Salvaging Positives as Budget Ignores Active Transport

Canberra, ACT

Peak cycling groups have salvaged some positives from last week’s Federal Budget, which they say generally falls short on key issues.

We Ride Australia, Bicycle NSW and Bicycle Queensland expressed disappointment at the Federal Government’s lack of any direct financial support of active transport through the Budget, including infrastructure and incentives for Australians to buy e-bikes.

We Ride says the Budget’s absence of expenditure reinforced “the shortcomings of the National Electric Vehicle Strategy” released last month.

However, all three organisations welcome some Budget announcements they say open the door for potential breakthroughs for active transport and road safety.

We Ride says the re-establishment of a National Urban Policy, creation of a new Cities and Suburbs Unit, and funding for road safety present the sector with “a number of opportunities moving forward, opportunities that our relationships and partnerships built over a number of years will be critical to realise positive outcomes”.

The national advocacy organisation celebrated the return of the National Urban Policy and its charter, which include equitable access to jobs, homes and services, as well as climate impacts and decarbonisation.

“We Ride Australia was a member of the previous Urban Policy Forum, under the then Minister for Transport, the Hon. Anthony Albanese MP, and we will be putting forward our position to ensure active travel is included in discussions to achieve key outcomes for sustainable cities,” We Ride executive officer Peter Bourke said.

He also welcomed a number of announced initiatives under the policy, including the creation of the Cities and Suburbs Unit (CSU), whose responsibilities will include producing State of Cities reports.

Peter said the most recent State of Cities report was delivered for 2014, and the lack of measurement since that time has impeded efforts to push for key changes.

He also pointed to the Thriving Suburbs and Urban Precincts and Partnerships being delivered through the policy.

Thriving Suburbs will offer $200 million in grants over two years from 2024-25 to address shortfalls in priority community infrastructure in urban and suburban communities.

The $150 million urban Precincts and Partnerships Program will support investment in urban Australia based on the principles of unifying urban places, growing economies and serving communities.

We Ride also highlighted the Budget’s funding for road safety:

  • Maintaining the $110 million-per-year Black Spot Program in collaboration with State, Territory and local governments
  • $43.6 million for the new National Road Safety Action Grants Program (NRSAGP) over four years from 2022-23, providing non-infrastructure grants to help implement the National Road Safety Action Plan 2023–25 with a focus on First Nations road safety, vulnerable road users, community education and awareness, technology, innovation, research and data
  • $976.7 million through the Road Safety Program in 2023–24 and 2024–25

“With the support of our members, WeRide will work with our State and local counterparts to lobby State and local governments to utilise these funding programs for active travel outcomes,” Peter said.

Bicycle NSW Response

Bicycle NSW CEO Peter McLean said the group looks forward to supporting the Thriving Suburbs and Urban Precincts and Partnership program, as well as road safety initiatives, but “we believe there are missed opportunities and low-hanging fruit which hasn’t been initiated or addressed”.

“The Federal Government’s Budget addresses some positive social and environmental priorities but it fails to support invest directly in active transport, which helps us along the path to net zero emissions, is a cost-of-living buster, improves social equity and is a proven disease prevention tool,” he said.

“Getting Australians moving more and reducing their addiction to the millions of 2km-or-less vehicle movements each and every day is money well spent and will achieve multiple outcomes which the Government has promised.

“Bicycle NSW does of course applaud the Federal Government investment in renewable energy, as well as the health and aged care reforms which will benefit millions of Australians.

“It is notable that these focuses are on treatment but longer-term investment in active transport will prevent some diseases from occurring, CO2 from being produced and people being able to transport themselves cheaply and effectively.

“But you can’t cut a ribbon on prevention.”

Bicycle Queensland

Similarly, a statement from Bicycle Queensland said it was “still disappointed that there isn’t any incentive for the uptake of e-bikes”.

“Bicycles are the original (and best) zero-emission vehicles, and supporting the rapid adoption of e-bikes will do more to solve congestion and the rising costs of transport than giving subsidies to expensive e-vehicle manufacturers.

The Queensland group said it is “good to see the Federal Government is going to broaden their approach to road safety” and not just build highways and fix blackspots.

“Bicycle Queensland’s view is that up until now there has been limited evidence of Federal Government action in making our transport systems safe and accessible for all, with the funding burden left with State and local governments,” it said.

“It is great news that First Nations and vulnerable road users are a focus of the Federal Government’s road safety funding.”

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