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Councils call for funding support to increase walking and cycling opportunities

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The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) is encouraging the Victorian Government to make the most of a rare opportunity to increase safe walking and cycling options for the community.

Reduced road traffic due to COVID-19 restrictions provides councils with a unique opportunity to trial different uses of space. The MAV is collaborating with VicHealth to drive initiatives for immediate and long-term shifts towards increased walking and cycling.

Stage 4 restrictions mean Melbournians have become reliant on local streets, paths and parks to get their daily dose of exercise and fresh air.

State funding support is needed to help councils provide new, better and safer walking and cycling infrastructure for people of all ages and abilities.

A recent MAV / VicHealth survey of councils found that most councils are planning to deliver improved walking and cycling projects in the next 12 months. However, funding remains the key obstacle for almost 80 per cent of these councils.

The pandemic is having a major impact on the community’s mental health, with one in four Australians experiencing depression and anxiety. Research clearly shows that exercise positively influences mental health.

MAV President Cr Coral Ross said that promoting public health is a key role and priority for councils and urged the State Government to provide councils with the resources and support they need.

“These are incredibly challenging times, so it is important to look for opportunities that promise positive outcomes for our communities. Increased levels of walking and cycling should be encouraged and made safer. We are calling on the State to help councils make that happen.

“It is vitally important we don’t neglect our physical and mental health. Governments at all levels need to come together to enable people to benefit from safe, regular exercise in their local areas while still obeying the lockdown restrictions.

“Beyond the health benefits of enhanced infrastructure for walking and cycling, providing funding support for this work will also drive economic benefits through job creation.

“Local councils, the MAV and VicHealth are working in partnership to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of all Victorians, and we call on the State Government to support us, and the community, in this goal.”

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For further information, contact MAV President Cr Coral Ross on 0438 005 225 or the MAV Communications Unit on (03) 9667 5521.