I am
New survey: two-thirds of Aussies support spending some road funding on walking, cycling, public transport
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

New survey: two-thirds of Aussies support spending some road funding on walking, cycling, public transport

Media Release - 20 November 2020

Two-thirds of Australians back a diversion of some government road spending to local walking and cycling infrastructure and public transport, according to new Heart Foundation research released today.

The finding is part of “What Australia Wants”, a national survey of 2,895 people that aimed to measure community feelings about what makes a neighbourhood desirable, liveable and healthy.

“Understanding this is important, because where we live, work, play and learn is fundamentally linked to our health and wellbeing,” the Heart Foundation’s Director of Active Living, Adjunct Professor Trevor Shilton, said.

“It also helps the Heart Foundation to continue its advocacy for healthy and active built environments as a way to reduce the incidence of heart disease, Australia’s single leading cause of death,” he said.

“In 2019, an average of 50 Australians a day died of heart disease, or one every 29 minutes. While there is no one answer to bringing these numbers down, being able to live in a healthy community is a vital piece of the puzzle.”

Our survey asked Australians how important it is to live in a neighbourhood that allows them to be active locally. Almost eight in 10 (77 per cent) said it is “very” or “somewhat” important to them.

In fact, two-thirds (67 per cent) said they support a diversion of some government road funding to local walking and cycling infrastructure.

Around the same proportion (68 per cent) favour redirecting road funding to public transport. This promotes incidental exercise, because catching public transport often involves some walking between destinations.

Meanwhile, 64 per cent of Australians said they would like lower speed limits in local streets to make them safer for pedestrians, and 78 per cent support the creation of a national physical activity strategy aimed at getting people to move more and sit less.

Positively, 80 per cent of our sample think their local area already helps them to be physically active to some degree. However, when asked to rate specific attributes of active neighbourhoods, they gave mixed reviews. About three-quarters rated their open spaces and sense of safety as “excellent” or “good”, but only one in two felt they had safe cycling routes nearby.

We also asked respondents to imagine they were considering a move to a new location, and then had them rate the importance of 21 neighbourhood-design features. This revealed Australians’ top 10 most important neighbourhood attributes to be:

  • Convenient access to fresh food (90 per cent described as “somewhat” or “very” important);

  • A sense of safety (88 per cent);

  • Natural elements, such as trees and plants (83 per cent);

  • Facilities accessible on foot/bicycle (83 per cent);

  • Close to parks/open spaces (80 per cent);

  • Availability of properties with back yards (80 per cent);

  • Council providing safe footpaths (80 per cent);

  • Walking distance to parks/recreation areas (77 per cent);

  • Suitable for all age groups (76 per cent);

  • Walking distance to public transport (75 per cent).

Professor Shilton said the importance placed on fresh food availability came as a surprise and may have been influenced by the timing of the research.

“Our survey was conducted in August and September, when the memory of COVID-related panic buying and stockpiling was still fresh in everyone’s minds,” he said.

“People living in Victoria, who at this time were in the middle of the second-wave lockdown, were more likely than any other Australians to say convenient access to fresh food was very important to them. It was also more important to women, Australians aged over 50, and people without children.

“We were pleased to learn that Australians see fresh food as so important. Eating a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, along with healthy dairy and protein, can help protect your heart and cut your risk of developing heart disease.”

Fresh food availability and a sense of safety rated as the top two features in every state and territory – except Tasmania. In that state, the number-two priority, after access to fresh food, was living in an area where there are properties with back yards.

This was also a higher priority for regional Australians, with 84 per cent rating the availability of properties with back yards as important, compared with 79 per cent of city dwellers.

Australians in metropolitan areas felt it was more important to live within walking distance of public transport (80 per cent metro versus 55 per cent regional), and to be close to community facilities such as sports fields, libraries and places of worship (70 per cent versus 56 per cent).

“Overall, our data suggest that Australians want to live in safe, walkable, activity-friendly neighbourhoods. They also want easy access to fresh, healthy food, public transport and other everyday destinations, along with open spaces like public parks,” Professor Shilton said.

“These might seem like obvious wants, but many communities currently do not deliver even these basics. This is concerning because the quality of our built environment correlates closely with rates of chronic health conditions like heart disease.

“Our survey also suggests Australians recognise this, and want governments to invest in healthy, active neighbourhoods, to help them live longer, happier, more socially-connected lives.”

The Heart Foundation conducted an online survey of 2,895 nationally representative Australian adults between 15 August and 7 September 2020. The survey sample was sourced via the research-only panel LightSpeed. “What Australia Wants” complements other Heart Foundation initiatives promoting healthier built environments, including Healthy Active by Design and the Blueprint for an Active Australia. Read the full “What Australia Wants” report here.

Looking for that perfect gift?

Looking for that perfect gift?

Looking for that perfect gift?

Make a donation to our Christmas Appeal on behalf of a family member or a loved one and receive a personalised eCard to let them know....

Christmas Appeal

Christmas Appeal

Christmas Appeal

Make a donation to our Christmas Appeal on behalf of a family member or a loved one and receive a personalised eCard to let them know....

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Donate Monthly | Become a Regular Donor

Donate Monthly | Become a Regular Donor

Donate Monthly | Become a Regular Donor

Join the fight against heart disease....

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

Coronary Angiogram Test

Coronary Angiogram Test

This is a common test done to find out angina symptoms, or during or after a heart attack. ...

Vegetarian lasagne

Vegetarian lasagne

Vegetarian lasagne

1 hour
Serves 6

For professionals: Guidelines for acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease

For professionals: Guidelines for acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease

Australian  guidelines  for  prevention, diagnosis and  management of  acute  rheumatic  fever and  rheumatic  heart  disease ...

Our Annual Reports

Our Annual Reports

Our Annual Reports

Discover our Annual reports from 2013 onwards. ...

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in South Australia

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in South Australia

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in South Australia

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) clinical resources

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) clinical resources

Resources and clinical information for health professionals...

Physical activity resources for patients and consumers

Physical activity resources for patients and consumers

Physical activity information for professionals...

What is heart disease?

What is heart disease?

What is heart disease?

Heart disease is the broad term for conditions that affect the structure and function of the heart muscle. ...

What waist measurements mean for your heart

What waist measurements mean for your heart

What waist measurements mean for your heart

How your waist measurement contributes to your heart health...

What is plant-based eating

What is plant-based eating

What is plant-based eating

Learn about plant-based eating and its impact on heart health ...

Supporting Young Hearts Program

Supporting Young Hearts Program

Information and resources for health professionals who are treating patients between 18 - 40 years of age....

Women's heart stories

Women's heart stories

Women's heart stories

Women's stories from around Australia...

Fats, oils and heart health

Fats, oils and heart health

Fats, oils and heart health

Get the right balance of healthy fats in your diet ...

Returning to work after a heart attack

Returning to work after a heart attack

Returning to work after a heart attack

Discover how to plan for your return to work....

Our history

Our history

Our history

For more than 60 years the Heart Foundation has been helping improve heart health across the nation....

WEBINAR | Navigating the latest updates on CVD prevention

WEBINAR | Navigating the latest updates on CVD prevention

What is coronary heart disease?

What is coronary heart disease?

What is coronary heart disease?

Coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease occurs when a coronary artery clogs and narrows because of a buildup of plaque....

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Information and resources for healthcare professionals....

Remember a loved one with a tribute

Remember a loved one with a tribute

Remember a loved one with a tribute

Honour the life of a loved one with a donation to the Heart Foundation. Your donation offers hope for Australian hearts....

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation programs and resources to support your recovery....

Dinner recipes

Dinner recipes

Dinner recipes

Search our heart healthy dinner recipes for tonights main meal...

What is a cardiac arrest?

What is a cardiac arrest?

What is a cardiac arrest?

With immediate help a cardiac arrest can be survived. Learn how to save a life....

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Lower your risk of heart disease

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Lower your risk of heart disease

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Lower your risk of heart disease

Support and resources to help you stay healthy and reduce risk of heart disease. ...

Moroccan vegetarian tray bake

Moroccan vegetarian tray bake

Moroccan vegetarian tray bake

30 minutes
Serves 2

Cardiac rehabilitation resources for healthcare providers

Cardiac rehabilitation resources for healthcare providers

Useful cardiac rehabilitation resources for health professionals....