An article published in The Conversation this week provides a comprehensive assessment of the benefits and costs associated with state governments’ transport policies.
They claim that governments across Australia have been slow in investing in the areas that deliver maximum benefit for least cost. A recent example of this mismatch is the Victorian Government’s decision to stop funding the VicRoads Bicycle Program. Funding for the program (which averaged $15 million a year over the last three years) has effectively been abolished.
A recent scientific review of 16 economic valuations of transport infrastructure or policies reported a median benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of five for walking and cycling projects (that is, you get five dollars in benefits for every dollar spent).
In its place, the government plans to provide further subsidies for motor vehicle travel. In contrast to the favourable BCRs for bicycle infrastructure, many road construction projects struggle to break even. For some projects, the costs outweigh the benefits.
The benefit of cycling over road transport is based on some simple factors – the significantly reduced space required by a bicycle compared to a car, the much lower investment in construction costs for bicycle paths compared to roads, the faster travel time for short urban trips, and the health benefits of cycling.
Car parking facilities are also more costly than bicycle parking, with the real cost of ‘free’ parking borne by all citizens via business or government subsidies, regardless of whether they benefit from free parking.
The Conversation concludes with a call to action that “Investing in improved bicycle infrastructure makes economic, transport, health and environmental sense. It is time to correct our long-standing bias for investing in infrastructure aimed at moving cars. Healthy, productive, sustainable and liveable cities of the future will need to do a better job in meeting communities’ diverse transport needs.”
For anyone who missed it, you might want to watch a video we posted recently called Saga City, which explores the impact that holistic urban planning can have on the built environment. Watch more here.