Poor funding for Cycling Infrastructure continues In 2023 Victorian Budget

Under the elevated rail

“Victoria will this year spend $22.5 billion on capital works and an average of $19.6 billion a year over the forward estimates, four times the long-term average from a decade ago.” says Racel Eadie in the Age story on the Victorian Budget: Infrastructure blowouts, builder insolvencies dint budget.

Spending on cycling / active transport as part of new capital works as a proportion of transport project funding is $36.3 million or 0.42% of the transport budget. Even if we boost this by a generous estimate of projects delivered as part of major transport projects, the percentage is still likely to be between 1% and 2%.

For existing projects the cycling/active transport funding is also in the doldrums of $75.9 million or 0.36% of the transport project budget. This too would work out, on a generous consideration at 1% to 2% of the transport projects. Not very good.

These funding rates are not even proportional to the numbers of people currently cycling. According to the National Walking and Cycling Participation Survey (2021) via a Bicycle Network news report “Across Victoria 18.6% of the population rode a bike (including e-bikes) in the previous week and 40.4% over the previous year.”

Cycling rates were greater for males than females highlighting lack of safe infrastructure and perceptions of safety has a strong gendered effect. Lack of funding for safe protected lane infrastructure is contributing to less women cycling according to research from Monash University.

The Victorian State Government, in a Climate Transport Pledge (2021) (PDF) has set an active transport 2030 pledge target of 25 per cent share of all trips in Melbourne. But they are not funding the infrastructure to achieve this.

And most of this infrastructure is being delivered as Shared Use Paths when the Department Of Transport Policy Documment, The Victorian Cycling Strategy 2018-28 (December 2017), places an emphasis on initiatives that will result in more direct, separated cycle paths to important destinations. This is not something the state government is doing in the main. Most of the active transport infrastructure delivered as part of major transport infrastructure projects is shared use paths.

Infrastructure Debt

Infrastructure debt is not like other government debt. It adds to long term efficiency and productivity and can reduce cost of living when completed. It is a long term investment in the state and its people.

Looking through the Transport capital works new and existing projects and trying to breakdown the allocations to road, public transport and active cycling is interesting.

The United Nations advised in 2016 we should be spending about 20 percent of the transport budget on active transport: cycling and Walking infrastructure. Sustainable transport should be an important element of the transport budget, with investment in clean public transport.

The Budgert papers don’t neatly break down all the expenditure on cycling and walking. Sometimes it is grouped together in active transport, sometimes as road safety improvements, and active transport infrastructure can also be delivered as part of major projects, such as Level Crossing Removals. I have put level Crossing removals in with public transport, although these projects are equally beneficial as road projects, and they often contain an element for active transport.

So Budget Paper 4 was examined for the Department of Transport and Planning. This includes a number of planning item projects which I have chosen to exclude.

Transport new projects

Here are the VicBudget 2023/24 Transport new projects with Total estimated Costs

New projectsPublic TransportRoadsOther (piers, bridges,jetties)SafetyCycling/Active Transport
25 LXR6,522,100,000
local roads (metropolitan*)13,866,00036,300,000
Bus Plan (statewide)1,930,000
Piers (statewide)40,000,000
Road Blitz674,000,000
Road maintenance and renewal (statewide)1,250,000,000
West Gate Bridge maintenance (metropolitan31,707,000
Total new projects:6,524,030,0001,955,707,00040,000,00013,866,00036,300,000
Percentage of transport budget76.12%22.82%0.46%0.16%0.42%
From Budget paper No 4

* Note: Better Local Roads $50 million for the Delivering Better Local Roads initiative to increase safety on our local roads for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists alike. These are LFS 2022 commitments. Includes a shared user path between Montmorency Station and Eltham Station ($32.8m) and safer and better shared user paths, Ashwood ($3.5m). The rest are pedestrian crossing and safety improvements.

Delivery of safer roads for road users, improved rail trails and better pedestrian and cycling underpasses for families in Ashwood was an election promise of the Andrews Government.

This election promise allocates $3.5 million to deliver:

  • $1 million grant to Monash Council to widen and improve Scotchmans Creek Trail near Warrigal Road and Blackburn Road
  • $1.5 million grant to improve the Waverley Rail Trail between Mount Waverley and Jordanville stations – including lighting upgrades and secure Parkiteer bike facilities
  • Designs for a pedestrian and cycling underpass for the Anniversary Trail at High Street with an investment of $1 million

See Better Local Roads pre- election costing (Dept of Treasury and Finance Costing Word Doc)

Note the The Victorian Cycling Strategy 2018-28 (December 2017) places an emphasis on “initiatives that will result in more direct, separated cycle paths to important destinations, like workplaces, schools and public transport stops, and make it easier for cyclists to park their bikes at stations or take them on a train or bus.” The new capital works projects in this budget are shared use paths.

And the other fact to note that direct support to active transport and/or cycling only comes up to 0.42% of the new capital works transport budget. Even if you factor in shared use paths as part of level crossing removal, funding is still likely between 1 to 2 per cent of the transport budget. When we should be spending up to 20 per cent.

Okay, lets look at Transport existing projects…

Transport Existing Projects

Here are the VicBudget 2023/24 Transport Existing projects with Total estimated Costs

Existing ProjectsPublic Transport……………..,,,Roads………………………,,,Other
(piers, bridges,
SafetyCycling /
Active Transport…….,
85 by 2025 LXR (Metro)8,831,693,000
Accommodation and Workplace Modernisation Strategy (statewide)7,155,000
Active Transport (metropolitan)15,870,000
Active Transport (statewide)14,886,000
Barwon Heads Road Upgrade
(Barwon Heads)
Building a new St Kilda Pier54,900,000
Bus service improvements
and reform (metro)
Bridge strengthening for freight efficiency (statewide)71,600,000
Bridges Renewal Program
Delivering Victoria’s Bus Plan (statewide)18,435,000
Great Ocean Road Renewal
(Barwon South West)
Keeping Ballarat Moving (Ballarat)58,642,000
Keeping Freight Moving (statewide)10,894,000
Keeping Trams Moving (statewide)36,717,000
Keeping Victorians moving (metropolitan)173,127,000
Kilmore Bypass (Kilmore)33,270,000
Local Road and Intersection
Upgrades (statewide)
Maintaining Victoria’s road
network (statewide)
Metro bus service improvements (statewide)5,349,000
Metropolitan Road and
Intersection Upgrades (metro various)
Metropolitan road upgrades
2021-22 (metropolitan various)
Metropolitan road upgrades
2022-23 (metropolitan)
New bike lanes on St Kilda Road (metropolitan various)30,555,000
Planning Shepparton bypass and improving links in Shepparton (Shepparton)7,640,000
Public transport accessibility and amenity upgrades (statewide)16,539,000
Revitalising Central Geelong
(Barwon South West)
Securing safety and productivity
of Victoria’s road network (statewide)
Smarter roads – Phase 2 (metropolitan)12,496,000
Targeted Road Safety Works (statewide)105,700,000
Walking and cycling upgrades –
Stage 2 (metropolitan various)
West Gate Tunnel (metropolitan various)10,154,092,000
Budget Paper No 4

Here we also see a miniscule amount on dedicated cycling and shared use paths. Just 0.38% of existing transport projects. Most of the cycling infrastructure again will be shared use paths, although the Separated and protected St Kilda Bike lanes are the one noteable exception. The St Kilda protected bike lanes is the kind of infrastructure the Victorian Government should be building more of, especially in inner urban areas where there is high cycling and pedestrian use. Shared Use paths are appropriate where volumes of pedestrians and cyclists are low.

Most of the active transport construction as part of level crossing removal is also shared use paths. The exception to this is under the Coburg skyrail which had a major pre-existing arterial cycling route, the Upfield Bike Path. Hence under Coburg Skyrail there is a 1.8km dedicated cycling path separate from the footpath for walking.

Public Transport

It is pleasing to see in both new funding and existing projects the high level of funding of public transport infrastructure projects. (Even though much of this is Level Crossing Removal). Not only rail and level crossing removal, but also funding for buses and bus route reform.

As Friends of the Earth noted in their budget commentary:

As big infrastructure projects like the airport rail link are put on hold, buses provide a low cost solution for getting people moving, especially those in our most underserved suburbs. The Western suburbs in particular, which is the fastest growing area in Australia, have some of the worst bus services in Victoria.

“The lack of regular, reliable bus services means that communities in the western suburbs of Melbourne are dependent on cars, leaving hardworking families paying more for car ownership and petrol, and creating polluting carbon emissions.” said Friends of the Earth Sustainable Cities campaigner Elyse Cunningham. 

“We hope that this announcement will bring forward much needed bus route reform to make services faster, more frequent and more reliable.  We congratulate Labor for their commitment to the Victoria’s Bus Plan.”

“Transport is the second largest and fastest growing source of emissions in Victoria.  Without strong policy support for public transport, active transport, electric buses, and other electric modes of transport, the sector’s contribution to climate change will grow to match that of the electricity sector this decade. Getting people out of their cars and onto public transport in the immediate term is imperative if Labor wants to reach their target of net zero emissions by 2045” said Ms Cunningham.  

FoE State Budget Announcement 2023

See the post on the 2019 state budget: Funding for Cycling reduces in Transport Infrastructure VicBudget



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