The government white paper sets out strategies to increase walking, cycling and public transport use.

1 August 2013 — Coinciding with the release of the State of Australian Cities 2013 report, the Federal government has released a first-of-a-kind white paper supporting public transport use, walking and cycling.

Walking, Riding and Access to Public Transport: supporting active travel in Australian communities sets out how the Australian Government plans to increase the number of people walking and riding for short trips, and accessing public transport.

“The primary objective of this statement is to articulate the Australian Government’s interests in broadening the range of transport options in our communities by increasing the share of people walking and riding for short trips; and improving their ability to access public transport,” the paper said.

The paper said that in Victoria, 55 per cent of trips were five kilometres or less, however 85 per cent were done in a car. It said shifting a small  proportion of these trips to walking, riding or public transport could:

  • increase capacity and reduce congestion in the overall transport network
  • reduce environmental impacts
  • improve public health and reduced healthcare costs
  • improve community wellbeing and social cohesion

The paper even quantified the benefits of walking or riding in dollar terms. The economic benefit of walking was estimated to be $2.12 per kilometre walked, while the economic benefit of cycling was around $1.43 a kilometre.

“This means that for each person who cycles 20 minutes to work and back our economy benefits by $14.30; and for each person who walks 20 minutes to work and back benefits our economy by $8.48,” the paper said.

Ways the government was going to increase the proportion of cyclers, walkers and public transport users included:

  • Incorporating walking and riding when planning for land use and transport
  • Building appropriate infrastructure for walking and cycling needs
  • Encouraging greater participation in walking, riding and public transport
  • Coordinating across agencies and levels of government

The Healthy Spaces and Places Coalition’s spokesman Dr Robert Grenfell said it was a landmark step by the government, as it was the first ever federal policy on active travel.

“We know that people who engage in more active forms of transport, in the form of public transport, cycling or walking, are much more likely to get the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity a day, which has significant long term health benefits and supports national productivity,” he said.

The Planning Institute of Australia chief executive Kirsty Kelly also welcomed the statement, saying it recognised important initiatives developed by charity groups and other government departments.

“The importance of bipartisan support for these initiatives is essential if we are to have real outcomes. The focus on transport planning and the value of integrated land use are key factors in achieving healthy communities and decent productivity in our cities,” she said.