Heart foundation calls for tax breaks on bicycles

HALF of all Australians would ride to work if there was a financial incentive to do so, a survey by the National Heart Foundation has found.

The survey, funded by the foundation and the Cycling Promotion Fund, has been used to call on the federal government to create new tax breaks on bicycles.

Of the 2000 survey respondents, about 80% would also back a "financial incentive" being created to encourage more people to ride to work, even if they would not ride themselves.

Among the ideas being promoted were a direct subsidy to bicycle riders, indirect through their employers and tax deductions on bicycles used to ride to work.

If taken up by the government, a "mature scheme" of subsidies and tax breaks was estimated to cost the federal government about $15 million over five years in foregone revenue.

The foundation's "active living" spokesman Associate Professor Trevor Shilton said only 1% of people rode to work, compared to 66% who drove.

"Currently, inactivity is responsible for 16,000 premature deaths and costs the Australian economy $14 billion every year," he said.

"There are no easy answers to reversing the lack of physical activity in all our lives, but with lack of time cited as the biggest barrier, supporting people to get their daily dose of exercise on the way to work would be a big step in the right direction."

The foundation and Cycling Promotion Fund leaders will meet with MPs in Canberra today to promote a new national "ride to work" scheme.