Should Australia have an active transport budget?

Bicycle Network is calling on the Australian Government to commit 5 per cent of the federal transport budget to active travel projects.

We need a clear investment commitment, it’s that simple. At present, the Australian Government only funds active travel as part of larger infrastructure projects. We are recommending more reasonable funding be provided.

But what is ‘reasonable’? The United Nations recommends that 20 per cent of federal transport funding per annum should be allocated to non-motorised transport.

Many countries are responding to the call. Ireland recently announced that it will allocate 20 per cent of its transport budget to active travel projects, almost three times the budget allocation earmarked for other forms of urban transport.

Scotland have also stepped up to the plate, increasing their active travel spend in 2024‑25 to at least £320m, around 10 per cent of Scotland’s total transport budget.

Last year, the UK announced a six-fold increase in allocated funding for walking and bike projects.

In the 2015/16 fiscal year, Australia spent around 1 per cent of road funding
on bike-related projects and infrastructure.

Australia, however, is still at the back of the pack. While it is always tricky to put a dollar value on our federal transport spend, researchers at the University of Queensland found that in the 2015/16 fiscal year most Australian states and territories devoted less than 2 per cent of road funding for bikes.

Part of the issue is likely due to the way government perceives active transport. It is important to recognise that people who ride bikes are legitimate road users, not recreationalists or hobbyists.

Bicycle Network recommends that the federal government allocate 5 per cent of the 2022/23 federal transport budget to active travel projects, followed by increases of 2.5 per cent for subsequent fiscal years. Under the scheme, projects would be prioritised based on feasibility and demand.

International evidence overwhelmingly supports that fact that safe and well-connected bike infrastructure leads to more people riding bikes. The world’s top researchers also recommend that federal governments should match the state and local government’s total annual spend.

You can read more about our budget recommendations in our Federal Pre-Budget 2022/23 Submission.

This is also one of the five key commitments in Bicycle Network's 2022 Federal Election Policy Paper.

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.