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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11816


Mr RIPOLL (7:01 PM) —I want to start by thanking Stephen Hodge and the Cycling Promotion Fund for their hard work and the assistance they have provided me for tonight’s motion. Cycling is more than just riding a bike and that is the message I want to leave on people’s minds tonight. Cycling offers an effective way to increase overall physical activity levels in the community. It obviously provides for better public health. It is an alternative to motorised transport. It is an effective method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It reduces congestion. It increases the ability of people to save money by reducing their fuel costs and a range of other things. There is the potential for cycling to actually make a real difference.

Australians young and old love to ride. We have all done it at some point in our lives. Some have forgotten how and others have continued to do it. You never forget how, but some have just forgotten how to get on. Cycling is Australia’s fourth most popular recreational activity; 72 per cent of all children participate in cycling. Cycling amongst girls has jumped 16.1 per cent between 2003 and 2006 and this provides evidence that it really is a popular pastime as well as a sport. Very importantly, areas which have invested significantly into creating more cycle friendly environments, with encouragement and promotion programmes, have seen the largest increases in cycling participation. That is a key point.

Building community infrastructure and improving community amenity has the potential not only to increase cycling but also to create local jobs, and to increase skills and social capital. In particular, I note that investment in cycling and walking is not a cost but an investment in social capital. It enhances community liveability and community safety, and it provides a legacy of health and wellbeing. Overall, it provides for better communities. Connected at integrated streets, cycling provides better services and public spaces that encourage people to walk or to just meet their neighbours. It fosters social interaction and it provides opportunities to reduce crime. It really is more than just about the walking or the cycling itself. I am very proud to say that the Rudd government has invested $40 million in bike paths projects nationally. It is going to build 174 projects which will create almost 2,000 jobs and traineeships, which is very worth while. It is not just the Commonwealth government but also local and state governments that have invested in cycling. For example, I note that local and state governments are investing in 72 projects in New South Wales, 23 in Queensland, 35 in Victoria and so on. There is cross-government investment and it needs to continue.

Cycling not only is about increased mobility but also is a recreational activity. It also increases people’s levels of activity and boosts regional tourism. It can be a really cost-effective way for people to commute and it can change people’s habits of a lifetime. Certainly on the health and physical activity side, it has been acknowledged by everybody that cycling can make a real difference. But people might not understand that a simple 30-minute-a-day trip on a pushbike can actually make an enormous difference and that it can actually halve the chance of people becoming obese or diabetic. It is a cheap way to save on the endless health bills in this country and right around the world.

What are the trends? What are people doing? It certainly makes sense for us to focus our efforts on increasing opportunity. It is all about opportunity. It is all about giving people that opportunity to get out and cycle. In fact, most people participate in non-organised, non-team type sports. That is the largest area. People are quite happy to cycle. In this country, cycling is now bigger overall than the top 10 sports combined.

It is a fact that we are now all living longer. In the national interest and in the interests of social inclusion, an ageing population means that our environments will need to adapt to encourage mobility as we get older. So we should be building appropriate infrastructure to make it easier to walk, to get around and for people to be active in their older years. Certainly there is plenty of evidence of that needing to happen.

I want to make a few comments about the economy and tourism. More bikes are sold each year than cars, with 1.2 million bicycles sold in 2008. The bicycle industry contributes $900 million to the Australian economy. Cycle tourism boosts regional tourism in those areas that need it the most. In places like South Australia, where for 10 years they have had the now well-entrenched Tour Down Under, in which we saw Lance Armstrong this year, we have seen this making a huge contribution. I know that next year’s Tour Down Under will be bigger and better.

I finish where I started by saying that cycling is more than just riding a bike. It is about your health, it is about transport, it is about community and it is about environment. We need governments and the community to invest in all of those things.