Third Space

Increased bicycle ridership in Australian cities

Increased bicycle ridership in Australian cities

The recently released 2016 Journey to Work Census data reveals an increase in the number of people cycling to work over the last five years. This article explores some key trends in ridership.

With Australian cities facing increasing levels of traffic congestion, and public transport nearing capacity at peak hours, the wide-reaching benefits of bicycle transport are being recognised by commuters and decision-makers alike. Not only does cycling offer time and cost savings, and personal health benefits through increased physical activity, but upward trends in ridership can also have positive impacts on the environmental performance and movement networks of cities.

An overall uptake in ridership

The number of people riding to work in Australia increased by 8.8 per cent in the last five years, with more than 106,000 people reporting cycling as their method of transport to work in the 2016 Census.

This uptake has not occurred evenly across the country. Generally, capital city regions have seen increases in ridership, with Hobart, Melbourne and Brisbane experiencing the greatest percentage increases in cycling to work. Greater Melbourne remains the city with the greatest level of ridership, with over 29,000 people reporting riding to work.

Conversely, ridership has declined in most regional areas.

Who is riding to work?

Delving into this data shows that the average person riding to work:

  • Lives within 4-8km of the central city (i.e. within a 30 minute commute)
  • Works in the central business district and key inner city employment areas
  • Is a white collar worker
  • Is more likely to earn an income well above the Australian median

There are a number of interlinked and non-exclusive factors that contribute to this trend.

Given the largest proportion of jobs across the country are found in inner city locations, and physical limitations to the distance riders are able to travel, it is not surprising that most riders are found not only in capital city regions but within a certain threshold of the central business district.

Central cities are also more likely to have white collar jobs. Relative to blue collar workers, white collar workers generally also have a reduced need for a vehicle as a part of their work, for example to carry tools or equipment, or to travel long distances or to varying locations.

Better bicycle infrastructure is also found in central and inner city suburbs, as well as a lower availability of vehicle parking.

Implications for planning and policy-making

The ongoing benefits of bicycle infrastructure and ridership uptake includes environmental, health and productivity cost savings. An increase in ridership among inner city workers is particularly significant given the sedentary nature of many white collar jobs.

While the most recent Census data shows that attitudes to riding continue to change, there is evidence that riding to work remains an ‘elite’ activity, primarily only a choice for those who can afford to live and work in the inner city.

Higher levels of ridership to work are likely always to be found close to centres of economic productivity. However, evidence of ridership activity in middle and outer suburbs show that there is some interest in riding outside of central city areas. With better investment into suitable and well-aligned bicycle infrastructure in suburban areas, this interest can be leveraged to ensure the benefits of ridership can be more evenly spread across our cities.