Bicycle Network: Skill Up
Getting migrants riding
Bikes are a great way to discover a new culture but getting migrants on bikes can be difficult.
Fast traffic stops migrant riders
3 November 2011. The nature of Australia's roads, especially the fast speed of vehicles, was frightening migrant and refugee communities away from taking up bike riding, a new study has found.
Although many migrants were riders in their home counties, they were fearful of resuming the habit in Australia.
Research by Victoria University community development academic Dr Siewfang Law revealed that migrants and refugees are not only riding much less than other Melburnians, they were riding much less than they used to in their home countries.
Dr Law surveyed more than 400 Japanese, Vietnamese, Sri Lankan and Arab-African people living in Melbourne and found they were riding, on average, eight times less often here than they had back home.
Vietnamese migrants rode their bikes 24 times less often since arriving in Australia.
The study, Social Inclusive Bicycle Riding in Multicultural Australia, was completed in collaboration with Bicycle Network Victoria and funded by the Scanlon Foundation.
Dr Law said fear of riding on our roads was the chief factor behind their behaviour change.
“The notion of cycling on roads was perceived as dangerous for many of them, especially due to the greater speed of vehicles and the way bicycle lanes operate,” Dr Law said.
This was particularly true for the Japanese, who were used to riding bicycles on the footpaths in Japan.
Dr Law said the notion of safe cycling differed greatly between cultures. There was a paradox in that many of the newly arrived migrants felt safer riding bikes in their home countries event though there were no safety measures such as helmets and bike lights.
“But at home they are happy to ride with an umbrella in one hand, carrying groceries and riding with their children," Dr Law said.
Dr Law said more off-road bicycle paths and rider education for multicultural groups would help them join in the city’s cycling boom.
Those surveyed also complained about the start-up costs involved with cycling in Melbourne, with some explaining that cycling here was “socially exclusive” and even “elitist” due to the specialised clothing and equipment.
Many newly-arrived migrants and refugees said high property prices meant they lived too far away from the inner city to ride, while some respondents also mentioned cultural reasons for not riding, especially Arab-African women.
Dr Law recommended organised riding events at cultural festivals, the promotion of cycling in different languages and having community leaders and women’s groups organise collective cycling events.