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March 2010 Issue
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Cycling should be daily activity: expert

 Social Sciences

Australia should become a more bicycle-oriented society, according to a world-renowned Dutch expert on city and cycle planning.

Associate Professor Ineke Spapé was guest speaker at the second annual Australian Cycling Conference hosted by the University of Adelaide in January.

The event coincided with the 2010 Santos Tour Down Under and the Australian Mountain Bike Championships being held in Adelaide.

A traffic and urban engineer, Assoc. Prof. Spapé has more than 20 years' experience in pedestrian, cycling and infrastructure planning and has helped introduce bike networks and cycling strategies in London, Cape Town, Ecuador and New York.

She was among a host of speakers to address the two-day conference on a number of topics, including the role of cycling in a sustainable future, improving safety for cyclists, the history and development of the bicycle, and ideas for upgrading cycling networks.

"To really stimulate cycling in an integral way in Australian cities, it is necessary to develop a comprehensive strategy," Assoc. Prof. Spapé said.

"The liveability of Australian cities will be greatly enhanced if we can change the culture so that cycling is part of daily life."

At the conference, the President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe AO, spoke about the benefits to society of encouraging cycling, which include exercise, less use of costly resources and a massive reduction of carbon dioxide emissions on our roads.

Meanwhile, the popularity of the Santos Tour Down Under, which attracted nearly 750,000 people to Adelaide last year, has helped raise the profile of cycling as an alternative method of transport, said Dr Jennifer Bonham, a member of the conference organising committee.

Dr Bonham, a University of Adelaide transport expert (Discipline of Geographical and Environmental Studies), said cycling was the fourth most popular form of exercise across Australia, with more than 11% of people riding a bike on a regular basis.

"The number of people cycling for exercise, recreation and sport has increased by 36% since 2001," Dr Bonham said. "It is only eclipsed by walking, aerobic fitness and swimming."

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in 2008 nearly two million people over the age of 15 took part in some form of recreational cycling at least three times a week.

The number of Australians cycling to work has also increased markedly, with the latest ABS data showing around 100,000 people now ride to work each day across the country.

Dr Bonham said cycling was finally coming into its own thanks to initiatives such as the National Ride to Work Day, which in 2009 attracted an estimated 95,000 cyclists, and the worldwide media interest in the Tour Down Under, enhanced by the "Lance Armstrong effect".

Story by Candy Gibson

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From left: University of Adelaide transport expert Dr Jennifer Bonham with Dutch expert Associate Professor Ineke Spapé
Photo by Denys Finney, courtesy of <i>Messenger Community Newspapers</i>

From left: University of Adelaide transport expert Dr Jennifer Bonham with Dutch expert Associate Professor Ineke Spapé
Photo by Denys Finney, courtesy of Messenger Community Newspapers

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