Canberrans are streets ahead, but lockdown changes cycling habits

31 Aug 21 | By pp-admin | Cycle safety, Pedal Power

The National Walking and Cycling Participation Survey 2021, released today, shows that Canberrans continue to lead the country in cycling participation, but there has been a dramatic shift in Canberrans’ cycling behaviour during the pandemic. 

The survey, conducted by Cycling and Walking Australia and New Zealand (CWANZ) earlier this year, reveals that almost 100,000 Canberrans (or 23.3%) ride at least once a week. This is almost a third higher than the national weekly cycling participation average of 18%. 

More than two thirds (67%) of ACT households report having at least one working bicycle, compared to 59% nationally.  

Pedal Power CEO Ian Ross said this was unsurprising, given Canberra’s history of investing in good cycling infrastructure. “These results clearly demonstrate that when you provide safe, separated infrastructure, people will use it,” he said. 

The survey also shows that Covid-19 has seen a dramatic shift in some aspects of our cycling behaviour. The percentage of people who regularly (at least monthly) cycle for transport in the ACT has dropped by almost a third, from 58% in 2019 to 42% in 2021. 

“Despite the fact that cycling is one of the safest ways to travel during a pandemic, cycling for transport has fallen significantly. This change may reflect a shift in the number of people who are now working from home or participating in tertiary studies online,” Mr Ross said. 

“On the other hand, there has been a recreational cycling boom, with 81% of Canberrans who ride reporting they regularly do so for sport and leisure, compared with 67% in 2019.    

“This won’t be news to anyone who has used our shared path network or accessed our national parks over the last 12 months. Canberrans are out in force. Thousands of Canberrans are discovering what an outstanding city we live in, and how easy it is to jump on a bike and ride through some of the most extraordinary landscape Australia has to offer,” he said. 

The report is not limited to bikes, and shows that Canberrans are also leading the nation in walking and using scooters, skateboards and Segways.  The percentage of people using these in the ACT is still comparably small, at just 4.6%, but this is more than 300% the national average. 

“For the first time in the ACT, we are having a genuine discussion in our community about significant path congestion. Many of our shared paths are simply not wide enough to manage heightened congestion levels. We really urge all Canberrans to take extra care when they are out for their daily hour’s exercise. Stick to the left, listen out for approaching bikes, ring your bell, and be courteous”.  

The report notes more than 5% of Canberrans aged 15 years or older can’t ride a bike, and 65% haven’t ridden a bike for more than a year. While health and mobility factors limit the capacity of some Canberrans to cycle, the report shows that more than 41% of Canberrans who don’t ride, would be interested in doing so. 

“We need to do everything we can to encourage them. It is vital for the health of our community, for the wellbeing of our citizens, and to reduce our carbon footprint.  Further investment in supportive infrastructure is critical to helping the 40 per cent of Canberrans who are interested in cycling, to make that transition to giving it a go,” Mr Ross said.   

“With the ACT well into its second COVID-19 lockdown, our streets are very quiet, and exercise is still limited to a regional hour-of-power; there has never been a better time to jump on your bike”.