTSM)
The Cycling Promotion Fund has collaborated extensively over the entire period of the three year review of the NGTSM, both as a member of the ABC and individually, as the Guidelines play a key role in the ability to consider the economic benefits of cycling infrastructure on an equal footing with the infrastructure for major transport modes like roads and highways.
The review, which has included consideration of active travel (cycling) for the first time, is now complete and the Council has stated that the planning and economic evaluation guidance will be released publicly on its website here.
This should assist the proponents of all cycling projects, whether they are a local or state government, or a local business or advocacy group, to use a framework that will provide the opportunity to build the economic case for consideration alongside any other transport investment, a first for the Australian transport sector.
US Transport Secretary Anthony Foxx gave a key note address on Transport Opportunities to the assembled Ministers at the Council meeting. He discussed public private partnerships and using innovation to increase mobility and efficient use of infrastructure.
One thing Secretary Foxx has been very supportive of in the US is the development of cycling for transport.
In September 2014 he appeared at the largest conference of cycling planners, engineers and advocates to launch an 18-month campaign challenging city leaders to develop safer streets for people walking, cycling and using public transport – the Mayors Challenge, see here and here.
Earlier this year he visited cycling’s poster cities, Amsterdam, Oslo and Copenhagen, with the Mayors of Austin TX, South Bend – Indiana and Portland Oregan to see ‘Smart Cities, with transport, especially cycling, many cities in the US would like to emulate’ (see here).
With leadership like that in the US and a tsunami of separated ‘green lanes’ sweeping American cities thanks to the efforts of our US counterparts, People for Bikes, it is looking good for the future of cycling even in the largest economy in the World.
Without this sort of federal leadership for active travel, Australia risks being left behind the changes being adopted in most OECD nations around the World who are investing in the benefits of bicycles for everyday healthy, local and efficient transport trips.