In August 2021 the Holsworth Research Initiative was delighted to host a presentation by Peter Bourke from We Ride Australia. Peter is passionate about bikes and their role in creating cities that encourage active travel, tourism and commuting.
Regional cities like Bendigo are ideal for cyclists as many trips are less than 4 kilometres so easily achievable on a bike. Plus, COVID gave cycling a huge boost as people rediscovered cycling during the lockdowns. They dusted off their old bikes for exercise and bought new bikes – until the shops ran out!
But there are barriers in the way:
- The number of people riding bikes regularly has dropped from 18% In 2008 to 14% in 2021
- Only 20% of the regional population ride regularly, and
- Women make up only 25% of riders
The number of women riders is key to increasing bike riding in the community, as women are the gatekeepers to children taking up riding – and their perception of the safety of cycling, for themselves and their kids, is the biggest hurdle.
Getting more people on bikes
First, government involvement is key. We Ride Australia engages with city planners and policy makers at the federal, state and local government levels and they encourage active tourism, such as the Mount Alexander mountain bike trails. As Peter says:
Good bike investment in good locations leads to great outcomes.
To engage government, we need to show how bikes are good both for health and the economy. For example:
- a person who rides to work takes on average one less sick day per year, and
- 5 times more jobs are created for every dollar spent on bicycle infrastructure than any other transport infrastructure.
Plus more bikes on the road mean less congestion as this photo (from Canberra) so graphically shows – the same number of people, and their vehicles, is in each picture.
Finally, research from the City of Portland (USA) has identified four different kind of riders:
Cycling for more than the One Percent
To grow cycling we need to engage with the 60% of people who would ride more if they felt safer. To do this we need to:
- Make bike infrastructure safer and more attractive, for example with direct routes and better lighting, and
- Slow down car speeds – by dropping speeds from 60 to 30 km per hour in connector streets
As Peter says:
Low speed environments are the best way to introduce good bike infrastructure without spending too much money.
E-bikes for Equity and Mobility
E-bikes are great for people with a disability or injury, those who are less fit, and those want to commute to work on a bike without breaking a sweat.
Australia Post has found that e-bikes can carry more parcels than a motorbike, and Dominos Pizza have found them the fastest way to deliver pizzas.
HRI researcher Dr Rodrigo Rico Bini is planning to research e-bike use in Bendigo so keep an eye on this blog for more information – and the opportunity to take part in an exercise trial!