How we travel to work, to the shops and for recreation has a major impact on our health, depending on how much exercise is involved. It also affects the quality of the air we breathe, the amount of natural habitats that is destroyed to create transport infrastructure, and the amount of greenhouse gasses which are added to the atmosphere. Motor vehicles are a major contributor of air pollutants, accounting for well over half the emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO) and almost half the emissions of hydrocarbons in Australia each year (Bicycle NSW).
Healthy Cities Illlawarra supports a move away from road-based transport towards a greater emphasis on public and active transport, and freight rail.
The volume of freight being moved through the Illawarra is increasing, particularly as Port Kembla’s capacity increases. Without a move towards shifting freight by rail, there will be ever-greater numbers of trucks on our roads. The noise pollution created by heavy road traffic has a detrimental effect on our health.
Walking or cycling, what we call ‘Active Transport’, is one of the best ways of addressing increasing health problems at the same time as decreasing the environmental impact of road transport. When we use public transport we not only reduce our environmental impact, but it’s been found that there is an increase in the amount of daily exercise that we get while getting to and from the bus or train.
Healthy Cities Illawarra has convened the Illawarra Active Transport Taskforce since 2006. This is a joint group which includes community, government and business representatives working for better facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.
During the 1990s HCI convened the Transport and Environment Taskforce, which worked for an integrated approach to transport for our region. The Taskforce promoted public transport, freight rail transport and changes to the subsidies for road transport to more accurately reflect their costs to the community. The strategy produced by the Taskforce is still relevant today.