The Labor-Green government can start making savings next month if it invests appropriately in bicycle facilities such as bike lanes and cycleways when it hands down the 2012-2013 state budget in April.
Decades of inaction in providing for cyclists when building and improving the road network has led to spiraling claims by bicycle riders through MAIB, costing over $80 million since 1990 according to the Menzies Research Centre analysis reported this week (‘$80m bicycle prang payouts’, Mercury, 23/4).
Tasmania has fallen so far behind all other Australian states in providing a low risk and easy to use bicycle networks that the state may be held liable for cyclist crashes and face claims from insurance companies for failure provide equitable amenity for all road users, says peak bicycle rider membership organisation, Bicycle Tasmania.
The equivalent to the RACT for bike riders, Bicycle Tasmania says its members are increasingly concerned that the state budget for new bicycle facilities is now $0 (zero) despite the increasing number of riders. The organisation offers personal accident and third party insurance to members but says this only offers slight peace of mind for most who are forced to share the road with cars and trucks without adequate infrastructure.
Bicycle Tasmania Facilities Development Manager Emma Pharo said ‘the Tasmanian Government needed to acknowledge the 19% of Tasmanians who ride a bike each week and start funding real projects on the principle urban bicycle networks in Launceston, Hobart, Devonport and Burnie’.
‘If the Labur-Green government wants to make savings this budget then it must look no further than to allocate capital to where there will be strong return. Through work done by Transport and Main Roads in Queensland there is now an accepted estimate that every 1000 new bike riders are worth $15 Million over 30 years. Every $1 Million that is spent on cycleways will equate to $20 Million in health savings alone to the community’ she said.
In its submission ‘Creating Healthy Connections’ to the community budget consultation in January, Bicycle Tasmania detailed 428 km of cycleway project opportunities but fears that Tasmania’s bike riding potential will be ignored due to ignorance of senior government officials about the funding required to support greater participation in bike riding.
‘It has been made clear to the State Government that an allocation of $15 Million over the next three years is the minimum investment required to support more Tasmanians riding more often’ said Ms Pharo.
‘‘With bicycle facility projects such as Sandy Bay Rd, nearing a ‘shovel ready’ stage, the State Government must reward local councils for their planning and consultation work by providing an annual allocation towards capital works on the principle bicycle network’.