The Zero-Budget Bike Rally
State Budget allocations are slipping behind what is needed to match growth rates in bike riding. This is very serious for the future of cycling in the state.
In Victoria, the Ballieu Government has decided to cut the funding for the State’s bike infrastructure investment, the VicRoads Bicycle Program, to zero. Some commitments from previous budgets are still trickling through.
The one year shutdown of the bike infrastructure program rips more than $20 million away from bike facilities investment. This amount is totally insignificant in the context of the $41 billion infrastructure budget.
I am at a complete loss as to explain why this has occurred. About 1.1 million Victorians ride a bike in some form or another each week. Victoria’s population is about 5.6 million people so we are talking 20% of the population. Given the majority of people who ride live in Melbourne, which has a population of 4.1 million people, we could be up to 27%.
Melbourne’s population is set to grow from 4.1 million people to 5.4 million people over the next 20 years with Victoria growing from 5.6 million people to 7.3 million over the same period.
Something is certainly amiss here. Transport congestion is already a problem across Melbourne and I think most people would agree that our roads are close to capacity in peak traffic times. Congestion is a major focus of the State Government yet on balance this does not appear to be the case. The reality is that population growth is outstripping road and rail (including trams) capabilities.
The number of people riding bikes could potentially be much higher, if appropriate funding is put in place with a view to increasing rider safety.
I don’t buy into the motorist versus cyclist debate because an us versus them is not the right way forward. Most cyclists also own cars.
What I will say is that when a driver of a car nearly misses a cyclist, it is just that, a near miss. For the cyclist it can be a near death experience. I ride anywhere from 200-400km in a week. My biggest concern when I am riding is not the cars behind me as it is someone opening their car door. If I had to go for the lesser of two evils I will take getting clipped by a car from behind any day of the week as first of all the cars behind can actually see me and secondly momentum will generally dictate that I am propelled forward (hopefully not under the car).
If a door opens and I am rolling at a ‘cruising’ speed of 30km an hour it is like running into a brick wall.
The benefits of appropriate funding also address a lot of other issues that cycling helps ease including health and also a reduction in pollution. Surely the State Government can find a measly $20 million. The benefits must far outweigh any negatives – and I am still waiting to hear what these are!
I take my hat off to Bicycle Network Victoria for really driving the budget cuts. I encourage all cyclists to ‘vote’ with their cleats on Thursday 21 June at the Zero-Budget Bike Rally on Parliament steps from 7:30-8:30am.
Until next time – clip in!
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