The National Walking and Cycling Participation Survey for 2023 was recently released, providing insights into walking and bike riding trends and demographics in Australia. The survey, conducted biennially since 2011, offers a snapshot of riding habits, motivations, barriers, and demographic breakdowns.
Some highlights from the report:
- The survey showed approximately 13.4% of WA residents, or approximately 373,300 people, engage in regular bike riding each week. This figure marks a decline from previous years, dropping from 21.4% (about 561,900 people) in 2021.
- Gender disparities persist, with men still outnumbering women in bike riding, as 17.2% of males rode in the week leading up to the survey compared to 9.6% of females.
- Of those who ride, 42.8% do so for transport.
- The participation rate of children in bike riding appears to have decreased since 2011.
- 63.4% of WA residents either currently ride or express an interest in riding a bike but harbor safety concerns related to sharing the road with motorised traffic.
These findings paint a discouraging picture for bike riding in Western Australia, with decreased participation rates over the past two years. It seems that the short-lived increase in bike riding during the Covid-19 pandemic was an anomaly that failed to reverse the overall decline in participation since the survey’s inception in 2011 when 21.1% of the WA population rode bikes weekly.
Nonetheless, this does not undermine the importance of our advocacy efforts. WestCycle, in collaboration with other members of Cycling and Walking Australia New Zealand, local community advocates, and industry partners, remains committed to challenging decades of car-centric urban development and cultural norms.
Transport budgets predominantly prioritise private car usage, allocating less than 2% towards supporting active transport options such as walking and bike riding. The United Nations recommends that governments dedicate 20% of transport budgets to infrastructure that encourages walking and biking as part of daily journeys. Increased funding is essential for initiatives such as reducing speed limits on local roads, constructing dedicated bike paths separated from vehicle traffic, ensuring safe routes for children to bike to school, and providing incentives for riding bike and e-bikes, and other forms of active transport.
WestCycle has been actively working to address the disheartening statistics presented in reports like the National Walking and Cycling Participation Survey. The following is a sample of the work we have done over the past two years:
WestCycle is dedicated to promoting bike riding in schools across WA through our school’s program, teacher accreditation, and targeted initiatives in regional locations such as Laverton, Albany and Geraldton.
We have partnered with Solidaria to pilot the BIKE-CURIOUS program, aimed at increasing our understanding of the barrier’s young women in WA face to cycling and encourage them to co-design strategies for change. We have also launched the Women On Wheels program, which encompasses beginner-level mountain bike workshops specifically tailored for women.
To gather valuable data on e-bike usage and user profiles, we collaborated with students from Murdoch University’s Sustainability School, resulting in one of the few qualitative Master’s dissertations to explore the perceptions of women using e-bikes.
Recognising the excellent active transport research conducted in Western Australian universities, WestCycle has established the Future of Mobility Seminar Series. This platform allows government and industry representatives to directly engage with academics and gain insights from their latest findings, which can subsequently inform policy and practice.
WestCycle has been at the forefront of promoting active and sustainable transport in Perth through successful initiatives like the Beeloo Series, Open Streets, and Let’s Roll Series. These programs have not only encouraged bike riding for transport and fun but have also increased awareness of local bike infrastructure.
To guide our advocacy efforts, we maintain three Advisory Groups composed of experts and leaders in Mountain Biking, Active Transport, and Road and Recreation.
We continue to organise cycling participation events that promote health, community, and the joy of riding, appealing to individuals who embrace the personal challenge that cycling events offer.
A significant portion of our work at WestCycle involves engaging with the state government to better understand existing programs and processes and advocate for changes to policy and infrastructure to make it easier and safer for everyone to ride a bike in WA.
Considering that the majority of car trips in Perth – approximately two-thirds – are under 5km, many of these could feasibly be accomplished by bike or on foot. That 63.4% of the population expresses interest in bike riding but hesitates due to concerns about traffic highlights the immense potential of creating safe riding and walking spaces for families in Perth and other cities and towns in Western Australia.
It is these statistics that motivate us to foster connections, develop inspiring projects, and cultivate a community of advocates dedicated to making Western Australia a better place to ride a bike.
The national and state reports from the National Walking and Cycling Participation Survey for 2023 can be downloaded from https://www.cwanz.com.au/national-walking-and-cycling-participation-survey-2023/