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As lockdown lifts, riding remains staggeringly high

One of the positive aspects of the COVID period has been the significant increases in bike activity on roads and shared paths, observed both locally and overseas. With Australia now heading into summer and lockdown restrictions easing, is bike riding here to stay, or was this just a temporary solution for people to help them cope with the cabin fever?

Let’s start by reflecting back on the bike boom that was.

In April, a volunteer-led survey by Bicycle Network revealed that bike riding had increased by 270% on some shared paths. Similar data has also been collected using electric counters and Strava trip data.

An Australia-wide survey distributed by researchers at the University of Canberra found that two thirds of respondents had increased their bike riding activity during lockdown, and a sixth of these respondents had bought new bikes.

Interestingly, another third of respondents indicated they reduced their bike riding activity, 45% of which indicated this was because there were too many people using the shared paths. This finding suggests that the reported figures may have been even higher, had our existing infrastructure been able to accommodate them.

The Victorian Government has been quick to respond, announcing 100 kilometers of new and improved cycling routes across key inner-Melbourne suburbs. Councils are also improving their infrastructure to what could be a long term bike boom. City of Melbourne have rolled out ‘Little Streets’ a street-calming project involving speed limit reductions (20km/h) and prioritized bike rider and pedestrian space across four key shopping streets. In addition, the council has installed new pop-up bike lanes, and many other facilities are in the works across other council areas.

Are these the early signs of an active transport renaissance? Researchers around the globe are optimistic. And while it is much too early to make an informed decision, the early data looks promising.

Our latest bike count results

Last weekend, Bicycle Network conducted its Super Sunday count, a volunteer-led count of people engaging in recreational activity on roads and shared paths. The preliminary data reveals that previous records are being smashed along many of Victoria’s major shared paths.

The Capital City Trail, which has been counted year-on-year since 2011, continues to experience increasingly high bike volumes. A total of 1350 bikes were counted across four hours, on par with counts made during the mid-year lockdown and a 208% growth compared to a 2019 survey.

Other popular Melbourne bike trails, including the Maribyrnong River Trail, Hobsons Bay Coastal Trail, and Gardiners Creek Trail, have revealed staggeringly high bike activity compared to 2019 data.

The incoming results suggest that Australia’s new penchant for bike riding may be far from over.

Shared path

Site

2019

2020

Growth

Capital City Trail

5621

438

1350

208%

Bay Trail

7166

344

911

165%

Scotchmans Creek Trail

6017

83

195

135%

Gardiners Creek Trail

6019

120

339

183%

Anniversary Trail

5668

187

495

165%

Hobsons Bay Coastal Trail

6003

150

658

339%

Maribyrnong River Trail

6238

201

659

228%

Merri Creek Trail

5620

429

1113

159%

Moonee Ponds Creek Trai

4469

204

603

196%

Main Yarra Trail

5657

709

1344

90%

 

 

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.

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