The NSW budget was announced for the next financial year this week and, as we've been asking all year: any money for bikes?
When it comes to bikes and budget allocations, it can often feel like looking under rocks. We often find ourselves trudging through the plethora of pages in state budget papers to extract all the bike bits.
And this is no different for the NSW budget of the next fiscal year. Active transport funding is never the easiest thing to find. But amongst the 1100+ pages of budget papers we were able to scrape the following kernels of truth.
Firstly, transport as a whole is seeing big funding. The Transport capital program includes $76.7 billion in investments over the next four years towards 2025-26.
But, more importantly, what about bikes? Let's start with the key allocations...
- Sydney Harbour Bridge Northern Cycle Ramp - the NSW Government has earmarked $16.2 million for the Sydney Harbour Bridge Ramp, which will commence in 22/23.
- Sutherland to Cronulla Active Transport Link (SCATL) - there is $2 million put aside for delivery of the Sutherland Cronulla Active Travel Link (SCATL), which will offer a safe thoroughfare for active travellers.
- $20.3 million (2022-23) in other active transport projects - This does not include the Sydney Harbour Bridge Ramp or the Sutherland Cronulla Active Travel Link (SCATL).
Some bike spending will fall under larger road projects, although their specific budget allocation is unclear...
- Shared pathways as part of the M6 Extension Stage 1 (total project cost in 22/23: $804 million)
- The Great Western Highway upgrade between Katoomba and Lithgow, which may include shared pathways but it is not stated explicitly (total project cost: $163.2 million)
- The Pacific Highway Wyong Town Centre upgrade will include improved bike and walking facilities (total project cost in 22/23: $420 million)
- Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2 will include a bridge connection across the Parramatta River between Wentworth Point to Melrose Park with active transport facilities (total project cost in 22/23: $602.4 million)
- The Batemans Bay Bridge Replacement will improve connections for riders (total project cost in 22/23: $207.4 million)
There is also an appreciable amount on spending on mountain bikes, particularly in regional NSW...
- $300,000 to establish a mountain bike park at Glenworth Valley
- $4.5 million to develop the Eden Mountain Bike Hub
- A new Illawarra Mountain Biking Network, part of an $80.4 million bundled fund
And then there were a couple improvements and enhancements earmarked for funding...
- $750,000 to upgrade parts of the Ballina Coastal Recreational Walk
- $11.8 million for repairs and upgrades to John Whitton (Meadowbank) Bridge
What do we think ?
While there is good pockets of spending here and there, overall it is still not an exemplary year for bike budgeting. It is certainly great to see million dollar investments being made to improve bike riding, but we have to remember the total transport investments for the state are upwards of $76 billion over the next four years. Taking the main active transport budget allocations for this fiscal year ($38.5 million total), this is a pitiful 0.2 per cent of the total per annum transport spend. If we are serious about decarbonising transport and kickstarting an actively travelling state, this is not the best way to go about it.
Of course, we do not intend to single out New South Wales here. Most states have a track record for underspending on active travel. But as the transport paradigm shifts towards sustainable forms of travel; as the bike, e-bike, and micromobility markets continue to grow; and as we continue to see a massive 'near-market' of people ready to ride but concerned about safety; we need to meet demand with supply.
This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.