Canberra cycling by Australian standards: mode share trends

Active travel is walking and cycling and more. The ABS Census includes data on how we get to work and where we live. ChartingTransport.com compares the trends in Australian cities over a long period from 1976 to 2016. Only the graphs for walking and cycling are shown here but more can be found on the ChartingTransport website.

Australia is a low cycling country and the graphs show that it has always been that way. There has been some improvement in Canberra. More commute to work in Canberra than most Australian cities. The cycling mode share is tiny in Australia compared with the 10% and greater mode share for cycling typical in European countries. Even Vancouver in Canada has reached 10%.

Photo by Larry Snickers on Pexels.com

Cycling to work

Journeys to work by bicycle only

Over a 40 year period, between 1976 and 2016, the mode share for cycling increased in Canberra from just below 1% to 3%. At this rate it will take over 120 years to get to 10%. What we need now is a step change. That demands ACT Government commitment, and investment measures in hundreds of millions rather than tens of millions.

Canberra is better than other Australian cities, where the cycling mode share is generally less than half what it is here. Australia is working from a very low base. Canberra won the crown for the most cycled city in Australia from Darwin in 2016.

Journey to work by bicycle only. Chart: ChartingTransport. Data: ABS
Journey to work by bicycle only. Chart: ChartingTransport. Data: ABS

Multimode travel

Multimode travel refers to trips where more than one form of transport has been used. This could be park-and-ride (car and bus). More commonly walking, cycling, or other forms of active travel are combined with public transport (for the long-distance transit). The “last mile problem” is an age old public transport dilemma of getting to the bus or light rail stop. Typically this will be active travel. This is why public transport is part of the active travel mix.

We already know (see above), that the mode share for cycling was 3% in 2016. The chart “journeys to work involving bicycle” shows trips that included some cycling but not just cycling. In 2016 it lay a little above 3%. The conclusion is that less than 0.5% of Canberrans combine cycling with some other transport such as a bus.

Journeys to work involving a bicycle. Chart: ChartingTransport. Data: ABS
Journeys to work involving a bicycle. Chart: ChartingTransport. Data: ABS

The next chart also looks at the multimode mode share that includes some cycling but excludes walking. Examples would be trips combining driving and cycling, or cycling and then carrying the bike on the bus. It is not common: around 0.34%

Journeys to work bicycle + another mode (other than walking). Chart: ChartingTransport. Data: ABS
Journeys to work bicycle + another mode (other than walking). Chart: ChartingTransport. Data: ABS

Walking to work

Walking to work is the oldest and still the best way to get to work. It would be nice to live within walking distance from work. This is not possible for most of us but it is more common than cycling to work in Canberra.

The number of people walking to work has hardly increased in 40 years in Canberra (5.3% of Canberrans in 2016). We do better than most cities in Australia in this regard, but Hobart does better.

Journeys to work by walking only. Chart: ChartingTransport. Data: ABS
Journeys to work by walking only. Chart: ChartingTransport. Data: ABS

Location, location, location

The old real estate adage “location, location, location” is definitely true for cycling, too. We are most likely to commute to work on a bicycle if we live close to Civic. Canberra North does best with about 10% cycling mode share around the ANU. The suburbs of Belconnen and Canberra South creep up to 8% cycling mode share in places. Weston Creek and Woden Valley come in after that. The mode share for cycling in the far north, Gungahlin, and the far south, Tuggeranong, is generally 2% or lower.

This map was produced with ABS Census 2011 data, but from the charts above, it would seem that the changes between 2011 and 2016 were not that much.

Bicycle in journey to work (%) ABS Census 2011, place of residence
Bicycle in journey to work (%) ABS Census 2011, place of residence

Well there it is. Cycling mode share in Canberra has a long way to go. The good news is that there is plenty of space upwards to improve.

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

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