Cycling participation in Australia may have dipped last year, but these four cities have grand plans to improve active transport through safety, development and incentive measures.
Australia experienced a cycling boom during the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with baking sourdough, more Aussies hopped on their bikes than ever before to enhance wellbeing and avoid public transport.
Some cities took advantage of the cycling upturn through new roadside infrastructure, including Brisbane, with 400 signs installed along the 36-kilometre Brisbane Loop for easier wayfinding.
But the boom appears to be well and truly over, as figures released via the Cycling and Walking Australia and New Zealand (CWANZ) national survey revealed just one third of Australians cycled in 2023 — down from 40 per cent in 2021.
While not having a bike was the leading cause of low cycling uptake, around one in five survey participants feel it is simply too dangerous — with post-COVID increases in dangerous driving behaviour potentially factoring into the decline.
While Melbourne is often considered the gold standard of cycling in Australia, with over 135 km of on- and off-road routes, create takes a look at the cities with plans to increase future participation in this compact, active and pollution-free mode of transport.
1. Canberra’s separate intersection proposal
Separated bicycle paths are key to cyclist safety, improving uptake and also having a flow-on effect on overall traffic safety.
But cyclist safety can be jeopardised at busy intersections and multi-lane roundabouts — with intersections linked to up to 53 per cent of urban-area crashes.
Looking to European nations such as the Netherlands for inspiration, the ACT revealed plans to introduce revamped intersections as part of its Active Travel Plan in a design guide consultation put forward last year.
A key goal for the redesign is to streamline motor vehicle routes through convergence at less locations and simplifying complex intersections.
The new intersection design won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach, and will instead be influenced by resident behaviour and the environment.
For example, local intersections that link streets with low traffic volumes could have mini-roundabouts with kerbs that are more square, helping to maintain low speeds.
“More Canberrans will walk and ride if it is safer, more accessible, convenient, and enjoyable,” said MP Chris Steel.
“This new design guide ensures that intersections and streets are designed to safely support all forms of transport including walking, cycling and driving.”
2. Wagga Wagga is encouraging cycling in regional areas
Cycling isn’t just for city slickers. While much of the focus on active transport has centred on urban areas, some countries are opting to look beyond city lines.
For example, the French government invested 250 million euro to improve cycling uptake, with a focus on rural areas to both improve health and further along the energy transition.
“Cycling in cities has really taken off in recent years [and] the challenge for the coming years will be to show that cycling can also be a mode of transport in rural areas,” said former French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.
Locally, Wagga Wagga in inland New South Wales, has become the epicentre of regional cycling infrastructure.
Identifying the barriers to cycling, the Wagga Wagga Active Travel Plan sought to overcome them to bolster active transport.
Wagga Wagga is now home to one of Australia’s largest regional cycleways, with 50.7 km of the planned 56-kilometre active travel pathway now complete, linking all areas of the city with the CBD.
Shower and storage facilities were also installed at two end-of-trip locations to provide secure bike storage and allow cyclists to freshen up before commencing work or study.
“When completed, the Active Travel Plan’s shared pathway will crisscross the city and provide residents with a safe, alternative travel option for commuting, or an excellent path for exercising,” said Council’s Manager Recreation and Economic Development Ben Creighton.
3. Incentivising cycling in Tasmania
E-bike subsidies can drive users to engage in active transport, with international trials yielding positive results.
For example, research into California’s e-bike rebate program identified that the initiative led to greenhouse gases being reduced by 12 to 44 lg of CO2 equivalent per user per month.
While the CWANZ study found that Tasmania had the lowest cycling rates in the country, a new initiative could set change in motion.
The Tasmanian Government became the first jurisdiction to subsidise e-bike purchases through an e-Transport package as part of its Climate Change Action Plan.
Rebates on eligible two-wheelers include:
- $500 for e-bikes
- $1000 for cargo e-bikes.
With starting costs of $800 for a basic e-bike, this incentive could fund a sizable chunk of a nifty new vehicle.
Users can also benefit from interest free loans of between $5000 to $10,000 to install chargers for electric vehicles.
Tasmania is notoriously mountainous and windy, which e-bikes could help budding cyclists to overcome.
“The package will reduce Tasmania’s transport emissions by encouraging consumers to replace internal combustion engine vehicles with electric vehicles and personal devices,” said Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Roger Jaensch.
4. Factoring cycling into Parramatta’s development plans
Parramatta is now known as Sydney’s second CBD, with a focus on urban and residential development in the heart of the west designed to reduce pressure on Sydney’s city centre. It’s estimated Parramamtta will house 200,000 new residents by 2036, with an additional 25,000 jobs created in the emerging hub.
The development of this new city provided an opportunity to embed cycling as a key mode of transport.
Building on the initial 2017 plan, the Parramatta Bike Plan 2023 outlines vital infrastructure that will connect the new city. Lower speed limits and separated bike lanes will allow for a “cycle-friendly CBD”, while connected shared paths will link the most densely populated schools with the CBD and local residential areas.
Some one-way streets will provide “contra-flow cycling”, allowing cyclists to travel in both directions. Uphill bike lanes, space permitting, will be introduced to improve safety when roads are steep.
The recently opened Alfred Street Bridge across the Parramatta River also facilitates a connection for cyclists between the Parramatta Valley Cycleway to the shared pathway.
“This project provides a new active transport link catering for Parramatta’s growing population with a convenient, safe and scenic walking and cycling link over the river,” said NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully.