The 2021-22 Federal Budget contains a substantial investment in transport infrastructure projects, without any specific mention of active transport.
It’s clear from last night’s announcement that roads, freight and rail will play a significant and central role in stimulating economic activity and job creation in the coming years.
The total spend comes to more than $10 billion over the next decade, with transport infrastructure projects in every state and territory being supported.
However, it appears that once again the Morrison government has left the responsibility of creating smarter cities with urban environments that encourage physical activity with state and local governments.
While it’s disappointing that the Morrison government failed to proactively prioritise active transport as a cost-effective and efficient part of Australia’s economic recovery, some opportunity still exists for people who ride in the budget.
Frydenberg’s budget speech noted that a further $1 billion is being allocated to road safety upgrades, taking total investment in the Federal Government's Road Safety Program to $3 billion. An additional $5.1 million over the next four years has been allocated to support the work of the Office of Road Safety.
Road crashes cost the national economy more than $30 billion a year, however, that doesn’t account for the suffering of families impacted by road deaths, trauma and injury.
Read Bicycle Network’s recent Bike Rider Fatality Report 2001-2020 which outlines urgent national actions to reduce the road toll for people who ride bikes.
At a local level, an additional $1 billion will be provided for local road infrastructure projects via the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program (LRCI). Funding for these shovel ready projects will be provided on a 'use it or lose it' basis.
The Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program (LRCI) was established last year as a response to COVID-19, providing stimulus funds for councils to build and upgrade local facilities, including bike lanes and trails. It was what enabled some councils to swiftly act on paths and quick-build bike lanes.
An additional $28.2 million is also being provided to extend the Stronger Communities Programme, which provides grants of between $2,500 and $20,000 to community organisations and local governments for small capital projects that deliver social benefits for local communities.
Many councils have existing bike plans, with action plans and four-year budget allocations, and even projects that right now are in the design phase or in some cases out to tender. Similarly, many schools are keen to run Ride2School-type programs and initiatives like Open Streets or Mind.Body.Pedal.
We'll be working closely with councils and schools to ensure that their bike and liveable community projects get access to the federal funding.
As well as the LRCI providing an indirect opportunity to deliver bike projects, there will likely be some bike work done as part of other road projects through positive provisioning.
A missed opportunity to create an active transport future?
As part of Bicycle Network’s federal budget submission, we called on the Federal Government to invest $1.63 billion over the next four years into making it easier for more Australians to ride bikes.
Specifically, $280 million would go towards the construction of active transport, placemaking and cycling tourism infrastructure. This is less than 2 percent of the total infrastructure spend outlined in the current budget.
The rest of the funding would go towards programs to increase bike riding participation (e.g. Ride2School and cycling diversity) and reduce the risks for people who ride (e.g. programs to combat distracted driving and increase safety of heavy vehicles).
We still believe that these key asks are exciting, cost-effective opportunities that will help boost physical and mental health outcomes, create jobs, safeguard businesses, and achieve a better normal.
See our federal budget submission, which will form the basis of our election campaign.
With an election on the horizon, we hope this budget isn’t a missed opportunity to adapt our urban landscapes away from motor vehicles towards healthier transport modes, restore local economies and invite Australians back into community spaces.
This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.