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Use of cars a weighty issue for commuters

Date

Peter Jean

Canberra's love affair with the car may be helping to make us fat as workers continue to spurn bus travel.

Results from the 2011 census, released yesterday, showed that almost 70 per cent of Canberra residents usually travelled to work by car.

The proportion of people travelling to work by bus fell from 5.8 per cent to 5.6 per cent between 2006 and 2011. But there was an increase in the number of people walking or cycling to their workplace.

The results of a study to be presented at a conference this week indicate that travelling to work by car may contribute to weight gain.

Researchers from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute found that people who did not use cars for commuting tended to gain less weight than those who did.

The four-year study of Adelaide residents found that people who did not drive to work put on an average of 1.2 kilograms, compared with 2.4 kilograms for people who drove every day.

Study author Takemi Sugiyama said it was possible that people in larger cities who drove to work would put on more weight because of longer travel times.

Mr Sugiyama said sitting still in a car appeared to have an adverse impact even on those people who did a large amount of exercise during their leisure time.

''Your muscles are not doing anything compared to a situation where you are standing in a bus or a train and your muscles are kind of active, contracting, doing something, expending energy,'' he said.

Mr Sugiyama said avoiding car use and undertaking physical activity may help people to maintain a healthy weight.

''Combining these two strategies - not using a car, if possible, and doing physical activity of 150 minutes per week or more - may be a kind of strategy we could examine as a potential way to address weight gain,'' he said.

The study will be presented at the Sports Medicine Australia Be Active 2012 conference in Sydney.

Labor has promised to boost public transport in Canberra by starting work on a Civic to Gungahlin light rail link if it forms the next ACT government.

Paul Mees, a senior lecturer in transport planning at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, said low public transport usage in Canberra reflected policy failures.

''You need to get rid of your transport planners and get new ones in. You've got a proven failure of policy,'' Dr Mees said.

''It's a great irony about the ACT that it spends a very substantial amount of money on transport, including public transport, and gets nothing in return for it. Subsidy levels to public transport when compared to patronage are higher than in most other Australian cities and the attractiveness of the service to customers is low.

''Unless something is done to improve public transport across the whole of Canberra, not just for a select group of people, then no progress will be made.''

60 comments

  • It's no wonder we like cars - it takes longer to get to work via bus from my place than it does to ride a bicycle (1 hour+ opposed to 40 minutes on a bike), then there's the worry of becoming pavement pate on roads that don't have bike paths (like Belconnen Way where it's 60km/h)

    Commenter
    JJ Potter
    Date and time
    October 31, 2012, 7:48AM
    • What Canberra needs is a heavy rail system to join up the suburbs.

      Governments have wasted billions of dollars on road development which could have been spent on a heavy rail system.
      This would cut travel times, reduce pollution and congestion and reduce our reliance on imported oil.
      Too many politicians are still living with a 1950's car-dominated mentality of road expansion at any cost.
      The 21st century is here and it is time that politicians changed their wasteful attitudes and developed a 21st century preference for public transport.
      Modern railways are the way of the future and recognising this fact now will save our community billions of dollars into the future.

      Commenter
      Railway Future
      Date and time
      October 31, 2012, 11:41AM
    • Agree - the only way to delivery fast reliable services is with some sort of rail. Build it and they will come! We should have a goal to be a public transport city.

      Commenter
      Rail fan
      Date and time
      October 31, 2012, 3:11PM
  • So the ACT Government is responsible for making us obese, by having such an awful public transport system? If it was any better, surely we would all jump on a bus anytime?

    Commenter
    old guy
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    October 31, 2012, 7:50AM
    • it is so easy to think outside the box with wheels on it. ban one person car trips unless in an electric car. works two wonders in one sentence. Roads are less busy, public transport more busy and you push electric cars over petrol cars

      Commenter
      dickybeacholdboy
      Location
      dicky bach
      Date and time
      October 31, 2012, 7:59AM
      • BAN BAN BAN!!! So how do I get to work for 7am? Oh that's right people like you don't really care. Just BAN BAN BAN! Real clever. Fool.

        Commenter
        WotTha?????
        Date and time
        October 31, 2012, 12:05PM
    • Obesity is rife in the public service, the government should remove free parking for obese staff or give them a free parking spot one kilometre away.

      Cake days in public service should also be banned, they are a main contributing reason for obesity and diabetes.

      Commenter
      stoney
      Date and time
      October 31, 2012, 8:06AM
      • Your are so right Stoney!

        Why do public servants have cake days? Why are the taxpayers paying for these stupid ideas for public servants to have more time off from work?

        It appears to me that no public servant works on a Friday as well. I say the government should sack ALL public servants, they don't do anything except have cake days and take most of Fridays off.

        Send the public servants out into the real world of real jobs and just see how many of them could go without their smoke breaks, their cake days, their "let's go play bowls or golf" days, and their half days on Fridays!! These people wouldn't last a day out in the world.

        Commenter
        Sharron
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        October 31, 2012, 10:33AM
      • I have been in the ACT public service for 7 years and have never seen or heard of cake day. Pity i like cake too....

        Of course Stoney while your forcing people to park away from work and walk, lets be sure to force smokers and drinkers, and blondes and well anyone you don't like really, to wear little gold symbols so we can persecute them too hey? That's the spirit mate. -sarcasm-

        Commenter
        Jaric
        Date and time
        October 31, 2012, 11:15AM
      • Ha ha ha, hilarious, keep up the good work.

        By the way, you both forgot TIC after your comments.

        Commenter
        Deutsch
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        October 31, 2012, 12:33PM

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