30 October 2012 — The Federal Government has released its Walking, Riding and Access to Public Transport draft report.

In its executive summary, the report says it explores how a national approach might help to encourage and support walking and riding as part of the transport system in Australia’s cities and towns.

The report says currently driving remains the dominant mode of travel to work or study for most Australian adults, even for short distances.

It found 14 per cent of the adult population drove less than five kilometres each way to work or study and another 16.5 per cent drive between five and 10 kilometres.

Of commuters travelling less than five kilometres to work or study, 19.3 per cent walk, 3.9 per cent ride, 7.2 per cent use public transport and just under 70 per cent travel by car.

Of those travelling between five and 10 kilometres, 2.0 per cent ride, 14.9 per cent use public transport and nearly 83 per cent drive.

The report also found that public health and the environment would be the winners if more people walked, rode and used public transport.

“A typical cost–benefit analysis for an active transport project shows that public health accounts for most of the economic benefits, even after adjusting for injury costs. The net health benefit, adjusted for injury, for each kilometre walked is 144 cents – about 70 per cent of the total economic benefits of a walking project,” the report said.

“The net health benefit, adjusted for injury, for each kilometre cycled is 75 cents – about half of the total economic benefits of a typical bikeway project.

“The prevalence of overweight and obesity has been steadily increasing over the last 30 years in Australia and is correlated with increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Over a third of Australia’s adults are physically inactive.

“Australia is now one of the most overweight nations in the OECD, with more than 60 per cent of adults and one in four children being overweight or obese. In 2008 obesity was estimated to cost $58.2 billion to the economy due to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, various cancers and osteoarthritis.

“Incorporating exercise into travel has been identified as a highly effective means to increase daily physical activity, which can help individuals maintain health.”

The environment was another winner with transport the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions after electricity generation and other fixed sources.

The report says transport accounts for 88.6 million tonnes of annual carbon dioxide equivalent or about 16 per cent of total emissions, with cars contributing around half of this.

“Motor vehicles are a major source of common air pollutants, including hydrocarbons (HC), volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen. Walking and riding emit significantly less greenhouse gas and air pollutants than motorised forms of transport currently on Australian roads.

“The combined environmental benefits of reducing noise and greenhouse gas emissions, and improving air quality, equates to around 5.9 cents per kilometre walked or cycled.”

The report said all state and territory governments, and many local governments, had policies and programs in place to increase mode share of walking and riding and to improve access to public transport.

“Despite the importance of walking, it is often overlooked as a mode of transport. There is currently no nationally agreed strategy for walking.

“This report explores how Australian governments can work with businesses and the community to increase the mode share of walking, riding and public transport.”

The report says walking and riding are fundamental everyday modes of transport and a vital component of Australia’s transport system.

“Many people walk to local destinations such as their local shops, cafes or services such as the post office or library. Others walk on a daily basis to their place of work or study.

“Most public transport journeys start and end with a walk from the bus stop or train station to the final destination. Bicycle riding, whilst much less prevalent, is also becoming increasingly popular as a form of transport.

Options examined in the report include planning, building and encouragement.

Planning includes working within a clear hierarchy of planning by integrating land use and transport planning; and identifying principal walking and riding routes in state, regional and local plans.

Building involves creating safe environments for pedestrians and bicycle riders by separating pedestrians and riders from vehicles, particularly in high-speed and high-volume traffic; sharing road space, with appropriate speeds, in high-pedestrian environments; and recognising the vulnerability of bicycles as road vehicles.

And people would be encouraged to take part in walking, riding and using public transport through leveraging infrastructure investment by considering programs and incentives along with improving awareness and skills in the broader population.

“The objective of this report is to assess options for improving the capacity of our urban transport systems by increasing the mode share of walking and riding for short trips and b. improving access for people walking or riding to public transport stops,” the report says.

“There are many ways we travel in cities and towns. Different modes of travel suit different purposes but all are part of our urban transport systems.

“Cars are ideal for a wide range of purposes, including travelling long distances, carrying multiple passengers or heavy loads and when other modes of transport are not available.

“Public transport is designed for a range of distances to key destinations, depending on the type of service provided. Most public transport journeys start and end with a walk to and from the bus stop or train station.

“Well-placed walking and bicycle riding networks can extend the catchment of public transport systems. Walking works best for short distances up 20 minutes (two kilometres) and is more likely to occur in locations with convivial streetscapes; good access to public transport; and a wide range of nearby destinations such as shops, schools, workplaces, recreational activities and services like a post office or library. Most Australians walk at some stage in their day.

“Bicycle riding can be suitable for regular trips up to 20 minutes (five kilometres). Whilst longer distances are possible, it is unlikely to appeal to a majority of the population. Many of the qualities that make a place attractive for walking also make it more attractive for riding. Riding is more common in areas with well-connected bicycle pathways that allow people to ride from door to door safely and easily, and where secure facilities for parking are available.”

“The Australian Government recognises that there are many benefits to be gained from increasing participation in walking and riding on a regular basis as well as using public transport.

“As part of a broader system of planning, land use and transportation networks, increased mode share of walking, riding and public transport can contribute towards:

  • increased capacity in the transport network
  • improved public health and reduced healthcare costs
  • improved community wellbeing and social cohesiveness
  • reduced environmental impacts.

“Walking and riding as means of transport can provide many benefits for individuals, families, businesses and local communities. They can improve an individual’s health and wellbeing, increase neighbourhood interaction, reduce household travel costs and relieve local traffic congestion.

“Getting more people regularly walking, riding and catching public transport, and improving accessibility using these modes of transport, is likely to help achieve objectives of multiple policy areas.”

The Green Building Council of Australia executive director of advocacy Robin Mellon said there was a growing body of research which demonstrated the social, environmental, economic and health benefits of encouraging people to engage in alternative forms of transport.

Feedback on the report can be submitted until 31 January 2013.