Australian cyclist numbers
and population
1985/86 - 2013

Compare with 1985/86 - 2011 survey

Compare with 1985/86 - 2015 survey


Analysis of government data shows 16.6% more Australians cycling daily in 2013 than in 1985/86, despite population growth of 42.5%.

This analysis presents official records of cyclist numbers in Australia in 1985/86 and 2013. Data sources are Day to Day Travel in Australia 1985-86 and the 2013 Australian Cycling Participation survey which uses the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011 Census as its population baseline.

The 2013 Australian Cycling Participation survey was conducted in March and April 2013, the most popular months of the year for cycling, and is the official data source for the Federal Government's National Cycling Strategy 2011-2016.

The National Cycling Strategy aims to double Australian cycling participation from 2011 to 2016, requiring growth of about 15% per annum.

The 2013 National Cycling Participation Survey concedes that the strategy has been a failure with a statistically significant decline in Australians cycling from 2011 to 2013.

The 2013 survey had a greater number of households and respondents than the 2011 survey and claims to be the most accurate in the series so far.

Note: Australian Bureau of Statistics data published in February 2015 show Australians aged 15+ who cycled at least once in the previous year dropped 15.7% from 1,366,100 in 2011/12 to 1,151,900 in 2013/14 (males down 11.2%, females down 22.8%), confirming the data presented on this page. The 15yo+ population percentage cycling in the past year fell from 6.3% in 2005/06 to 6.2% in 2013/14, which further suggests that Australian academics who have criticised the peer reviewed study of 1985/86-2011 cycling participation are wrong. The first ABS survey of cycling participation in 1993 (Population Survey Monitor, November 1993) was a year after mandatory helmet laws were enforced across Australia and shows that 1,038,896 people aged 18+ cycled at least once in the week prior to survey.


Results

The 2011 survey found that 17.8% of the Australian population had cycled in the previous week (confidence interval 17.0%-18.6%) and by 2013 this had dropped to 16.6% (confidence interval 15.9%-17.3%). If considered an accurate population percentage, the 1.2% difference represents 260,892 of the Australian population of 21,741049 aged 2+ in 2011.

In 2011, 33.6% of 10 to 17 year olds cycled in the previous week (confidence interval 31.0%-36.3%), compared to 32.2% in 2013 (confidence interval 29.6%-34.9%). If considered accurate, the 1.4% difference represents 31,428 of the total Australian 10-17yo population of 2,244,874 in 2011.

In 2011, 10.5% of adults aged 18+ cycled in the previous week (confidence interval 9.8%-11.3%), compared to 9.5% in 2013 (confidence interval 8.8%-10.2%). If this was an accurate percentage of the population, the 1% difference would represent 172,491 of the total Australian adult 18+ population of 17,249,123 in 2011.

In 2011, 22.1% of males (confidence interval 21.0%-23.2%) and 13.5% of females (confidence interval 12.6%-14.5%) had cycled in the previous week. By 2013, this had dropped to 20.9% of males (confidence interval 19.9%-21.9%) and 12.4% of females (confidence interval 11.6%-13.2%). In 2011, 55.7% of Australian households had a bicycle in working order and by 2013 this had dropped to 55.2%.


State breakdown

Different states had different rates of participation increase or decrease between 2011 and 2013, listed below with the percentage and actual increase or decrease in numbers of people who had cycled at least once in the previous week:


australian cycling participation


The states cumulatively had a net reduction of 307,403 fewer cyclists from 2011 to 2013, a more accurate total than the 230,934 derived from the national participation drop from 17.8% to 16.6%.

The 2013 Cycling Participation Survey provides estimated numbers of people cycling at least once over the previous week in each state, from which the average daily trip numbers can be estimated for comparison with 1985/86 daily trips.

Unlike the 2011 survey, the 2013 survey does not provide a trips per week estimate for people who had cycled in the previous seven days in different states.

Only the 2.9 days per week estimate for Australia is provided.

These are different measures. For example, with trips per week in 2011, a survey respondent who had a bicycle trip from work to home, where the cyclist stops at the supermarket on the way home, is classified as two cycling trips. Also, a bicycle trip where there is no change of purpose, such as riding from home around the block, was considered in 2011 as two trips (where the farthest point is used to divide the trip).

In the 2013 survey, respondents only marked how many days they had cycled in the previous week, with a national average of 2.9.

In this study the 2011 national average of 5.4 trips per week is used to estimate the number of national and state trips per day in 2013.

The table below presents state numbers of weekly and daily bicycle trips among Australians aged 2+ in 2011 and 2013, as well as a comparison of 1985/85, 2011 and 2013 daily bike trip numbers and percentages among cyclists aged 9+.


australian states cycling participation


Injury comparison

Click here for a comparison of daily cycling participation with hospital admission injuries and population growth since 1985/86.

Click here for the Austroads Review of Australia's National Road Safety Strategy, published in February 2015, showing the ratio of overall and life-threatening injury to Australian cyclists has soared since 2001 and is by far the worst among all road users.


Daily bicycle trips

Below is an age breakdown of the national participation survey results:




Australia


australia cycling numbers 2013

2013 Australian Cycling Participation (Summary extract)


australia cycling percentages 2013

2013 Australian Cycling Participation (p15)


The 2011 ABS Census shows there were 2,248,840 people across Australia aged 10 to 17. The 2013 Australian Cycling Participation survey (p15) shows 32.2% of people aged 10 to 17 cycled in the previous week. This is 724,126 Australians aged 10 to 17 who in the 2011 survey cycled an average 5.4 times in the previous week, which totals 3,910,280 trips per week, or an average 558,611 daily bike trips in 2013.

The 2011 ABS Census shows there were 3,862,317 people across Australia aged 18 to 29. The 2013 Australian Cycling Participation survey (p15) shows 10.6% of people aged 18 to 29 cycled in the previous week. This is 409,406 Australians aged 18 to 29 who in the 2011 survey cycled cycled an average 5.4 times in the previous week, which totals 2,210,792 trips per week, or an average 315,827 daily bike trips in 2013.

The 2011 ABS Census shows there were 6,229,152 people across Australia aged 30 to 49. The 2013 Australian Cycling Participation survey (p15) shows 11.9% of people aged 30 to 49 cycled in the previous week. This is 748,698 Australians aged 30 to 49 who in the 2011 survey cycled an average 5.4 times in the previous week, which totals 4,042,969 trips per week, or an average 577,567 daily bike trips in 2013.

The 2011 ABS Census shows there were 7,143,967 people across Australia aged 50+. The 2013 Australian Cycling Participation survey (p15) shows 6.2% of people aged 50+ cycled in the previous week. This is 485,790 Australians aged 50+ who in the 2011 survey cycled an average 5.4 times in the previous week, which totals 2,623,266 trips per week, or an average 374,752 daily bike trips in 2013.

Together, this is 1,826,757 daily bike trips among Australians aged 10+ in 2013. This compares with 1,645,900 bike trips per day by people across Australia aged 9+ in 1985/86, according to the CR69 survey conducted over 12 months including winter when cyclist numbers are far lower than in March and April when the 2013 survey was conducted.


victoria bicycle use

Day to Day Travel in Australia 1985-86 (p123)


Note: the CR69 report for 1985/86 estimates daily cycling participation among ages 9+ whereas the 2013 Cycling Participation Survey estimates weekly, monthly and annual cycling among ages 10+.

There were 271,746 Australians aged 9 in 2011 and if 44.4% cycled in the previous week, there were 120,655 cyclists in 2013 x 5.4 / 7 = 93,077 additional daily cycle trips in 2013.

This would make a total 1,919,834 daily bike trips aged 9+ in 2013 compared to 1,645,900 daily bike trips aged 9+ in 1985/86, a 16.6% increase.

Australia's population aged 9+ increased by 42.5% from 1986 to 2011 (13,867,351 to 19,766,022).

There is a 25.9% difference between 9+ population and cycling growth from 1985/86 to 2013, based on 1986 and 2011 ABS data.


Note: The original study comparing 2011 and 1985/86 cycling participation has been criticised by Olivier et al including an online spreadsheet to support their argument.

The updated 2013 Australian Cycling Participation Survey data has been used to replace 2011 survey data in the Olivier et al spreadsheet analysis, and can be viewed here.

This update of the critique uses data available from the 2013 survey, which categorises ages into only four relevant brackets, whereas the 2011 survey used nine relevant age brackets.

Olivier et al maintain their rework found an 8% per capita increase in 9+ cycling participation from 1985/86 to 2011.

  • Using the 2013 survey weekly participation data with the 2011 survey national estimate of 5.4 trips per week, their methodology shows a 30.8% reduction in crude cycling trip rate per person per day of cycling aged 10+ from 1985/86 to 2013.
  • Their methodology shows a 3% reduction in per capita cycling aged 9+ from 1985/86 to 2013.

The 2013 Cycling Participation Survey by the Australian Bicycle Council and Austroads establishes that bike riding in Australia is in decline since 2011.

The official data guiding Australia's failed national cycling strategy to 2016 shows less per capita cycling in 2013 than two years earlier and 27 years earlier (first helmet law 23 years earlier) using the same methodology accepted by critics of the 2011 participation study.


Note: The 2013 Australian Cycling Participation report warns that because of different survey methodology, care should be taken in comparing different years. The 2011 and 2013 surveys provide the baseline data for Australia's 2011-2016 National Cycling Strategy and it is assumed their results are sufficiently accurate to guide national cycling policy.

Note: On 23 October 2013, The West Australian newspaper reported the results of the national Cycling Participation Survey 2013 for riding levels in the West Australian capital of Perth (image to right).

As reflected in the headline, Bicycling WA and the media are avoiding the issue of bicycle helmets. Perth has had many hundreds of kilometres of cycle paths built over the past 20 years and has been nominated by Travel and Leisure magazine and by the Department for Planning and Infrastructure as one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the world.

Despite this, a lack of cycle paths is blamed for discouraging cycling in Perth due to safety fears - fears that have been exaggerated by mandatory bicycle helmet laws since 1992.

The story notes that cycling as a percentage of Perth's population crashed by 22.2% from 2011 to 2013, and the 4.7% percentage drop represents 86,226 of the Greater Perth population in 2011 (1,834,600 and up 3.6% to 1,900,000 in 2012).

Note: Australian Bureau of Statistics data published in February 2015 show Australians aged 15+ who cycled at least once in the previous year dropped 15.7% from 1,366,100 in 2011/12 to 1,151,900 in 2013/14 (males down 11.2%, females down 22.8%), and the 15yo+ population percentage cycling in the past year fell from 6.3% in 2005/06 to 6.2% in 2013/14.

The findings on this page are supported by data showing Australian adult cycling participation (18yo+ and 15yo+) between November 1993, just over a year after the final mandatory helmet law was enforced in Australia, and 2013/14 - according to the Population Survey Monitor and Participation in Sport and Physical Recreation surveys published by the ABS. This includes the downturn in Australian cycling in 2013/14 which is contrary to media reports that bike riding is booming.

cycling levels in perth in 2013

australian cycling participation since helmet law


Compare with 1985/86 - 2011 survey

Compare with 1985/86 - 2015 survey

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