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The National Urban Policy needs your help

The Australian government has embarked on the development of a new National Urban Policy, which will guide the future sustainable development of Australia’s cities and suburbs.

Cities are where most Australians live and work, and where most of our economic activity is generated, yet for years we have taken them largely for granted.

New suburbs have multiplied across the horizon as if mass-produced by an industrial 3D printer.

People have been forced further away from jobs, education, and the facilities and attractions that we need for everyday life.

They feel compelled to drive everywhere and, as a consequence, miss out on the daily dose of active travel and physical activity which we know is essential for the physical and mental health of the community.

Making these cities and suburbs bike-friendly is transformational and can be enormously beneficial at both the individual and the social and economic level.

The first draft of the policy is now out, and the good news is that it recognises that active transport must be a core vision in such a strategy, but the bad news is that there is little in terms of policy objectives that will ensure delivery of the outcomes. 

We can fix this, however, because the draft is out for public consultation until 4 July 2024 and people who ride bikes for transport and/or recreation can weigh in here.

Editorial comment

In the view of Bicycle Network, the suggested active transport initiatives are tentative, vague and lack an essential sense of conviction.

For example, the draft suggests as a possible action that federal government collaborates with state and local governments to “reform urban planning and zoning rules to support emissions reduction outcomes, including prioritising mixed-use neighbourhoods that are close to amenities and employment and encouraging lower emissions active travel, such as walking and cycling”.

Wishy-washy, don’t you think?

Why can’t the policy just come out and say that every city should have a network of strategic cycling corridors that connects every residential, educational and employments district across the metropolitan area, including all the railway stations, sports facilities and other major attractions?

The Victorian example is here, but Sydney has done similar planning.

 

Transport integration across the nation –  where all modes are considered together in all transport planning and projects – should surely be a core policy objective. While this involves thinking of all modes in a single system, it ensures that biking and walking are never left out of the picture, as so often happens where transport integration is not practised.

Movement and Place principles should be a core element of any contemporary urban policy initiative. Already used in Victoria, and spread to NSW and beyond, these policies ensure that roads and streets are more than just for moving and parking vehicles, but instead have a crucial role for the social and economic activity generally known as “living”.

These are just some of the concepts that could put some backbone into the Australian Government’s draft national urban policy: there are others, and bike riders will surely have some of their own ideas.

Make sure to let Albo know.