ELECTION UPDATE: Get fit, catch the bus - pollies told

A vision for a fitter society based on ‘active transport’ was released today, backed by a group of ‘powerful and significant’ organisations

ELECTION UPDATE: Get fit, catch the bus - pollies told
ELECTION UPDATE: Get fit, catch the bus – pollies told

By David Goeldner | August 12, 2010

Bus commuters are likely to be five times fitter than motorists, a fact leading advocacy groups say support a 9 point plan released today for Federal Government action.

"We’ve got a growing Australia, not only in population but around the girth," says Bus Industry Confederation Executive Director Michael Apps.

He says a study by the Bus Association of Victoria found people surveyed on public transport in Melbourne get their recommended level of physical activity during their travel.

The report ‘An Australian Vision for Active Transport’ says regular public transport users spend, on average, 41 minutes a day walking or cycling as part of their travel.

This, the report says, is five times more physical activity than those who only use private transport – such as their car – at just 8 minutes walking or cycling each day.

"The obesity issue is one component of why the Federal Government needs to get involved with public transport," Apps says.

"For this reason, the Federal Government can no longer say it’s a state issue, they’ve got to put in place a national moving people strategy and policy framework."

Apps says none of the major political parties have been able to articulate a national moving people strategy.

"The Federal Government needs to be doing more than announcing the Parramatta to Epping railway line as a one-off infrastructure project," he says.

"They should consider a national strategic approach to how we move people – walking, cycling and public transport."

Apps says there must be a national policy framework which focuses on the simple things that can be delivered in the short to medium term.

And that could be the re-introduction of programs like TravelSmart, which aimed to encourage ‘active travel’ and had previously received Federal Government funding, says Apps.

The 9 point plan released today also looks at how to maximize the use of existing infrastructure and how to make better use of roads.

Apps says the Active Transport plan is intended as a blueprint for action beyond the 21 August Federal Election.

"From the bus industry perspective we’re not singing alone, we are being joined by some very powerful and significant organisations that are starting to think the same way on public transport.

"We are starting to sing from the same hymn book, and we want the Federal Government to get involved – we hope Mister Abbott and Miss Gillard are listening."

The Active Transport 9-point plan calls for a range of options requiring Federal Government support, which are:

  • Develop an integrated national active transport strategy that embraces policy and planning for the major components: walking, cycling and public transport

  • Develop clear and realistic targets for active transport and physical activity

  • Provide local government authorities with substantial, sustained and targeted funding for active transport

  • Support the development and widespread application of Healthy Spaces and Places
  • planning principles

  • Encourage active domestic tourism by funding major regional projects such as rail trails, cycle routes and hiking tracks.

  • Promote a safe environment for people who choose to walk, cycle or take public transport and review jurisdictional approaches to the legislative protection of vulnerable road users

  • Fund social marketing programs to promote the benefits of walking and cycling for people of all ages

  • Support cycle training and pedestrian education in schools

  • Provide incentives for employers to encourage employees to walk, cycle or take public transport to work

The joint authors of the Active Transport plan are The Australian Local Government Association, Bus Industry Confederation, Cycling Promotion Fund, the National Heart Foundation of Australia and the International Association of Public Transport.

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