Support key to making cities more walkable and cyclable

COUNCILS must secure strong political and public support for walking and cycling to ensure the infrastructure they provide is better patronised, University of Queensland researchers say.

In an on-line article published this week, the urban planners and environmental scientists suggest that although many cities have extended their active transport options, most of the facilities remain under-utilised.

Using recently released 2016 Census data, the researchers suggest car-based commuting rates in metropolitan areas frequently plagued by sprawl and segregated land uses have decreased by only 1-2 percent

“Meanwhile, rates of walking and cycling remain constant and low. Even in the most ‘cycling-oriented’ places (Darwin and Canberra), only about 3 percent of commuters cycle,” the authors noted.  

“In theory, Australian cities are ideal for walking and cycling,’’ they said. “They have mild climates, stable and wealthy governments, as well as sporty, outdoorsy and increasingly health-conscious residents. Despite this, the data show that overall active travel (especially cycling) is still marginal.

Sibstantive change was only possible, they said, through a combination of high-quality infrastructure, pricing policies, and education programs.

The researchers suggested three main areas of intervention:

  • Active travel must become normalised as an integral part of transport planning, with footpaths, crosswalks and bicycle lanes being standard elements of street templates and guidelines;
  • Councils must show the benefits of high-quality walking and cycling environments in order to secure the necessary support for building new footpaths, bike paths and pedestrian malls; and
  • More government funding for active transport – independent of political cycles – must be provided, while at the same time allowing more local planning autonomy.