(6.16pm 23 October 2013, Private Members Statement, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
Climate change, air pollution, traffic congestion, peak oil, obesity and lifestyle-related illnesses are increasing at alarming rates that require an urgent societal response. A vital part of the solution is to transfer to more active forms of transport, particularly walking and cycling. Cycling is experiencing a boom in the inner city, with rates doubling between 2010 and 2012. The number of cyclists and trips taken by bicycle are set to increase further under the State Government's Sydney City Centre Access Strategy, which will complete the missing links in the central business district bicycle network.
Cycling produces no greenhouse gases and no pollution. Bicycles take up less space than cars, with one car parking space able to accommodate at least eight parked bikes. Although bicycles travel at slower speeds, they take up less space so bicycle lanes can move more people than vehicle lanes. Bicycle traffic does not create the noise and emissions that motor vehicles do and therefore does not create negative neighbourhood impacts. A street full of bicycles is preferable to a street full of motor vehicles. Riding a bike is significantly cheaper than driving a car. Petrol, insurance, registration and toll costs are not incurred and bikes are much cheaper than cars. Bicycle NSW estimates that running the least expensive car would still cost a regular commuter $90 a week. Cars are a burden, especially for lower socio-economic and disadvantaged people and the working poor. Peak oil will also increase the costs.
Increasing car use also costs the economy. The 2010 State of Australian Cities report warns that the avoidable cost of congestion in Australian capital cities will rise to $20.4 billion by 2020 in lost productivity, poorer health and worse work-family balance. Traffic congestion is set to cost Sydney $8 billion in lost productivity by 2020. Congestion has social costs because it takes time away from doing other things such as being with friends and family, sleeping or exercising. The frustration of being stuck in traffic is bad for mental health and mood as well as general health as one remains sedentary. Alternatively, cycling adds value. A City of Sydney commissioned economic analysis by AECOM found that investing in bike lanes gives a $4 return on every dollar spent over 30 years compared with a $2 return for motorways.
The health returns are immense. Australia is on the brink of an obesity epidemic. We are one of the fattest developed countries in the world and over the past decade the number of overweight and obese adults has doubled and the childhood obesity rate is also rising. Cycling as a form of transport allows riders exercise while travelling. Cycling to work increases productivity because employees arrive less stressed and more alert. Despite the benefits, Australia has low rates of cycling compared to countries like Denmark and the Netherlands. Billions of dollars continue to be spent on road infrastructure with the 2012-13 State budget allocating $5 billion to build new roads and to maintain existing roads. There is overwhelming evidence that if one builds a network of safe bicycle lanes, more people will cycle as a means of transport.
Use of the City of Sydney's separated cycleways is growing significantly. Over the past 12 months daily trips on the Sydney Harbour Bridge cycleway near Upper Fort Street have increased from 1,795 to 2,248; at the College, Liverpool and Oxford streets intersection from 1,795 to 2,230; on the King and Kent streets intersection from 1,323 to 1,979; and at the Taylor Square, Liverpool and Oxford streets intersection from 1,728 to 1,900. The Government's City Centre Access Strategy reports that morning peak bicycle trips into the central business district have doubled over the past 10 years from 5,000 to 11,000.
The City Centre Access Strategy provides great opportunities to encourage more people to travel to and from the city by bicycle. Completing the missing link, extending light rail, making George Street a public transport, pedestrian and cycling boulevard and introducing pedestrian priority at intersections will significantly improve the way the city centre functions. The strategy has strong business support including from the Sydney Business Chamber, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and the Property Council. However, we need to make sure that surrounding suburbs have bicycle lane networks that link to the central business district. The Inner Sydney Regional Bike Network of 15 councils that surround the city centre would provide a 284 kilometre network by continuing each council's existing bike plans, ensuring those within cycling distance of the city commute by bicycle safely.
I understand the project was listed as an early stage initiative on the national infrastructure priority list for Federal funding, the first bicycle project to be listed. I welcome recognition of the value of cycling infrastructure and request the new Federal Government to fund this essential project. Cycling is an important part of the transport mix and its importance is growing. I congratulate the Government on its recent proposal to expand the bicycle lane network in the central business district and hope to see a fully functioning safe network across the metropolitan area.