Ride to Recovery: world’s best place to cycle

The opportunity

“It is hard to think of an activity with more benefits than cycling, for cyclists and for the wider community.” – Colin Murphy, WA Auditor General, October 2015

Investment in active transport is one of the most jobs-rich, climate-friendly stimulus measures available, and has massive co-benefits to health, air pollution and carbon emissions.

Before COVID-19, around a quarter of Western Australians were already riding a bicycle in a typical week. During the pandemic, Perth witnessed an unprecedented 200-300% increase in bike ridership numbers and local bike retailers are reporting shortages of bicycles and related stock.

There is incredible potential to sustain these high numbers of bike ridership in Perth, and encourage even more potential riders, given:

  • At least half of all our car trips are less than 5km, a distance that could be comfortably covered in 20 minutes.
  • Almost half of Perth’s population live within a half hour bike ride to work. 44.5% of workers travel less than 10km to work or study – a distance that could easily be cycled thirty minutes.
  • Studies have shown 6 out of every 10 people are interested in riding to work but are held back by concerns about safety and lack of infrastructure.

We’ve got this real moment of opportunity, where there’s been an explosion in bike use among people who wanted to keep active during lockdowns, and now as they are starting to return to offices, people want to ride their bikes to work.” – Bicycle Network Australia CEO Craig Richards.

With leadership and a stimulus-sized investment we could roll out world class infrastructure, facilities and integration with public transport that could completely transform our towns and cities, and make bike trips a safe, dignified and fun way to travel.

We’ve seen the type of transformations possible in other cities around the world and even here at home in Fremantle, Subiaco and North Perth. Many countries are using their stimulus response to COVID right now to drive investment into active transport.  It’s time to ‘ride to recovery’ here in WA.

“The UK is investing £2 billion in active travel infrastructure. France and Italy are giving up to €500 a person to buy a bike or learn to ride. New South Wales has created a $15 million fund to pay for pedestrian and cycling projects across the state. Transport professionals everywhere understand that we need to strike while the iron is hot and improve cycling as an experience for everyone to see these trends continue” – Maurice Berger, cycling enthusiast and traffic data expert from MetroCount.

The Proposal

  1. 2000km of dedicated bicycle routes and trails across Western Australian towns and cities over the next five years.  The new paths would integrate ‘recycled road base’ and recycled materials (see separate initiative).
  2. Dedicating the last carriage of every Transperth Train to bikes and bike riders, on all trains, at all times. This is a zero-cost quick win that would support increased ridership overnight and make the most of decreased train patronage right now.
  3. Expand the provision of secure bike parking facilities to every train station and to all major public destinations such as shopping centres, hospitals and schools.
  4. Deliver a Travelsmart or similar demand management programs at key trip generating destinations and across suburbs as new cycle infrastructure is rolled out.

Jobs and Benefits

Every kilometre walked or cycled has an economic benefit by reducing traffic congestion and vehicle operating costs, reducing air, noise and carbon pollution, improving health and mental health, and creating people-friendly towns and cities.

Personal savings of $1900 every year by replacing just one-third of all car trips with a bike.

The WA Government and RAC have reported every dollar invested in bike infrastructure generates $5.40 in economic, strategic and environmental benefits.

This is equivalent to 46.5 jobs per million invested and is the largest economic multiplier across our entire jobs package.

Clean State estimates 5220 jobs including 5000 in bike path infrastructure, 20 in secure bike facilities, and 100 in the bike economy (retail/sales and repair) would be created by this package.

Carbon Savings

Bikes can dramatically reduce both greenhouse gas and air pollution.

Transport is WAs second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 17% of our total emissions. Main Roads WA estimate WA road users emitted 8.7 Mt CO2-e from use of the road network. Studies have shown about one-third of all Perth’s car trips could be replaced by bikes.

What would it cost?

Clean State proposes 5% of the State Transport Budget, or $210 million over five years, be allocated for this package. On-road bike lanes can be delivered for as little as $35,000 per km, with protected bike paths with kerbing costing around $100,00 per km. Fully separated ‘bike freeways’ and off-road cycle paths, such as Perth’s Principle share paths, cost up to $1m-$1.5m per km. 110 kilometres of fully separated bicycle route can be provided for the same cost as one kilometre of freeway.