Tongans strengthen cycling culture

06 July 2010 | News story

The government of Tonga has ventured on the path to promote greener transportation and strengthen the cycling culture of the Kingdom by supporting IUCN Oceania’s Life Cycle Pacific Initiative. Government ministries, cycling groups and other key stakeholders met last week to officially establish Life Cycle Tonga and discuss the way forward.

Life Cycle Pacific is a region wide initiative administered by IUCN Oceania’s Energy Programme to promote the use of bicycles as a greener alternative mode of transport. Under this initiative, individual country taskforces are set up and are solely driven by the national members with the overall guidance of IUCN. Life Cycle Tonga will promote cycling for transport, fitness, health and to address certain environmental and energy issues within the Kingdom.

Present at the meeting were representatives of the ministries of Health, Urban Planning, Environment, Education, Energy, Youth and Sport, Transport, TongaHealth and Pasikala Nuku'alofa.

Sione Faka'osi of the Tonga Community Development Trust, an IUCN member, welcomed the new initiative citing “partnership strengthening” as key to the creation of a safer environment for people who choose to use bicycles to travel to work, school or cycle for fitness and better health.

Pasikala Nuku'alofa spokesperson, Naomi Fakauka, said "This is a wonderful day. It is a real step forward for cyclists in Tonga to have all the relevant Government ministries and NGOs in one room planning the way forward. We will be working hard to provide safe cycling infrastructure so that cyclists can use our roads just like cars do."

Bicycles are more commonly used in developed countries as official modes of transport. This, however, is not the case in Tonga as well as most other Pacific Island Countries. The importance and value of cycling is cross-cutting but not yet fully recognized by most people.

"Bicycles are the perfect method of transport and a potential sporting activity for our youth" said Viliami Liava’a of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

"They use no fuel, produce no emissions or pollution, they are great for getting and staying fit and they cost much less than a car to buy and almost nothing to run" added ‘Asipeli Palaki of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.

The meeting also provided opportunity to share common concerns for safety of cyclists on the roads in the country. “A lot of people have bicycles but are not confident to ride on the road. Identifying road safety for cyclists is something that the Ministry of Transport can look into” said ‘Ofa Fonua of the Ministry of Transport.

Life Cycle Tonga is developing a strategic plan to introduce the cycling culture to Tonga. Priority activities include support for existing cycling activities, safety and awareness programmes, bike clinics, and maintenance and repair workshops.

IUCN Oceania has identified the need to revive the cycling culture as eminent. “Pacific Island Countries are heavily dependent on imported petroleum, a large portion of which is used up in the transport sector. Cycling as a mode of transport poses to reduce this dependence as well as our carbon foot prints” says Arieta Gonelevu, IUCN Oceania’s Senior Energy Project Officer.

“The Pacific Island Countries are determined to reduce their impacts on their environment, clearly evident through their investments in cleaner renewable energy options. We believe that national commitments to cycling will produce the same effects, at the same time create healthier lifestyles for the people”

Life Cycle Fiji was launched back in May with activities already underway.

For more information on this initiative please contact: arieta.gonelevu@iucn.org