To paraphrase a transport expert, a government’s aspirations is not in its words but in its budget, and this is exactly the case for the Victorian Budget 2019/20.
Overview papers spruik a budget that will “fundamentally change the way people get around”, but there is little work being put in to make it easier for every Victorian to ride a bike and not drive a car.
Instead of developing an annual $129 million bike fund (based on the world standard of $20 per person), the Department of Transport has allocated just $45.4 million over at least five years for specific bike and pedestrian projects.
The Andrews Labor government has come good on its St Kilda Road election commitment, with $27.3 million to build long-overdue protected bike lanes, but we won’t be able to ride on them until at least 2023.
As a point of comparison, the Department of Transport will spend $27 million on boat ramps in 2019/20 alone.
Adding to the $45.4 million riding and walking figure are a number of suburban bike projects including:
- Bike path upgrades at Woodland Street, Strathmore
- Bike path upgrades between Heidelberg and Rosanna stations
- Pedestrian infrastructure upgrades at the intersection of Bayview Terrace and Maribyrnong Road
- Pedestrian infrastructure upgrades at the intersection of Hoffmans Road and Rosehill Road
- Installation of lighting along the Upfield Bike Path to improve safety and amenity for users
- Investigation and planning for a Strategic Cycling Corridor between Box Hill and Hawthorn
Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards said that congestion will not be reduced if we keep prioritising cars over bikes.
“It’s great to see money for the long-overdue upgrade to St Kilda Road, but for a transport focused budget it’s still well short of the mark for active transport.”
“The standard for transport budgets is $20 per person per year on bike riding and walking, but this has less than $2 per Victorian per year.”
“If we don’t start proper investment today, our children are destined for the same transport woes as today.”
A $20 per-person, per-year bike fund was the cornerstone of Bicycle Network's Victorian Budget submission and is based on a United Nations recommendation and spending in other countries.
Other bits for bikes
A further look at budget papers shows that there are projects that may affect bikes, additional to the $45.4 million.
New parks and Plenty River Trail
As per another election promise, a ring of new parks will be developed in Melbourne’s growth areas that might include bike paths, the 17-kilometre Plenty River Trail will be built as part of the Plenty Gorge Park masterplan and the Greening the Pipeline project will be extended.
These projects will be managed by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Parks Victoria.
Towards Zero funding
$121 million will be allocated to ‘crackdown on dangerous driving’. This could include developing automated technology that detects or stops impaired and distracted driving, one of biggest causes of crashes.
$4.5 million will be spent over two years to develop a plan for tram and active transport connections between Fishermans Bend and the CBD. There has previously been a smaller amount of money allocated for a bridge over the lower Yarra to Fishermans Bend, so the bridge must be more difficult than first thought.
Gippsland Plains Rail Trail
There is $1 million to upgrade sections of the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail that runs between Traralgon and Strafford, but we don’t know which sections will be improved or how.
New V/Line trains
18 new Vlocity trains will be rolled out on regional railways, including Albury, Geelong and Ballarat lines. However, we don’t know what generation the trains will be and if they will include room for bikes.
Car parks for commuters
There is $150 million over four years for commuter car parking at railway stations. It might be wishful thinking, but we hope that this also includes bike parking and Parkiteer cages at more stations.
Truck driver training
$4 million will be spent over four years to train 800 new truck drivers in Victoria. We hope that with lessons learnt from the Swapping Seats program there will be training about driving in areas with vulnerable road users.
Flemington Primary School drop-off zone
Flemington Primary School is listed as receiving a new pedestrian drop-off zone. We hope that this development also includes something for families and students who ride to school.
Yarra Valley Railway
$3.9 million of three years for the Yarra Valley scenic railway between Healesville and Tarrawarra Estate to boost tourism to the area. If that is the case we hope it also includes, or is not instead of, development of the Yarra Valley Trail which will deliver much better tourism outcomes to the region.