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Bill: Walking and Cycling Commissioner

26 May 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The purpose of this bill is to establish a walking and cycling commissioner to encourage walking and cycling as modes of travel; promote the health, environmental, social and economic benefits; and prepare and promote strategies to make walking and cycling inclusive for everybody in South Australia.

At a time when places around the world are rapidly investing in cycling infrastructure and incentivising that infrastructure and active transport, South Australia is lagging behind. In London and Manchester, where walking and cycling commissioners have been appointed, there are plans to transition from passive to active transport and create sustainable cities of the future. Indeed, London has had a Walking and Cycling Commissioner in place since 2016. Bold targets, such as 80 per cent of all trips into London to be walking, cycling or public transport by 2041, are being set and, similarly, in Greater Manchester there is a goal of 50 per cent by 2040.

Last July, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson—and I am not usually a fan of his, but he has done some good things when it comes to cycling—committed £2 billion for a walking and cycling revolution to deliver thousands of miles of new protected bike lanes, cycle training for children and adults in the first ever zero emission transport city.

Scotland is also taking the opportunity, coming off the back of COVID-19 lockdowns, to restructure their transport system to prioritise health, the community and the environment. Their Active Nation Commissioner has stated that the restructure is not anti-car or anti-economy but rather it is pro-people. That is the thing I think we need to remember when it comes to transport policy in our own state, this is about being pro-people, protecting our environment and advancing community health and wellbeing.

In Austin, Texas, Adelaide's sister city, we have seen more affordable, accessible and safe transport choices due to the fact that 14 per cent of constituents' annual income was spent on travel costs. Adelaide is not far off this number, at a staggering 13.7 per cent. Resulting action in Texas, including investment in bikeways, has seen families downgraded from two to one-car households, saving thousands of dollars and therefore increasing their spending capacity. That is money that can be spent on our local shops, our retail sectors and other struggling industries.

Why is this needed in South Australia? Adelaide is no longer the 20-minute city, with commuters spending up to 60 per cent of their morning commute in congested traffic. We also have more car parks per capita than any other capital city. Adelaide is in danger of becoming a city in a car park rather than a city in a park. It seems ludicrous that South Australia spends the least in the country on cycling infrastructure—0.6 per cent of road spending—spending just $4 million in 2015-16 on cycling infrastructure, meanwhile spending $569 million on roads, so $4 million on cycling compared with $569 million on roads.

More money on roads and more money on parking is not the solution. We need a rethink and we need to rethink the way that travel occurs in our state and my hope is that the establishment of a walking and cycling commissioner would be a good first step. We have already seen the city council fail to implement the east-west bikeway, despite years of discussion and despite the commitment of state government funding. This has failed the 2,000 cyclists who enter the east and west sides of the city each work day and the 60 per cent of the population who would ride and cycle more if separating cycling infrastructure was delivered. They need this infrastructure for their safety.

Not only would this improve the health of our communities by encouraging physical exercise, it would also free up parks in the city as commuters turn to cycling instead of cars. It is time for us to have a strong independent advocate who can make the case for government investment and policy change to encourage active transport. At this time of climate emergency, at this time of climate crisis, it is vitally important that we promote active transport, and the establishment of an active, dedicated commissioner could be the reset on transport policy that our state so desperately needs.