Australia

Healthy Spaces and Places Coalition welcomes new active transport report

THE Healthy Spaces and Places Coalition last week applauded the release of the Australian Government's 'Walking, Riding and Access to Public Transport' report, which sets out ways to increase the proportion of people walking and riding for short trips, and accessing public transport.

The Coalition, a joint initiative between the Heart Foundation, the Planning Institute of Australia and the Australian Local Government Association, said it was a momentous day to see the government prioritising and responding to active travel modes such as walking, cycling and public transport.

Dr Robert Grenfell, spokesperson for the Coalition and National Cardiovascular Health Director at the Heart Foundation, said the release of the policy was a landmark step by the government as it is the first ever federal policy on active travel and shows the multiple benefits to health, wellbeing, environment, productivity and transport.

"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," Dr Grenfell said.

According to the Coalition, the Walking, Riding and Access to Public Transport report details the high cost car dependency has on health and traffic congestion and how helping to build active, social communities through walking and cycling can benefit Australia.

The report states that increased use of active transport results in:

  • Increased capacity, and reduced congestion, in the overall transport network;
  • Reduced environmental impacts;
  • Improved public health and reduced healthcare costs; and
  • Improved community wellbeing and social cohesion.

According to the report, one in seven adult Australians drives less than five kilometres to work or study and in Victoria, 55 per cent of all trips are five kilometres or less, of which 85 per cent are by car.

While the report states that traffic congestion in urban areas is estimated to cost $20.4 billion by 2020, it finds that the net health benefit (adjusted for injury) for each kilometre walked is 144 cents and 75 cents for each kilometre cycled. In addition, the environmental benefits of reducing noise and greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality are found to equate to around 5.9 cents per kilometre walked or cycled.

Based on four principles, such as including walking and riding when planning for land use and transport and building appropriate infrastructure for walking and cycling needs, the report presents a number of actions to support and encourage walking, riding and access to public transport.

These actions include:

  • The Australian Government's evaluation of proposed transport infrastructure will take appropriate account of the needs and benefits of walking, riding and access to public transport;
  • The Australian Government will work with states and territories to review the National Guidelines for Transport System Management, and supporting documents, to incorporate improved methodology for assessing the costs and benefits of walking, riding and public transport;
  • The Australian Government will work with states and territories to ensure that infrastructure projects funded through Nation Building and other relevant investment programs protect routes for walking, riding and accessing public transport and reflect consideration of all transport modes;
  • The Australian Government will work with states and territories to ensure all pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure funded through Nation Building and other relevant investment programs meets appropriate technical standards and best practice approaches;
  • The Australian Government will partner with states and territories, including through the Australian National Preventive Health Agency, to encourage behaviour change in support of increased walking, riding and use of public transport, as part of healthy lifestyle choices;
  • The Australian Government will work with stakeholders to provide resources that support communities, businesses and local governments to plan for active travel in their local areas;
  • The Australian Government will work with states and territories to consider establishing a new Walking, Riding and Access to Public Transport council, reporting to the COAG Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure;
  • The Australian Government will work with states, territories and other stakeholders to collect relevant data, and undertake research and analysis, to support walking, riding and access to public transport; and
  • The Australian Government will continue to work with states and territories to support the implementation of the National Cycling Strategy.

The report, 'Walking, Riding and Access to Public Transport: Supporting Active Travel in Australian Communities', is available from the Department of Infrastructure and Transport website at <http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/>.

More information about the Healthy Spaces and Places Coalition is available from <http://www.healthyplaces.org.au/>.

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