Cycling participation in Victoria

Also see cycling participation in NSW, Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

Road surveys are considered a gauge of community cycling participation and hospitalised cyclists with non-head injuries are considered a gauge of community cycling participation and/or improved traffic safety for all road users.

Mandatory bicycle helmet laws were enforced in Victoria for all ages from 1 July 1990.

The extracts below from Estimated Cost of Bicycle Related Trauma in Victoria and Estimates for Australia, published by VicRoads in 1992, suggest that there were 1,632,000 cyclists in Victoria aged 14 and over in October 1989.

The VicRoads data above is confirmed and expanded in the extract below from the Victorian Bicycling Strategy published by VicRoads in 1990, which shows a total of 2,215,000 Victorians of all ages cycling in October 1989.

cycling in victoria in 1989

Victoria's 1989 pre-law cycling participation of 2,215,000 can be compared with National Cycling Participation data (p16) showing an estimated 2,098,500 Victorians cycled at least once during the year in 2015.

Similarly, below is extracted from an April 1990 survey by AGB Research which found the following rates of all-age cycling participation across Victoria:

victoria bike riding in 1989

Victoria's total population in June 1990 was 4,378,592 and 50% is 2,189,296 who cycled. The AGB Research survey finding that 53% of Victoria's cyclists rode their bikes daily equates to 1,160,327 riding a bike every day.

That compares to the National Cycling Participation survey of all-ages which shows 348,925 Victorians cycling daily in 2015. Victoria’s all-age population increased 35.62% from 1990 to 2015 (4,378,592 > 5,938,119)

The 50% of Victoria’s population who cycled in the previous year in 1990 compares to 35.9% in the NCP 2015 survey results for Victoria.

The Roy Morgan research group estimated 20% of Victorians aged 14+ cycled in 2015, which was 984,093 people. This compares to the 1,632,000 aged 14+ in 1989 estimated above by VicRoads. Victoria's population increased 37.45% from 4,320,164 in 1989 to 5,938,119 in 2015. Proportionally, the numbers cycling reduced from 37.7% to 20%.

Below is extracted from Report #32 - Evaluation of the Bicycle Helmet Wearing Law in Victoria During its First 12 Months published 1992 by Cameron et al.

victoria bike riding

Across Victoria, the data above show cyclist severe head injuries were declining before the July 1991 helmet law and severe non-head injuries declined at a similar rate in the year thereafter, suggesting reduced cycling participation.

victoria bike riding

Across Victoria, the data above show that among all cyclist hospital admissions, there was a larger reduction in the number of non-head injuries than head injuries in the year after helmet law enforcement, suggesting reduced cycling participation. The 37% reduction in head injuries was similar to the reduction in cycling participation from 1990 to 1991 estimated by the MUARC surveys at 64 sites in Melbourne and as presented by Finch et al.

victoria bike riding

In Melbourne, the data above show that among child cyclist hospital admissions, the number of head injuries declined after bicycle helmet law enforcement but so too did non-head injuries, suggesting reduced cycling participation.

victoria bike riding

In Melbourne, the data above suggest that among child cyclist hospital admissions, the percentage of head injuries declined about 4% but increased in the following 12 months, again raising questions about claims that helmets reduce cyclist head injuries by as much as 80%.

Below is extracted from Report #51 - Head Injury Reductions in Victoria Two Years After Introduction of Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Use published 1993 by Finch et al.

victoria bike riding

Across Victoria, the data above suggest 34,683 cyclists were observed in pre-law 1990 and 33,917 in post-law 1991 - a 2.2% reduction. Cyclist numbers for 1987 in the table above appear unreliable, possibly because of the number or methodology of surveys undertaken. However, from 1988 to 1990 the data suggest a 58.3% increase (21,903 to 34,683) in pre-law cycling participation.

victoria bike riding

In Melbourne, the data above suggest 3,119 cyclists were observed in pre-law May 1990, 2,011 in post-law May 1991 and 2,477 in post-law May 1992 - reductions of 35.5% and 20.6%.

victoria bike riding

In Melbourne, the data above suggest cyclist severe head injuries had been falling prior to helmet law enforcement with both head and non-head severe injuries declining thereafter - non-head by 17% and head by 66%.

victoria bike riding

In Melbourne, the data above suggest 5-17yo cycling participation declined following helmet law enforcement but 18yo+ cycling increased. Melbourne had a population of 3.1 million in 1992 and the chart above suggests that all ages cycled approximately 63 million hours per week in May that year. This equates to 20.3 hours per week for each person in Melbourne which is unrealistic and suggests the chart methodology is flawed. Research published by the British Medical Journal shows adult cyclists counted at 64 Melbourne sites dropped from 1,567 in 1990 to 1,106 in 1991, with a recovery to 1,484 in 1992 due to a cycling rally passing through one of the survey sites (without which, Melbourne adult cycling declined 27% from 1990 to 1992).

victoria bike riding

Across Victoria, the data above suggest cyclist head injuries had been declining prior to helmet law enforcement and continued to decline, with non-head injuries declining after law enforcement.

Below is extracted from Report #45 - Bicycle Use and Helmet Wearing Rates in Melbourne, 1987 to 1992: The Influence of the helmet wearing law authored by Finch et al and published 1993 by the Monash University Accident Research Centre.

victoria bike riding

In Melbourne, the data above suggest that the total number of all age cyclists counted at 64 observation sites decreased 21% from 3,121 in pre-law 1990 to 2,472 in 1992. Numbers among 5-11yo cyclists dropped by 9% from pre-law 1990 to 1992, by 43% among 12-17yo teenagers and by 5% among 18yo+ adults.

victoria bike riding

In Melbourne, the data above suggest that the total number of 5-11yo cyclists counted on footpaths at 64 observation sites decreased approximately 38.1%, the number of 12-17yo cyclists decreased approximately 54.5% and the number of 18yo+ cyclists decreased approximately 20%.

victoria bike riding

In Melbourne, the data above suggest that the total number of 5-11yo cyclists counted on roads at 64 observation sites decreased approximately 50%, the number of 12-17yo cyclists decreased approximately 46.2% and the number of 18yo+ cyclists increased approximately 37.5%.

victoria bike riding

In Melbourne, the data above show the report authors' estimate of reduced cycling percentages from 1990 to 1991.

Below is extracted from Report #75 - Head Injury Reductions in Victoria Three Years After Introduction of Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Use published 1994 by Finch et al.

victoria bike riding

Across Victoria, the data above suggest that compared to pre-law 1989/90, cyclist severe head injuries had reduced 54% and severe non-head injuries 40% by 1992/93.

victoria bike riding

In Melbourne, the data above suggest that compared to pre-law 1989/90, cyclist head injuries had reduced 40% and non-head injuries 35% by 1992/93.

victoria bike riding

The data above suggest that both head and non-head cyclist hospitalised injuries dropped following helmet law enforcement, with head injuries dropping about 28% (~85) from 1989/90 to 1992/93 and non-head injuries by about 9% (~63).

victoria bike riding

Across Victoria, the data above suggest that compared to pre-law 1989/90, hospitalised cyclist head injuries from motor vehicle crashes reduced 40% and non-head injuries 45% by 1992/93.

victoria bike riding

Across Victoria, the data above show that both hospital admission and Transport Accident Commission data recorded a significant decline in cyclist head injuries from motor vehicle crashes after helmet law enforcement.

victoria bike riding

Across Victoria, the data above show that both hospital admission and Transport Accident Commission data recorded a significant decline in cyclist non-head injuries from motor vehicle crashes after helmet law enforcement.

Below is extracted from Report #76 - Evaluation of the Bicycle Helmet Wearing Law in Victoria During its First Four Years published 1995 by Carr et al, with a table below showing estimates of monthly head and non-head injuries.

victoria bike riding

Across Victoria, the data above suggest a 22.4% (18) reduction in monthly non-head hospitalised injuries and a 35.9% (13) reduction in head injuries from pre-law 7/1987-6/1990 to post-law 7/1990-6/1994. The Monash authors concede that the reduction in head injuries could be partly due to a reduction in cycling participation. If non-head injuries are taken as an indicator of participation, slightly more than one in five Victorian cyclists stopped cycling.

Head and non-head cyclist hospital admission data used above by Carr et al is adjusted for factors such as changes to Victorian hospital admission policies and road safety trends.

The chart below shows Victorian cyclist head and neck injury numbers from 1999 to 2014 with data extracted from the Victorian Injury Surveillance System.

victoria cyclist head injuries

Data from the Carr report table displayed higher on this page shows an average 446 hospitalised cyclist head injuries in pre-law 1988 and 1989. The VISS data above shows that after a decline since 2011 when cycling participation in Victoria dropped, there were approximately 580 hospitalised cyclist head injuries in 2013/14 - 30% more than the two years pre-law.

The chart below of Victorian cyclist hospital admissions is extracted from Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation, with the blue line representing head injuries and the red line representing non-head injuries.

victoria bike riding

Unadjusted head and non-head hospital admission data above show both fell significantly and at about the same rate following helmet law enforcement.

Below is extracted from Edition #8 - Hazard - Victorian Injury Surveillance System published October 1991.

victorian injury surveillance system

The data above shows a 40% reduction in head injuries to cyclists aged less than 15 in the 12 months after Victorian helmet law enforcement, but also a 26.3% reduction in total injuries that aren't influenced by helmet wearing. There were 214 fewer bicycle injuries and 35 fewer head injuries in the year after enforcement than the year before, with the total injury reduction suggesting about 25% fewer people riding bikes in Victoria.

Below is extracted from Cycling to Work in Melbourne 1976-2001 published 2002 by VicRoads.

victoria bike riding

The data above suggest that the number of bike trips dropped 7% from pre-law 1986 to post-law 1991, 4.2% from pre-law 1986 to post-law 1996 and increased 14% from pre-law 1986 to post-law 2001. The total increase of 1,465 from 1986 to 2001 was entirely due to commuter bike trips to central Melbourne which increased by 2,639 over that time period.

Excluding Melbourne from the list above, the number of work trips to all other destinations declined 13% from 9,033 in pre-law 1986 to 7,859 in post-law 2001. Total trips increased 5.3% from 11,361 in 1981 to 11,959 in 2001, despite Melbourne population growth of 20% from 1981 to 2001 (2,806,000 > 3,366,542).

Below is extracted from Walking and Cycling: Census Analysis published 2008 by the Victorian Department of Transport.

victoria bike riding

The data above show cycling-only work trips across Victoria increased from 17,190 in 1996 to 18,910 in 2001 and 25,180 in 2006 - seemingly a substantial increase. However, mandatory all-age bicycle helmet laws were enforced throughout Victoria in 1990 and the ABS data should be compared with results before law enforcement which show that in Victoria there were 24,022 bike to work trips in pre-law 1986.

Below is extracted from Trends in Road Traffic Fatality and Injury in Victoria published 1998 by VicHealth.

victoria bike riding

The data above suggest traffic fatalities and injuries declined for all road user types in 1990 due to the introduction of tougher road laws by the Victorian Government.

Below is extracted from Day to Day Travel in Australia 1985-86 published 1988 by the Federal Office of Road Safety.

victoria bike riding

Across Victoria, the data above suggest that when surveyed over the full 12 months of 1985/86 including winter, there were 466,100 bike trips per day by Victorians aged 9+

Below is extracted from 2011 Australian Cycling Participation published 2011 by Austroads and the Australian Bicycle Council.

victoria bike riding

Across Victoria, the data above suggest that when surveyed in the warm months of March and April, 729,835 Victorians aged 10+ cycled per week in 2011, which equates (multiplied by an average 5.9 trips per week in Victoria divided by seven days) to an average 615,147 trips per day.

Compared to the 466,100 in 1985/86, this represents an increase of 32% from 1985/86 to 2011, with Victoria's population increasing 38% from 1986 to 2011 (4,019,478 to 5,547,527).

It should be noted that 1985/86 was four years before helmet law enforcement in Victoria and, as demonstrated in Vic Roads surveys, both Melbourne metropolitan and Victorian regional commuter and recreational cycling increased substantially from 1987 to 1990.

The tables below show state percentages of cycling weekly, monthly and yearly based on 2011 Australian Cycling Participation, 2013 Australian Cycling Participation and 2015 Australian Cycling Participation published by Austroads and the Australian Bicycle Council.

australian weekly cycling participation 2015

australian weekly cycling participation 2015

australian weekly cycling participation 2015

The data above show that, as in most Australian states, there was a significant decline in cycling participation from 2011 to 2015 - in Victoria down from 19.9% to 16.6% weekly, 29.2% to 23.2% monthly and 42.6% to 35.9% yearly.

Aged 9+, the data above suggest daily bike trips fell 38.6% from 1985/86 to 2015 (466,100 > 286,109), despite Victorian population growth of 43% from 1986 to 2014. The 2015 Australian Cycling Participation report acknowledges that Victoria experienced a statistically significant decrease in cycling participation from 2011 to 2015.


All non-head injury and road or telephone survey data above suggest a decline in Victorian cycling participation which is ongoing till 2015 on a per capita basis. The drop in non-head injuries may partly be due to improved road safety conditions in Victoria around 1990 but road and participation surveys suggest a significant reduction in numbers of Victorians cycling compared to population growth.

Also see cycling participation in NSW, Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

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