We’re here at a real moment for active transport: there’s a shared and growing understanding about the importance of giving people options for how they move around our cities and towns.
We know active transport is good for public health.
We know it’s good for the environment, reducing emissions and improving air quality.
We know active transport is good for the economy: congestion is set to cost $15.9 billion in 2031.
And we know active transport is a cheaper for the people who use it, especially with petrol at over $2.00 a litre and tolls going up.
We’re all here because we don’t need convincing on the merits of active transport.
I imagine we also share a view that there’s zero value in the divisive politics that has often characterised discussion around cycling, politics that pit drivers vs cyclists in a culture war.
It’s a good thing that we now have a Minister for Active Transport.
When I was appointed the Shadow Minister for Active Transport back in 2019, I know there were some that didn’t see cycling and walking as an important thing for governments or oppositions to focus on.
But that has shifted. The pandemic hit and it has fundamentally changed the way we work, how and when we travel to work – and most importantly how we think about and use our cities.
It has shifted us to focus on the local, to our neighbourhoods and suburbs, valuing our local businesses, local streets and open spaces.
We flocked to parks and cycleways.
We looked for ways to travel that were inexpensive and safe.
Cycling rates increased by around 20% in 2020-2021 alone.
There is an opportunity right now to harness this shift in the way work and think - and I hope this group can provide a voice and a forum for discussion here in the NSW Parliament.
Naturally, I suspect we will find much common ground and interest in the needs of cyclists and in cycling infrastructure.
We need to build considerably more cycleways to keep up with both other global cities and local demand.
I think we’ll have fruitful conversations around cyclist safety and around the ways we can encourage more women in particular to cycle safely.
I’d encourage us to ensure that we also focus on walking.
Walking is often the poor cousin to cycling, however, we all have a vested interest in making sure we consider ways to improve walkability around our towns and cities and prioritise pedestrian safety.
Let us also consider the ways we can encourage people to walk and ride from the youngest age, making the streets and roads around our schools as safe as possible.
The ten minutes I spend when I can walking my 7 year old to school is always the best ten minutes of my day. His hand in mine we talk to each other and our neighbours while we safely cross the road. And it is habit forming. Whenever I come to pick him up and say the car is parked over there he says, why do you have the car Mummy. Kids that walk or ride to school will look to walk and ride in later life – and we all win from that.
And then there’s the sexy stuff, the advances in technology and surging popularity of personal mobility devices including electric scooters.
They promise to transform the ways we use our cities and I’m excited to see the way they are incorporated into our transport mix,
Finally, it’s important that we think about active transport in our regions. The potential for bike paths, rail trails and proper investment in footpaths to transform both regional economies and amenity in regional towns and centres can’t be underestimated.
These are just some of the issues I hope we can think about and share ideas and perspectives on.