By Bart Citroen, Friends of Willow Park
Maybe it is the Dutch blood in me, but when I live in a town with 80kms of bike paths winding through and around it, I cannot help but think how lucky we are here in Wodonga to inherit such an amazing infrastructure. Still it baffles me as I take my dog for her morning stroll, how under-utilized the pathway network really is. I certainly meet other people walking their dogs and at specific times of the day, small numbers of school children walking to school. But seldom do I meet other cyclists.
Imagine if as in Holland, 75% of the secondary students rode their bikes to school. Imagine the impact this could potentially have on our current traffic chaos around our schools’ start and finish times. There’d be less stress for parents not having to worry about driving their children to and from school in the traffic chaos and there could be a real positive spin-off for their children too – free daily exercise! Not to mention the benefits of real social interaction, to and from school.
In Holland too school students in rural areas quite commonly ride 15km each way to attend their school. Yes, maybe it is a bit of an ask of students in our country where cycling has not yet developed as an integral part of the culture. However, for a country which has an increasing obesity problem, even a short ride to and from school each day could go a long way towards burning up some of those stored calories.
Imagine also how quiet our streets would be if like in Holland, 60% of all commuting trips were to be done on a bike. Here in Albury-Wodonga we have two cities within easy riding distance of one another, established on a perfectly cycle-friendly flood plain linked by a network of cycle paths and with weather conditions that are generally so conducive for cycling, is there a good reason why most of us couldn’t don a helmet and treadle to work?
The shift back to the push-bike in the Netherlands has only happened in the last 40 years with the reduction of motor vehicle access to the larger centres and through actively promoting bike transport for school children. With near perfect conditions for cycling in Albury-Wodonga, all we need is a mind change to make it happen.