Political parties urged to adopt Active Transport Vision

Major political parties have been urged to embrace active transport as part of the policy cure for the challenges of chronic disease, climate change, congestion and pollution.

The call was made on August 12 by a unique partnership of organisations from the health, transport and local government sectors.

The five groups РThe Australian Local Government Association, Bus Industry Confederation, Cycling Promotion Fund, the National Heart Foundation of Australia and the International Association of Public Transport Рhave launched a policy framework, An Australian Vision for Active Transport, which sets out a nine point plan for a national approach to boosting participation in walking, cycling and public transport. Initiatives include support for infrastructure, social marketing campaigns, embedding Healthy Spaces and Places planning principles into practice and enhancing safety for walkers and cyclists.

“Encouraging Australians to use more active forms of transport rather than cars or taxis has a very wide range of benefits, Vice President of the Australian Local Government Association, Mayor Felicity-ann Lewis said.

“Once adopted, our vision for active transport in Australia has potential to impact at least five major areas of government policy:
1. local economy – towns with high levels of public transport use are wealthier, happier and more sustainable
2. climate change and pollution fewer cars reduces greenhouse gases and improves air quality
3. congestion more cycle ways and footpaths reduces cars on the road
4. prevention physical activity reduces chronic disease and social isolation
5. savings for government – by easing the economic burden of chronic disease caused by inactivity.

“At an individual level, Australians will reap the benefits of improved physical and mental health from being more active in the community as well as the cost savings associated with active transport,” Mayor Lewis said.

“The broader community benefits from lower emissions and reduced traffic congestion and there are huge economic benefits associated with the reduced direct and indirect healthcare costs of a more active Australia estimated at more than $1.5 billion a year.”

Dr Lyn Roberts, CEO National, Heart Foundation said, “We need to make these healthier transport choices the easier choices by re-fitting our communities to promote physical activity – not obesity.”

“Physical inactivity is a major health problem in its own right. Disturbingly, about half of Australian adults (54%) are not sufficiently physically active to gain health benefits and this could lead to an estimated 16 000 premature deaths every year, robbing families of their loved ones,” Dr Roberts said.

“Active transport is one of the largest opportunities we have to address the major issues facing society and changing people s travel habits to forms other than the private car can significantly improve Australia s quality of life,” International Association of Public Transport Executive Director, Peter Moore said.

“Public transport can make a major contribution, but it needs expanded capacity and we need incentives for Australians to take public transport through enhanced infrastructure and quality, cost effective, high performance systems,” he said.

“Cycling and walking infrastructure is cheap, provides significant benefits for all communities and is ideal for getting to our local public transport trip” said Cycling Promotion Fund spokesman, Stephen Hodge

“The Bus Industry Confederation supports broad public transport reform,” Executive Director of Bus Industry Confederation, Michael Apps said.

“We are not interested in arguments about which form of transport is “best’ , because each has their role to play. We do know that people who use public transport get five times more physical activity than those who drive, so we need greater synergy of public transport in Australia. By highlighting our mutual resolve to work together, we hope this sheds light on this issue for policy makers across the country,” Mr. Apps said.

It’s in the national interest for the Commonwealth to be involved in the provision of public and active transport to address congestion, climate change, social isolation and inactivity levels. And this initiative provides the clear direction and actions needed for a healthier, happier, cleaner and greener Australia.

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