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The Conservation Council’s second Environment Exchange of 2020 was held on Tuesday night on the topic of Active Travel in the ACT. Guest speakers Associate Professor Matthew Burke from Griffith University, Dr Jennifer Kent from the University of Sydney, Pedal Power CEO Ian Ross, and A/g Deputy Director-General Ben McHugh and Anne Napier from Transport Canberra and City Services each provided interesting insights into the benefits of active travel, its role in the ACT context and the future of transport systems within the ACT and beyond. 

The event attracted a great crowd, with 67 local and interstate participants in the online session.

Associate Professor Matthew Burke commenced the event by outlining the built environmental factors that create barriers for the use and expansion of active travel in our cities. He then explored the ways in which Australian cities are built around private motor vehicle use, and the incentives such as low fuel prices and motor vehicle infrastructure that continue to encourage private motor vehicle use.

Dr Jennifer Kent followed Matthew’s presentation by discussing the social and cultural barriers to active travel. This included unpacking the stigma around bike-use, the values that people identified as important for travel and the ways in which cars are utilised and valued by Australian residents.

Ian Ross then proceeded to talk participants through active travel use in the ACT. In particular, he highlighted the low uptake of active travel modes in the ACT, with only 3% of residents travelling to work by bicycle. He then explored how terrain, climate and gender all influence bike use in the ACT.

Speakers Ben McHugh and Anne Napier concluded the discussion by outlining the key policy challenges relating to active travel in the ACT and the barriers to active travel, specifically in an ACT context. Anne discussed the perceived and real safety concerns and environmental factors such as weather, the current actions the ACT government is taking to improve and support active travel in the ACT, and the challenges that remain.

Participants then had the opportunity to put questions to the panel, prompting interesting discussions around helmet use and safety, the impacts of COVID-19 on active travel and e-bike experiences. 

A few key messages were that whilst the ACT is moving towards incorporating active travel into our city, there is much more that needs to be done to support active transport modes, both nationally and in the ACT. A transition from private motor vehicles to active transport will not occur unless we gain a greater understanding of why people value their cars and begin to dismantle the barriers that deter them from active transport modes.

We would like to thank everyone who supported the Conservation Council and attended our online event, with special thanks to Matthew, Jennifer, Ian, Ben and Anne for their contribution to the event.

You can watch the video recording of the webinar below.

Keep an eye out for our next Environment Exchange event.