Health policy debate featured heavily in the recent Federal Election, but one area that has a dramatic impact on community wellbeing, yet often goes under the radar, is mobility.
Access to a range of safe, convenient and affordable transport options, as well as better urban planning and enhanced public transport, plays a big part in improving the wellbeing of our communities and reducing the burden on our health system.
Active modes of transport, such as walking and cycling, have a particularly important role in fostering healthier and more physically active communities. When implemented correctly, these can be game-changers for personal mobility. By designing our cities to be inherently cyclist and pedestrian friendly we can offer West Australians a genuine alternative to the car and the daily gridlock. In addition to the many individual advantages, we also do well by the environment through reduced vehicle emissions.
RAC believes all levels of government should prioritise investment in active transport. The business case is clear, it’s desired by the community and it delivers wide-ranging benefits.
In 2015, RAC surveyed over 5,500 cyclists and non-cyclists who told us, overwhelmingly, that infrastructure was the top priority to get more people riding bikes. So we know there is demand.
There is also clear evidence of the high ROI it delivers. A 2012 report by RAC — Economic Cycle: A business case for investment in cycling in Western Australia — found the economic, social, health and environmental benefits of cycling were between 3.4 and 5.4 times the costs.
Last month’s WA State Budget included a substantial investment in new cycling infrastructure – a much welcomed inclusion that signals the importance of active transport within the network. While new investment is critical, we should continue to also prioritise maintenance and upgrades of existing infrastructure.
A comprehensive approach will be key. Planning must look to the future – ensuring a sufficient funding pipeline that is appropriately timed and delivers the full suite of benefits to West Australians.
Only through a strong, coordinated vision for active transport will we be able to combat urban sprawl and ensure our cities are as healthy and liveable as possible.