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Bring back the Victorian bike budget rally, 7:30-8:30am, Thursday 21 June, Steps of Victorian Parliament 

Photo by Cory Boardman

The state government of Victoria, my newfound home, have done a dumb thing: they’ve slashed the budget for bike infrastructure to zero. Obviously this is bad news for all us bike nerds. Existing bike paths, lanes and separated bikeways aren’t any good to us if they aren’t maintained. Additionally, tens of thousands of people are becoming bike commuters in Victoria each year and we need to continue improving and expanding bike infrastructure to support those numbers. Bicycle Network Victoria have organised a rally to bring back the bike budget and it’s really important that you come along and show the Baillieu Government that we won’t accept their decision quietly and that bike riders are a significant group of road users that can’t be ignored.

Think this is a good thing that might finally get all of us two-wheeled freaks the hell off the road? Well, I hate to break it to you, but the zero bike budget doesn’t just affect bike riders. Every person on their bike is one less car on the road between you and home in the evening peak-hour grid lock. I know how miserable you all feel, stuck unmoving, bumper to bumper on St Kilda Road; I’ve seen your faces as I’ve ridden past. Reinstating the bike budget could also mean the difference between getting a seat or trying to balance in high heels while being crushed by twenty other poor sods on the tram or train to work in the morning.

What’s more, our city needs bikes. There have been several articles lately, including most recently this one from The Urbanist about why people are driving less and how the world’s major cities have reached ‘peak car’. Melbourne is actively trying to divert car traffic away from the CBD, as the roads simply can’t support so many vehicles moving through such a small space, let along trying to find a park. Our public transport system is struggling too. Our city simply can’t support a growing population unless we actively encourage alternate (and more environmentally friendly) forms of transport. Moreover, as Jan Garrard explained in her article on The Conversation this morning that ‘Cutting cycling funding is economic non-sense’ as investments in bike infrastructure return $5 for every $1 spent, which is significantly higher than investments on car infrastructure, such as the proposed east-west road tunnel across inner Melbourne, which would return $0.7 for every $1.

Reinstating the bike budget is also important for supporting the other benefits of a pedalling population. Bike riding promotes a healthy lifestyle, which relieves pressure from our healthcare system, which saves tax payer dollars. It helps the environment by reducing our nation’s carbon footprint and it saves people the cost of running a car, metro tickets and gym membership and I can’t think of a better form of incidental exercise than bike commuting. It also makes our roads safer. The Netherlands, famous for its bikability has one of the world’s lowest road fatality rates, in fact, they began encouraging people to ride bikes in the 1970s in part to reduce the number of serious road accidents.

Melbourne was recently voted the world’s most liveable city, if we want to keep it this way, we need to maintain and expand the infrastructure that makes it so. If you’re in Victoria on Thursday morning, come to the steps of parliament and demand the Baillieu Government bring back the bike budget.

*Disclaimer: I am a Bicycle Network employee. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.