Population growth places a strain on our transport system. A State of Australian Cities report indicates that if current trends continue, the cost of congestion could rise from $9.5 billion in 2005 to $20.4 billion in 2020, and there are also environmental concerns as well as quality of life issues too.
Aside from car pooling and better public transport, what are the solutions to our travel troubles? One of the easiest options is making cycling and walking a more attractive mode of commuting.
- Estimates suggest that even five percent more commuters using “active” modes of transport could reduce 2020 estimates by more than $6 billion.
- In London, the Barclays bike hire scheme has resulted in around 9 million bicycle trips in the years up to 2012.
- In other parts of Europe, ‘hop on, hop off’ community bicycles are part of everyday life.
- Australian governments and councils have invested hundreds of millions into cycleways and other initiatives over the past few years, and although local schemes have been slow to take off, evidence suggests increasing numbers of cyclists on the road (see below).
However, cycling is not for everybody, and especially for those outside urban centres, a car is often a necessity. One way communities can help pool resources is to use vehicle sharing schemes.
Businesses like GoGet and Flexicar may prove useful to some drivers, or you could try private car rentals organised through websites like DriveMyCar.com.au and Car Next Door. Just make sure to assess your driving patterns before making a commitment to ensure you get a good deal.
- Active travel, like cycling or walking, is good for your health and the environment.
- Car share schemes save on resources, and depending on your driving patterns, they can save you money.
- Using public transport or active travel reduces stress on infrastructure and travel times, which improves quality of life.
Cycling share schemes
Cycling share schemes are designed to reduce traffic congestion and provide a healthy, accessible transport option in city centres. Australia’s two biggest bike share schemes are Melbourne Bike Share and Brisbane CityCycle, but unfortunately, the programs initially failed to compare to similar schemes in place overseas.
Part of this lacklustre effort is blamed on the size of the schemes (Melbourne has 600 bikes compared to London’s 6000), availability of bikes and docking stations, and helmet laws, which some critics claim stifle the potential benefits of cycling. Those opposed to helmet laws, such as Professor Chris Rissel at Sydney University, say the benefits of cycling outweigh the potential harm and cite the low accident rates in other countries where helmets are not compulsory.
The Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety, however, claims a 69% reduction in the likelihood of head and brain injury when wearing a helmet. The centre’s research also found head injuries reduced in number and severity after the introduction of helmet laws.
With the helmet message clearly at odds, the Brisbane council went a long way to proving that convenience could be the key to getting the best of both worlds. Its bicycle share scheme experienced a 72% boost in average daily trips when offering free courtesy helmets. And Melbourne's scheme saw a 44% increase in average daily usage after offering $5 helmets (with a $3 rebate on return) at nearby convenience stores.