Australian cities are far from being meccas for walking and cycling

Australian city planners are seeking ways to make cities better for walking and cycling.

Walkability and cyclability are attractive and “green” urban amenities. They reduce pollution and improve health. They are also economic assets.

In developing countries, active transport is key to improving accessibility for the urban poor. In developed countries, the walkable and cyclable city can be a magnet for attracting and retaining the “creative class”.

In Australia, plans and projects are being developed to extend pedestrian malls and cycling paths, restrict car traffic, remove street parking and install more lighting.

Have these efforts paid off?

Yes and no. Recently released 2016 Census data reveal some disappointing commuting patterns in Australian cities.

Across metropolitan areas, typically plagued by sprawl and segregated land uses, cars still dominate. Car-based commuting rates have decreased by only 1-2%.

Public transport use remains relatively low. Even in Sydney, it captures only about one-quarter of commute trips.

Since 2011, Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin have made modest gains (2-4%) in public transport use. Brisbane has had an incremental decline. Public transport use is stagnant in Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra.

Meanwhile, rates of walking and cycling remain constant and low – even in smaller centres such as Hobart, Darwin and Canberra. Even in the most “cycling-oriented” places (Darwin and Canberra), only about 3% of commuters cycle.

City-level data tell a different story. Here, walking is more popular than at the wider metro level. This reflects the mono-centric nature of Australian cities, where most jobs are located in the CBD.

In larger cities, between a quarter and a third of the population walks to work. Similar proportions of commuters use public transport. Brisbane is an exception, with less walking, lower public transport use and much more driving than Sydney, Melbourne or Perth. Hobart and Darwin have low walking rates and are very car-dependent, which is surprising considering their small size.

Originally Published by The Conversation, continue reading here.

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