By Julian Bajkowski
An Australia-wide survey of expenditure by local governments on cycling infrastructure has found that inner-city municipalities are ploughing serious funding into facilities like bike paths, but warned that many suburban councils in Sydney and Melbourne have “irresponsibly low” spending.
According to an annual study of 100 councils by cycling advocacy group Bicycle Network, the City of Melbourne has more than tripled its investment in bike-friendly infrastructure at 303 per cent, pumping-in $50 per head of population.
Comparatively the City of Sydney’s cyclical spending grew by 43 per cent to $89 a head and Brisbane grew by 37 per cent to $27 per head.
“Leading cities around the world have seized upon bike friendliness as a key selling point to attract jobs and visitors while reducing congestion,” Bicycle Network’s chief executive, Craig Richards said.
“As a consequence most capital cities and many inner suburban councils are responding to the shift to bikes for transportation and recreation, and adapting their streets to meet this new reality.”
The survey’s publication has underscored the growing pressure many local governments are feeling to accommodate the surge in popularity of cycling that is now challenging decades-old transport planning models that are largely centred around cars.
Despite being regularly vilified by commercial talkback radio, the mainstream uptake of cycling as a means of commuting shows little sign of abatement as thousands try to avoid increased traffic congestion, rising tolls and overcrowded public transport.
In New South Wales the O’Farrell government is under growing pressure from residents outside the so-called “café latte-belt” of the city’s inner west to reverse its decision to scrap a dedicated cycleway and walking track that had been intended to be built a alongside an extension to Sydney’s light rail.
While the proposed pedestrian and cycle track has been portrayed as expensive boutique inner city infrastructure, the cancellation of the project has prompted to unexpected heartburn from residents from the middle-suburbs, who are often not Labor or Greens voters, for whom regularly cycling to work would have become a reality.
The broad political spectrum of cycling has even created issues for traditionally left-leaning inner-city councils in Sydney including Leichhardt which declined to provide financial statistics to Bicycle Network’s survey.
“A number of councils in the Sydney metropolitan area, including Randwick, Botany Bay, North Sydney and Leichardt, declined to provide data for this survey,” the group said.
Mr Richards has accused councils refusing to invest in bicycle facilities of putting the head in the sand.
“Every year they delay action, the accumulated infrastructure deficit grows, and so ratepayers are left in the lurch,” Mr Richards said.
Hobart, a city that heavily promotes its green credentials has been singled out for attention, with the Bicycle Network putting its funding at “a miserable 99 cents.”