Riding my bike is one of the great joys in my life.
I love it for all sorts of reasons. Riding lowers my carbon footprint, improves my health and creates community. But most of all, I ride because it makes me feel good. There’s joy and freedom in riding, and it’s a rush you just can’t get from a tram, train or car.
That is why Ride2Work Day is one of my favourite days of the year, and why this one day of the year is so important.
By encouraging Australians to ride to work and promote it as a regular habit, it is a celebration of active transport and community.
As our roads become increasingly congested, there’s more anger on the streets. Driving to work on often long and traffic-jammed commutes means that many of us arrive at our destination angry, tired and begrudging.
I never hear anyone say “I had such a relaxing drive in the peak hour rush this morning”. And yet, when I arrive home after my 40-minute 11 km ride, I feel energised and replenished. The time spent commuting is not wasted time, it's been spent exercising and being reinvigorated.
People who ride bikes come home healthier. We come home happier. We save on petrol. And we help rather than damage the environment. That’s a pretty good deal.
Half of the car trips in capital cities are less than 5km, which can easily be traveled by bike.
All we need is smart infrastructure and investment. But the good news is that the number of riders is on the rise.
The Greens have a vision to build on that momentum, making riding easier, more enjoyable and safer.
We want a federal Active Transport Fund worth $1 billion over the next four years to make sure that all levels of government – local, state and federal – are working together to create clean, healthy transport infrastructure.
Bringing active transport to the national level ensures that all states and communities can shift to healthier transport even if they lack local funding or leadership. It also sets clear national standards for a healthy transport mix and how to effectively combat congestion. Rather than building massive new polluting tollways to fit ever more cars, we are seeking cost-effective and sustainable solutions that will benefit everyone.
Increasing the number of people who ride instead of drive will also significantly benefit our economy. For one thing, the infrastructure required is cheaper. Investing in high quality bike paths with bridges as required can be constructed for around $1 million per kilometre, which is a thousand times less than the $1 billion per kilometre for a tollway tunnel. The Active Transport Fund would enable a pipeline of important walking and cycling projects to be built across the country with major health, transport and other economic benefits. It equates to approximately $10 per person per year, and is less than 1% of the $26.3 billion that was spent nationally on roads in 2013-14.
Then there are the clear individual savings by reducing people's fuel costs.
Central to our efforts to encourage active transport is our commitment to improving road safety for cyclists.
Our Bike Blackspot campaign has compiled hundreds of reports from bike riders Australia-wide who have identified danger zones and infrastructure gaps in their neighborhoods through our smartphone app. We are committed to reducing the dangers faced by cyclists on our roads by investing to build and maintain bike paths and lanes, including bike-friendly intersection designs, separating bicycles and motor vehicles (including through supporting the 1 metre matters campaign), improving road surfaces and markings and increased lighting of bike paths at night. If you haven’t got the app yet, I highly recommend going to www.bikeblackspot.org.
We want to see safe access to public transport by bike and walking so that riding and walking to the train, tram, bus or ferry is safe and enjoyable, and expands the healthy and clean transport options, regardless of how far your journey is.
As a senator, I believe in leading by example and I’m proud to say that my staff and I all walk, ride or public transport to get to work. It makes for a happier and healthier team. That’s just how we ride!
So this Wednesday 12 October, I highly recommend registering for Ride2Work Day. Encourage your workmates to ride too. I promise you’ll feel great. And who knows? You might even take it up for good!
Feature image of Greens supporters with Senator Janet Rice at top of page by Julian Meehan.
Thumbnail image of Senator Janet Rice with bicycle in front of Parliament House, Canberra by David Foote.