An initial review of the raw data collected by Pedal Power ACT (on behalf of the ACT government) during last Tuesday’s cordon count shows a disturbing slowing in the trend relating to people who ride their bike into the city.
As part of the longest consecutive data collection records for cycling participation in Australia, Pedal Power ACT has been conducting an annual cordon count since 2004 to better understand how Canberra chooses to travel in and out of the Civic centre.
Since 2012 this data has been collected on behalf of the ACT Government and is part of an ongoing program of data collection by the government to promote and understand the needs of people who walk and ride, or who would, if they felt more comfortable doing so.
Firstly – let’s look at the data.
The annual percentage increase in cycling numbers over the 2004 base year has exceeded 9% in all but one year (when it was recorded there was adverse weather). The 2016 figures indicate an 8.4% increase in the number of riders that travel into the city between 7:30am and 9:00am.
In stark contrast the total figures (measured from 7:00am – 10:00am) indicates a slight decline of 2.5% on 2015 figures.
The number of people riding a bike to the Civic town centre was on a rapid rise between the years of 2004 and 2010, demonstrating an annual growth of at least 10%. However the last few years has shown the figures are starting to plateau.
But what does this mean for active travel in Canberra?
While the initial information is disturbing, it may not paint the complete picture.
The reality is, the 7:30 – 9:00am figures are the only figures that we can compare back to 2004.
Whilst it is good to see an increase in the overall numbers, the percentage increase is nowhere near as much as we would have hoped as an organisation that promotes cycling participation.
Since the ACT government has supported the collection of data (in 2012) we have been capable of collecting information for longer periods of the day. A stronger analysis of the excellent quality of the data that is collected will be required to pinpoint the areas of need
It could be that we are close to reaching the maximum number of people who are comfortable using the current facilities in Canberra.
This once again suggests to us that safety, along with comfort and convenience are still real concern for an individual when they are assessing whether or not to use their bike for travel.
Now is the time we need to encourage new comers to try active travel by establishing the infrastructure to support their needs and alleviate hesitations when taking to their bike. There is a lot of research done that suggest building separated riding facilities is a proven method of getting more people onto a bicycle and reducing traffic and parking congestion.
Whilst we have some of the highest cycling participation numbers in Australia, we cannot get complacent in seeking better outcomes for the Canberra community.
We will continue to collate data for the annual cordon count on behalf of the ACT Government. The Civic data collection has been supplemented by data collection at Gungahlin, Belconnen, Woden and Tuggeranong town centres where the number of pedestrians and people riding bikes between the hours of 7 am and 10 am, and 4 pm and 7 pm will be identified.