Victoria's riding routes have been humming with the sound of spinning bike wheels, according to the latest official survey of cycling participation.
The proportion of the population jumping on their bike for recreation and transport has jumped markedly, especially in Melbourne.
As the numbers of riders heading to the office has dropped because of COVID lockdowns, the likely explanation for the lift is the increased numbers of people dusting off their bikes for their permitted daily exercise rides around the suburbs.
This could indicate that with additional experience and confidence under their belt, more people will maintain the riding habit for both commuting and recreation in future years after COVID is under control.
And it shows the wisdom of state and local initiatives to quickly roll-out “pop-up” bicycle infrastructure to meet the anticipated demand.
The National Walking and Cycling Participation Survey was undertaken in April this year. See the Victorian report here.
It has been undertaken by the Federal Government every other year since 2011, although this year is the first time walking has been included in the survey.
The survey measures the rate of participation in bike riding across the population. They are asked a number of questions, including whether they have ridden in the last week, month and year.
Across Victoria 18.6% of the population rode a bike (including e-bikes) in the previous week and 40.4% over the previous year.
This equates to around 1.23 million residents riding in a typical week and 2.66 million riding in the past year.
The participation rate has increased significantly in Melbourne since 2019 and remained steady in regional Victoria.
The cycling participation rate for the past week question is much higher among males—23.2%—than females—14.1%. The participation rate has increased significantly among both genders in Melbourne compared to 2019.
Among both genders the participation rate declines precipitously from teenagers to young adults.
This signals a looming physical and mental health problem unless a way can be found to get this generation off the couch and out exercising. And bikes are best for that.
Across Victoria 39.2% of residents aged 15 and over were classified as interested in riding; that is, they do not ride currently but would like to do so or currently ride only off-road.
The proportion in this category is higher in Melbourne than in regional areas.
All the more reason for the authorities to hold fast and continue to plan and construct more low-stress bike infrastructure.
Only a small minority of the population—5.0%—were classified as confident riders who take direct routes irrespective of road conditions.
Interestingly, the data showed that some major immigrant groups were less than half as likely to have ridden a bike than Australian-born residents.
This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.