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As any bike rider knows, the best way to connect with Country is by walking and cycling on it.  We make around 1.5 billion walking and bike riding trips every year across NSW.  However, far more trips happen in private vehicles and the negative outcomes are very familiar – air pollution, congestion, poor health, inactivity, urban heat islands and inequality. 

70 years of car-centric planning has resulted in our rich history of active transport being lost.  

The new NSW Active Transport Strategy aims to turn this around and double walking and cycling trips in 20 years.

Fabulous space for active transport on the Goods Line in Sydney.

Fabulous space for active transport on the Goods Line in Sydney. There are shade trees, places to sit, interesting buildings and useful destinations in close proximity (Source: Destination NSW)

‘Cities exist where people come together – yet if we all arrive in a two-tonne, 10 sq.m metal box… the very vehicles that bring us together end up keeping us apart’, writes NSW Minister for Active Transport, Rob Stokes. ‘Active transport enables equity in our society. It allows citizens of all abilities the means to be free to choose where they want to go… to live healthier, cheaper, more social and less congested lives.’

The new Active Transport Strategy draws on the Future Transport Strategy, released in September 2022. Bicycle NSW analysed this document here and was delighted to find goals for walking and cycling deeply embedded in every section. 

Bicycle NSW was involved in developing the Active Transport Strategy. We are pleased to see the final document incorporated our advice.

“The strategy outlines a strong direction forward to advance active transport in NSW and Bicycle NSW fully endorses it,” said CEO Peter McLean.

The Active Transport Strategy sets further benchmarks for delivering safe and connected walking and cycling outcomes.  It provides a five-year plan to guide investment and priority actions for active transport across NSW.

Active transport infrastructure will require different approaches across urban, suburban, regional, rural and remote NSW

Active transport infrastructure will require different approaches across urban, suburban, regional, rural and remote NSW (Source: TfNSW)

The focus areas

Bicycle NSW has taken a dive into the 5 focus areas of the NSW Active Transport Strategy to see what is great and what could be a little better!

  • Enable 15-minute neighbourhoods

Create walkable and connected 15-minute neighbourhoods across all six cities and in regional centres across NSW to increase the percentage of short trips made on foot. 

Different approaches will be needed in different contexts. The strategy recognises that in regional and rural NSW, many people rely on a car due to long distances, limited travel choices and lack of infrastructure. However, a 15-minute vision for developing regional town centres will allow residents to park once and then walk to shops, health services, schools and recreation using connected and shady footpaths.  Allowing unboxed bikes to be carried on buses, coaches and trains will enable integration of active transport with day return trips on public transport, reducing the need to drive to complete door-to-door journeys. 

In urban areas, the distances are smaller but walkability will be improved by new tree canopy, reallocation of road space for wider footpaths and cycleways, and pedestrian priority at intersections.

The priority move is to trial over 20 'Neighbourhood Deals' across NSW by 2028 to deliver walkable and bikeable 15-minute neighbourhoods. Based on the NSW Government City Deals programme, Neighbourhood Deals will bring together local community, businesses, and councils to develop and transform places. Neighbourhood Deals will focus on funding local works to improve access to everyday destinations and public transport stops, such as filling in missing cycleway links, removing barriers for walking routes, or improving shading along key active transport corridor.

Bicycle NSW says that this is a good plan but not sufficiently ambitious. 15-minute neighbourhoods are the benchmark for sustainable cities. What’s there to trial? Just roll it out, especially in the regions. We think that the aim to ‘increase the percentage of short trips made on foot’ is a little vague. Transport for NSW should set a target to inform investment and measure progress.

  • Deliver connected and continuous cycling networks

The aim is to increase the number of trips made by bike and construct more that deliver more than 1,000 kilometres of new cycleways and supporting infrastructure across key cities in NSW.

There are two priority moves - partner with councils to deliver more than 100 kilometres of new, connected strategic cycleways by 2028, and investigate reusing non-operational assets to support the visitor economy, through initiatives such as rail trails.

Strategic Cycleway Corridors are currently being mapped out for Greater Sydney and regional networks will follow.  The vision for active transport corridors will be outlined the same way as the strategic road or rail network.  This work will establish long term plans and safeguard connections from competing land uses.

Bicycle NSW is very excited about the Strategic Cycleway Corridors and rail trails but again we suggest ramping up the ambition. Alongside Better Streets, we are asking for 1000 kilometres of connected, safe and direct cycle and micromobility routes per year. The Rail Trail Bill should supercharge the development of many more trails – it is time to get on with it so more regional communities can benefit from tourism and improved health and connectivity. Finally, we would like to Transport for NSW to commit to a numerical target for increasing mode share for cycling.

Creating space for safe cycling within existing road corridors is essential to deliver an integrated cycling network

Creating space for safe cycling within existing road corridors is essential to deliver an integrated cycling network that will encourage more people to take to two wheels (Source: Wollongong Council)

  • Provide safer and better precincts and main streets

Improved roads, streets and precincts will encourage walking and bike riding by people of all ages and abilities.  It is hoped that redesigned streets will contribute to halving fatalities and reducing serious injuries by 30% for pedestrians and cyclists. 

There are two more priority moves - deliver 50 kilometres of successful place outcomes in and around main street sections of State Roads in urban, regional and rural settings by 2028, and pilot Safer Cities Program across NSW to improve perceptions of safety for women and girls when walking and riding in public spaces by 2024. 

The key ingredient is the fair and equitable reallocation of road space to create wider footpaths, cycleways, new landscaping and intersections that prioritise walking and bike riding. As Minister for Active Transport Rob Stokes explains, the strategy sets out the vision “for a future where our road space and transport networks are truly centred around active transport as the mode of choice.”  

Bicycle NSW fully aligns with the ambition to improve main streets and precincts. We advocate for better road space allocation is every submission we write!  However, the strategy lacks any clear messaging about another Bicycle NSW and Better Streets campaign pillar – to reduce speed limits to 30 km/h for all local streets and town centres.  In combination with traffic filtering and dense tree canopy, lower vehicle speed will encourage more people to walk and ride. 

  • Promote walking and riding and encourage behaviour change

Public education and road safety campaigns aim to double the number of children walking or riding to school in all six cities and major centres across NSW. 

The two priority moves are to trial an Active Travel to School program in more than 50 schools by 2028, and pilot behaviour change interventions, including campaigns that encourage sustainable mode shift, by 2028.

‘Transport Yourself’ travel behaviour program and Green Travel Plans will help make walking and cycling the first choice for short trips and develop life-long sustainable travel habits.

“I was particularly pleased to see a strong focus on behaviour change under Section 5.4 of the strategy and Bicycle NSW is in discussion with the NSW Government to assist in delivering some of these school education programs,” says CEO Peter McLean.  However, the pace needs to be picked up. Enough with the endless trials. We know what works. The huge social health burden of non-communicable diseases is clear. It’s time to roll this program out to all schools. 

  • Support our partners and accelerate change

Transport for NSW will work with other agencies to accelerate delivery of active transport projects by cutting red tape, providing resources and clarifying how to measure success. 

Three priority moves will coordinate funding across government, update legislation, guidelines and processes, develop staff skills, and use open data advanced technology to capture walking and riding data and movement patterns, all by 2028.

Accelerating change is essential as is ongoing data capture to measure outcomes including health and ROI. However, it is unclear why 2028 has been set as the target – there is no time to waste!  Bicycle NSW supports the strategies for funding active transport.  It is definitely important for the Commonwealth Government to include the Strategic Cycleway Corridors on Infrastructure Australia’s national Priority List. Walking and cycling infrastructure has significant social, economic and health benefits and should be supported by all three levels of government.

Please join Bicycle NSW today to help us advocate for better, safer streets where you live!

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