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Do you spend 10% or more of your disposable income on transport? Living in the country, with pot-holed roads and long-distance travel, or locked into a car finance scheme may find you spending in excess of 20%.

Daily life on Australia’s arterial roads.  Terrible for all roads users but particularly for anyone walking or cycling. (Image: The Fifth Estate)

10% or more of one’s disposable income is the threshold for transport poverty. Rising fuel costs combined with inflation means that driving our cars is becoming increasingly unsustainable. 

As well as being tough on individual consumers, transport poverty describes a wider state of social, economic and environmental inequity. 

Transport accounts for about 64% of global oil consumption, 27% of all energy use, and 23% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Each year, almost 185,000 deaths are directly attributed to vehicular pollution. 

Across the planet, 10 times more people are killed and injured on roads than in wars

That equates to 1.25 million deaths and 50 million injuries every year! These are tough statistics to comprehend but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not just to do with bikes.

Waiting for a break. Governments say they care about walking, wellness and pedestrian safety but focus on bigger, faster roads and intersections for more cars and trucks (Photo, In Daily)

We’ve been conditioned to tolerate the intolerable and we’re all the poorer for it.

Motormonomania is the term for car-centric urban planning at the expense of all other things. Cars started out as spluttering, handy, yet dangerous servants, and after several decades, morphed into beauteous shining gods. The car gods have well and truly broken the scales and require greater devotion and sacrifice - the sacrifice of land in constant and increasing supply. When we question yet another motorway separating suburbs, destroying trees or ploughing into a city, we’re told that more cars need more land. The traffic will flow and all will be well. Though this was disproven in the 1960s, the above three links will take you to advocacy campaigns where Bicycle NSW refuses to engage in this magical thinking. 

How many kids aren’t walking or riding to school because it’s not safe? (Image: Tom Flood)

The most terrible sacrifice to car-centric thinking is children

Most Australian children no longer walk or ride to school. 25% of kids and 67% of adults are now considered overweight or obese through inactivity. This and the fact that children are more likely to die in traffic  than from any other cause, compels a change of direction. We need better streets with connected infrastructure that support active and public transport in all its forms. 

“The era of car-centric design is over and we really need to be providing for transport equity. Do we need to shift the dial?” asks Bicycle NSW CEO, Peter McLean.  “Absolutely! If we had transport equity and better active transport infrastructure then we could drive less and ride more.”

“The good thing to realise is that what we’re asking for is so much cheaper and faster to deliver than major infrastructure projects that lead to more sprawl.”

The money is already there. It just needs to be fairly reallocated. The net benefits of active transport infrastructure range from 5:1 to 13:1 for every dollar spent (depending on population and wider network connections). More motorways, on the other hand, produce more cars and a multibillion dollar deadweight loss.

With better active transport infrastructure, we could walk and ride more and drive less. Choosing to walk, ride or take public transport for the majority of weekly trips will save you $10 000- $20 000 PA. As the nation agonises over ‘the insane cost of frozen chips’, a saving of this magnitude is worth considering. It is also one of the reasons e-bike sales have outstripped cars and why we are calling for e-bike subsidies.

Cycling out of transport poverty and into transport equity

Active and sustainable transport policies already exist. The challenge is convincing legislators and politicians to do their part. In order to get further, faster, Bicycle NSW has joined with the Better Streets coalition. A joined-up approach has a way better chance of achieving our aims for safe bicycle and walking infrastructure way faster than working in isolation. 

#bikeisbest for health, climate, urban liveability and above all – for fun! (Source: Brisbane Kids)

What can you do?

We can all walk and ride more and drive less. That’s a good start.

Join a BUG or form a BUG (What even is a BUG?

Join Bicycle NSW. If you have the coin, donate to the environmental trust which funds our advocacy campaigns for safer infrastructure. Join the Better Streets coalition and get active for better, safer, more beautiful streets for everybody.

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