Active transport is the way of the future. More and more people are embracing active transport for their daily commute, especially cycling and walking to work, recognising that it combats some of our greatest challenges.
Active transport reduces emissions and mitigates climate change. It promotes exercise and healthy living. It helps connect people and fosters community. Most importantly, it motivates us to abandon our obsession with cars.
One thing is clear: the challenge of building a truly global, functioning city is only possible with greater investment in active transport. It is disappointing that the Baird Government has not stepped up to this challenge. Instead it has often chosen chaos and complexity.
Rather than investing in cycleways and bike lanes, Minister Gay is tearing them up and debating with himself whether to license cyclists.
Rather than working towards an integrated network to make cycling safer, the Minister is investing in multi-million dollar white elephants like the Tibby Cotter walkway.
Rather than promoting healthy, clean transport, the Minister builds expensive, polluting toll roads through our greenest and most beautiful suburbs.
Planning to meet the challenges of the future requires bold and visionary thinking. This Minister clearly is not up to it. Thankfully, however, others have filled the void that the Minister has created.
The Amy Gillette Foundation has done great work with its "A Metre Matters" campaign, calling for laws to ensure motorists leave at least one metre when passing a cyclist.
Local councils have done great work, investing in cycleways and patching together a workable network in the absence of State Government leadership.
Community groups like the Bicycle Network have led the way and shown cycling to be a viable mode of transport. Cyclists have taken to the streets to protest.
The community has looked to this Minister for vision and leadership and has been left wanting. Instead, it has been given just rhetoric, which only widens the divide between cyclists and motorists. It should not be an either/or debate.
The Government's ideological obsession is not helping anyone.
The fact is if you build more roads, you get more cars. Other global cities show us how it can work. Look at Tokyo or Amsterdam where cyclists, pedestrians and cars share roads.
Despite its benefits, cycling is still not safe in Sydney. Four cyclists have died in New South Wales so far this year and eight died last year. Our roads are not built for cyclists. Poor planning has forced them to fend for themselves. Bike paths are often non-existent or do not connect, forcing riders onto the road or onto footpaths. Motorists and cyclists are still learning how to share the road.
Research has shown that the greatest protection for cyclists is more cyclists. We will only achieve a critical mass when we invest in the infrastructure that makes cycling safe, such as the GreenWay Project.
The GreenWay is an urban green corridor winding through the inner west to connect cyclists and walkers from the Cooks River to Iron Cove and beyond. The GreenWay is a bold and visionary project that puts active transport at the front of the agenda. It puts people first.
The GreenWay was to be built alongside the inner west light rail extension—a forward-thinking plan unfortunately deferred by this Government. Faced with the Government's short-sightedness, the GreenWay community fought on and found alternative routes. They have sat down with local councils and done the hard work of consulting with the community. They have the community's support, they have Labor's support, and they have my support.
The challenges of the future require forward thinking, but the Minister for Roads is unfortunately a man of the past. He is committed to keeping Sydneysiders in their cars when more and more of us could be out on our bikes or walking to work.
People want to be healthy, they want to belong to and feel part of a community, they want to lower emissions, and they want to do their bit for a better world. It is our job in this place to make that a safe and more appealing proposition.
It will take real leadership, consultation and listening to what the community wants to achieve that, and it will take considered investment in projects like the GreenWay.
We all know that congestion in Sydney is bad, that there is a clear need for change, and that there is community desire for change.
Now is the time to embrace active transport solutions for the future.