National Cycling Participation Survey

The National Cycling Participation Survey is unusual for Australia. It is a standardised survey that has been repeated every two years since 2011. Repeating the survey regularly is the only way to find and analyse trends. The survey provides data on cycling participation across Australia and estimates of participation in the ACT, too.

What is it about?

About 93,700 residents ride in a typical week. The cycling participation rate in the ACT is significantly higher than the national average. Men are significantly more likely to have ridden in the last week than women (28% males and 17% females).

Non-cyclists

The study was NOT about the barriers to cycling by non-cyclists for this is well understood.

Trends measured

The survey measures cyclists attitudes:

  • feelings of comfort while riding
  • change in cycling conditions over the past 12 months
  • barriers to riding for different purposes (commuting, education, shopping, recreation, and to access public transport)
  • priorities to improve cycling conditions.
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Australia

“Measured over the previous week the cycling participation rate has declined from 15.5% in 2017 (95% CI: 14.4% – 16.7%), to 13.8% (95% CI: 12.8% – 14.8%) in 2019. This decline is statistically significant and appears to be consistent with the trend since the survey was first conducted in 2011.”

Australian Cycling Participation 2019, Austroads, 19 September 2019

Any decline in bike riding participation in Australia is alarming but sadly not entirely surprising. While bike riding across the world is continuously growing, Australia’s participation continues to fall away. Despite very well knowing about all the health and environmental benefits, our governments are reluctant to act thoroughly and systematically.

2019 National Cycling Participation Survey Results, Bicycle network, 26 September 2019, accessed 22/8/2020
2019 National Cycling Participation Survey Results, Bicycle network, 26 September 2019, accessed 22/8/2020
Photo by International Fund for Animal Welfare on Pexels.com

Canberra

Source: Cycling in the ACT

Here is the link to the full report of the key findings.

The right of passage

The proportion of the population cycling drops by roughly by two thirds between the teenage and early adult years. Once the youth learn to drive, they never come back, unless cycling has become a strong personal interest and/or habit.

Portion of the population cycling by age (ACT 2019): The participation rate declines precipitously as older children become adults.

Cycling in the ACT is stagnating

There are no major shifts across any gender or age group between 2011 and 2019. Children aged under 10 were most likely to have cycled in the past week.

Limitations due to sample size

The population sample for the ACT is small and the confidence interval of 95% is large, so that small variations of just a few percent in cycling participation between 2011-2019 could not be detected with certainty. Bigger samples are needed for such small gains. But we can make an educated guess that there has been no dramatic change. The ABS Census 2011 and 2016 would support this.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Understanding Canberra cyclists

Source: How Canberrans use their bike

The National Cycling Participation Survey tells us how Canberrans use their bike and what they think about cycling.

How many ride bikes

In the ACT, “the proportion riding for transport is much higher than the national average.” (p.7)

“Among those who had ridden at least once in the past year, and had travelled at least once for one of the transport purposes (commuting, education, public transport, shopping and visiting friends or relatives) most had ridden for commuting, education or shopping. Very few had ridden to access public transport. “

The National Cycling Participation Survey (NCPS), Austroads (2019), page 7

This is multimodal travel which is important for active travel and getting people on bikes. Many more ride for commuting and to education than elsewhere in Australia. (p.7).

“Around 57% of households have access to a working bicycle. “

The National Cycling Participation Survey (NCPS), Austroads (2019), page 8

Any statement about the proportion e-bikes is widely uncertain.

Photo by Cleyton Ewerton on Pexels.com
Photo by Cleyton Ewerton on Pexels.com

What we think of cycling in the ACT

“Just over half of respondents indicated they were not interested in riding for transport, with most of the remainder being interested but not actively doing so. Around 7.6% identified themselves as cautious riders; that is, they already ride for transport but prefer circuitous routes to avoid traffic. “

The National Cycling Participation Survey (NCPS), Austroads (2019), page 10

“The majority of riders felt that conditions for riding in their local area have not changed (80%) over the past 12 months.”

The National Cycling Participation Survey (NCPS), Austroads (2019), page 11

“Most of those who had ridden in the past year had done so at least once for recreation or exercise (89%) or shopping (63%).”

The National Cycling Participation Survey (NCPS), Austroads (2019), page 11

“The most common reason for not riding a bike to work is too far and too many items to carry.”

The National Cycling Participation Survey (NCPS), Austroads (2019), page 12

The reason 64% of people don’t travel to school or university is that is it too far. There is much to be said for going to school locally. Local and good quality schools are important.

“When asked why they don’t use the cycling for shopping they answer that there are too many items to carry (55%). “

The National Cycling Participation Survey (NCPS), Austroads (2019)

This is a cultural phenomenon. A bike is a poor choice for a once-weekly shop. In Europe people often shop locally and daily at their local shop or market. The routine is work, shop, pick up the children and go home. The work may not be local but everything else is local. Kids own bikes from a very young age and ride home like a family of ducks. Often children are sent to shops to pick something up needed for dinner. Cargo bikes (electric) carry shopping and multiple kids in one basket.

Electric cargo bike. Photo Mark Stosberg from Flickr.com (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Electric cargo bike. Photo Mark Stosberg from Flickr.com (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

What would make us ride more

“Respondents were asked to prioritise actions that could be taken to encourage bicycle riding. The most supported actions (from figure 3.8) were: 

> more off-road paths and cycleways (62% of respondents rated this a very high or high priority)

> better connections between bike paths and schools (51%)

> better connections between bike paths and shops (51%)

> more signs highlighting bicycle routes (41%)

> more on-road bicycle lanes (40%)

> better connections between bike paths and parks and swimming pools (40%). “

The National Cycling Participation Survey (NCPS), Austroads (2019), page 13

Lower speed limits save lives. We know that – research has been telling us so for years. But people still have not bought into it. Skills training gets people on bikes. They change their habits and learn to feel comfortable and safe on a bike. Safety and transport psychology are important for the success of active travel and people’s wellbeing. 😊

The least likely reasons are: 

> lower local road speed limits, and

> more bike skills training.

The National Cycling Participation Survey (NCPS), Austroads (2019), page 14

Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Let us do something about this

Only when our decision makers plan, invest, and strategically create space for active transport, will we create people centric, active, and healthy communities. Our cities and towns will continue to be choked by congestion, and our health will suffer unless we have transformative leadership – visibly role modelling active travel.

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