3.43 million Australians ride bikes for transport or recreation each week

Friday, 20 September 2019

Cover of the National Cycling Participation Survey report 2019 showing people riding bicycles in each state and territory of Australia

Around 3.43 million Australians ride bikes for transport or recreation in a typical week, according to the National Cycling Participation Survey, a standardised survey that has been repeated every two years since 2011. The 2019 results indicate that cycling is one of the most common forms of physical activity in Australia.

More than 80% of people cycle for recreation, while slightly under one-third use their bikes for transport, mainly for journeys to work, education, the shops or to visit friends.

Cycling is especially popular in the ACT where 93,700 residents (22.2%) ride a bicycle in a typical week. Cycling rates in the Northern Territory are also much higher than the national average, with 21.3% of residents cycling in a week.

Measured over the previous week the cycling participation rate has declined from 15.5% in 2017, to 13.8% in 2019. This decline is statistically significant and appears to be consistent with the trend since the survey was first conducted in 2011. The same decline is not reflected in the proportion of people cycling in the past month and year.

The decline in cycling participation observed at a national level appears to be driven primarily by declines among children, teenage males and young adult males. This has not been fully compensated by an increase in cycling by teenage girls and among those aged 50 and over.

Children have by far the highest participation rates. The data suggests that proportion of children under 10 who cycled in the last week declined from 48.6% in 2015 to 35.0% in 2019. The other group to experience significant changes in cycling participation has been young adults aged 18 to 29.

The proportion of girls cycling in the last week aged between 10 and 17 has increased from 16.9 % in 2017 to 22.8% in 2019. Cycling rates for both men and women aged 50 and over have also increased. The proportion of men riding in the last week aged 50 and over rose from 9% in 2017 to 9.9% in 2019, and the proportion of women aged 50 and over who cycled in the last week rose from 2.6% in 2017 to 3.6% in 2019.

Respondents who had cycled in the last week reported that they were cycling more hours in comparison to 2017. In 2019 people spent around 2.9 hours riding, in comparison to 2.5 hours in 2017.

The number of households in Australia without a working bicycle has remained fairly stable at around 43 -45% of households since 2011. There appears be a correlation between jurisdictions with high cycling participation and bicycle ownership; only 34% of households do not have a working bicycle in the Australian Capital Territory, and 30% in the Northern Territory.

For the first time in 2019 the survey asked respondents about electric bikes and bike share schemes.  Around 2.7% of households own an electric bike, with the highest rate of ownership in Western Australia (4.1%), whereas around 1.7% of households subscribe to a bicycle share service, with NSW having the highest number of active subscriptions (2.9% of households).

Around 26% of Respondents aged 15 or older indicated they were interested but did not currently ride for transport. This group may already ride for recreation purposes and indicated they could conceivably ride for transport. Around 3% identified themselves as cautious riders; that is, they already ride for transport but prefer circuitous routes to avoid traffic. The remaining 1% identified themselves as confident transport riders; that is, they already ride for transport and will take the shortest route irrespective of traffic. These findings are consistent across the states and territories, except for the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory where the proportion who are interested is significantly higher (40% and 36%, respectively), and in Tasmania where it is lower (20%).

This is the last year the National Cycling Participation Survey will be undertaken by Austroads. Cycling and Walking Australia and New Zealand (CWANZ) may undertake a national survey that includes walking in the future.

Download the reports, summaries and data: Australian Cycling Participation 2019

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