ON National Ride2Work Day, October 14, the Heart Foundation is urging Australians to embrace a healthier, more active life by switching from horsepower to pedal power for the journey to work each day.
National Ride2Work Day is the largest celebration of commuter riding in Australia. Held annually in October, the main objective of the day is to ‘normalise’ the idea of riding to work and encourage more Australians to do so on a regular basis.
National Heart Foundation CEO, Mary Barry, said a significant and growing number of Australians are choosing to cycle to work, instead of being stuck behind the wheel of a car.
“More and more Australians are quietly embracing the commuter revolution that is happening in our suburbs, towns and cities, by choosing to ride to work,” Ms Barry said.
“Not only can riding to work be a great way to start or end the day, it offers added benefits in the form of improved health, less congestion, fewer emissions, and improved productivity.
“Research from the University of California that looked at 500 studies in 17 countries found that cities in which residents are physically active have significant advantages over those more reliant on cars.
“These include higher productivity levels, increased property values and improved school performance in addition to better health.”
The Heart Foundation is calling on the Federal Government to introduce incentives through the tax system to encourage more people to ride to work, along the lines of successful schemes in the UK and Ireland.
Ms Barry said the introduction of Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) exemptions for workplace packaging of sporting and health club memberships, bicycle purchases and public transport is a key priority for the Heart Foundation.
“This is a key policy initiative to emerge from last month’s National Physical Activity Consensus Forum in Canberra, and one that we would like to see the Federal Government actively consider,” she said.
“We know it would work because the 2015 Investment in Active Transport Survey, conducted by the National Heart Foundation and Cycling Promotion Fund (CPF), found a significant majority of adults currently not cycling to work, would do so if appropriately supported and encouraged to do so.
“We need only look at the success of the UK’s Cycle to Work Scheme to see what can be achieved, with more than 568,000 participants, of which 61% had not ridden a bike regularly before.
“It has also been credited with saving $400 million annually in national health costs, $10 billion in transport congestion (2009), and $132 million less expenditure in annual sick leave.
In addition to a cycle to work scheme, a Government commitment to support a safe cycling environment as well as improve our cities active travel infrastructure is required to encourage more people to ride more often.
“In combination, these initiatives would support a safer cycling environment and help stem the physical inactivity tide among Australians.
“While we like to think of ourselves as an active society, the stark reality is that two out of three Australians (66.9%) aged 15 years and over are doing very little or no exercise.
By comparison, cycling to work offers a healthy, fun and best of all, low-cost alternative to other forms of commuting.”
Ms Barry said practical, achievable initiatives to encourage Australians to be more physically active are a focus of the Heart Foundation’s advocacy for a comprehensive, funded National Physical Activity Action Plan.
“Simply put, we need to get Australians of all ages and backgrounds moving more and sitting less, sooner rather than later.”