Tuesday, 4 March 2008

What sort of person would want to charge bicycle registration?

The Federal Opposition spokesperson on sports, Mr. Pat Farmer, a Liberal MP from Campbelltown, Sydney, recently proposed a registration system for cyclists to be paid through bike shops by all cyclists over the minimum driving age. Mr. Brendan Nelson, the Liberal Party leader, has seen his popularity with electors go downwards ever since, with his personal approval rating now sitting at it’s lowest level in memory.

The Cycle Promotion Fund disagrees with the Liberal Party spokesperson, "There is no country around the world which has registration for bicycles, and the revenue raised would be quite low," said the organisation's programme director, Rosemarie Speidel.

Preliminary results from a study undertaken on behalf of the Department of Health and Ageing found cyclists saved more than $82 million in public health costs, almost $64 million in traffic congestion-related costs and $9 million in greenhouse gas-related costs.

Pat Farmer's Liberal Party proposal for bicycle registration risks raising yet another barrier to increasing the health and activity levels of Australians. A recent study commissioned by Medibank Private identified the cost of physical inactivity to the federal health budget at $1.49 billion each year and Governments are struggling to encourage more people to become active.

Research undertaken by the Cycling Promotion Fund for a soon to be released report, indicates that current commuter cyclists in our capital cities save the Government $9.2 million in greenhouse gas emissions, $63.9 million in reduced congestion costs, and another $71.2 million in health costs.

"Cycling levels in Australia need to be increased to address the health, environmental, fuel costs and traffic congestion problems. The suggestion to register cyclists simply places yet another barrier in front of someone who might be thinking about cycling" Rosemarie Speidel, Program Director of the Cycling Promotion Fund said.

In 2006 the Federal Government announced a subsidy of $1.5 billion to support motorists by providing incentives to drivers to convert to LPG and to encourage the use of ethanol-blended fuels by petrol stations by offering cash incentives. This policy has been as a response to higher petrol prices.

Given that 50% of our car trips are less than 5km in length, it appears to be good public policy to invest money to make our roads safer so children can cycle to school and parents do not have to drive them and to enable more people to commute by bike. Australian's have discovered the convenience of cycling to work, since 2001 the number of people cycling to work has increased 22% according to the latest census figures.

Governments at all levels should be investing to making it easier for people to cycle rather than introducing a levy. This will save Governments millions of dollars in health, congestion reduction and lower greenhouse gas emissions and enables people to reduce their petrol bills.

Surely, an intelligent solution that is in the national interest?

The countries that have the highest rates of bicycle friendliness, most notably the Netherlands and Denmark, do not charge any registration fee for cycling.

In fact, they understand the numerous savings to the economy that come from cycling. To this end, they have a much better record of providing financial incentives for choosing to cycle, like rebates on unused car parking spaces in the workplace. Governments have chosen not to impose such fees on cyclists for a number of important reasons.

In Australia, motorists’ registration fees contribute only partially to providing and maintaining roads. The cost of providing this infrastructure amounts to some $7 billion annually. The annual registration fee revenue amounts to a much lower $3.8 billion. Yet this provides only part of the picture. The real balance sheet shows a large net road deficit of $8.0 billion. Moreover, by including the costs of traffic congestion, the net road deficit climbs to $19 billion.

So, perhaps we need to register all those baby strollers, skateboards, roller skates, pedestrians, walking sticks and dogs to make up the gap?

A composite story with sources including:



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