This article first appeared in The Mercury on Tuesday 16 October 2018.
Ride2Work Day is held in October every year to celebrate and encourage people to ride bicycles to work.
However, if we are serious about getting more people riding to work it needs co-operation in government, business and the community.
Why do we want people to ride to work?
Bicycles take up the least amount of space on our roads. They are an effective transport choice at peak hour. Only walking beats them.
But for bicycles to be a viable transport choice we need a network of cycleways that are separated from traffic so people with a wide range of riding ability and confidence can use them.
That’s where all levels of government come in. Spending on cycling infrastructure is a drop in the ocean compared to road funding.
We need a commitment from state and federal governments to fund the separated bicycle networks that will take people to work, school, university, shops and services. The city deals for Launceston and Hobart would be a good place to start.
It’s not just the quality of the cycleways that will affect our choice, it’s what is waiting for us when we get there.
Many Tasmanians work for small businesses that may not have showers, lockers and secure undercover bicycle parking. It’s a far cry from Melbourne and Sydney where cycling facilities are selling points for big building owners trying to attract business tenants.
The State Government promised during the election it would review planning laws to require developers to include bike parking and facilities in major cities. We have seen no movement on this promise in the Government’s first year agenda.
Some businesses and organisations already provide high-standard bicycle parking and end-of-trip facilities, such as the University of Tasmania’s Medical Sciences Precinct at 17 Liverpool St and the new government building at 4 Salamanca Place.
Local government can also play a role. Riders of expensive electric bicycles and high-end road models want somewhere secure and undercover to park. Launceston and Hobart each provide a bike parking cage in one of their multi-storey car parks, but no other facilities.
There is the opportunity to marry bike parking with showers, lockers and bike maintenance, similar to Brisbane’s King George Square Cycle2City.
Devonport City Council recently opened a new 500-plus multi-storey car park that included a secure area with 43 bike hoops, 40 lockers and three showers. It’s available for tenants but has the capacity to be extended to public access.
Government and businesses can provide financial incentives for people to ride, because getting more employees riding is good for the health budget and business bottom lines.
A five-year UK study found that people who regularly rode to work had much lower risks of developing heart disease and cancer and other studies have shown that regular riders take fewer sick days.
Sweden, Finland, Norway, France, Netherlands and Austria have offered citizens subsidies to buy electric bicycles.
Belgian employers take advantage of the country’s cycle-to-work tax scheme to pay employees about 40c for every kilometre they travel to and from work by bicycle.
Employers can offer salary sacrificing packages that include e-bikes leased or leased to purchase, and can provide electric and standard bike fleets for employees.
Making the choice to ride is one you won’t regret. You’ll be wide awake and alert when you get to work, you’ll be getting the daily exercise you need to stay healthy, you’ll save money by avoiding petrol, parking and bus fare costs and you could cut stress levels.
A Stanford University study found bicycle commuters were 40 per cent less stressed than their driving or public transport using counterparts.
And if you don’t ride and have no intention of riding, why should you support incentives to get people on bikes? Because every bicycle is potentially one less car contributing to traffic congestion on our roads.