Australian cyclist numbers
and population
1985/86 - 2011

Australia     Australian Capital Territory     New South Wales     Northern Territory
Queensland     South Australia     Tasmania     Victoria     Western Australia

Note: the study below was published by World Transport Policy and Practice May 2012.

Note: The biennial update of the Australian cycling participation survey by Austroads has been released for 2013, showing a failure of the 2011-2016 National Cycling Strategy with a significant decline in Australian cycling from 2011 to 2013. Click for a 2013 update analysis.

This page also provides a response to study criticism by Australia's pro-law academics.


Analysis of government data shows the rate of cycling participation in Australia between 1985 and 2011 was 22.3% less than the rate of total population growth.

When survey data from 1985/86 is compared to 2011 survey data weighted against populations aged nine years and above, the rate of cycling participation in Australia was 37.5% below the rate of population growth.

Over the 25 years, comparative cycling participation vs total population growth in all states and territories was: ACT +3%, NSW -24.2%, Northern Territory +8.9%, Queensland -41.8%, South Australia -48.3%, Tasmania +59.1%, Victoria -6% and Western Australia -22.7%.

Comparative cycling participation vs population aged 9+ growth in all states and territories was: ACT -25.2%, NSW -36.1%, Northern Territory -42.1%, Queensland -70.1%, South Australia -58.1%, Tasmania +49.5%, Victoria -17.8% and Western Australia -46.6%.

This analysis presents official records of cyclist numbers nationally and in all Australian states and territories in 1985/86 and 2011. Data sources are the 2011 Australian Cycling Participation survey and Day to Day Travel in Australia 1985-86, with Australian Bureau of Statistics population data sourced and linked for each state below.

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

Note: In March 2013 the data on this page was reanalysed for an estimate of the daily number of Australian cyclists expected in 2010 based on 1985/86 state and gender ratios, rather than estimates of population proportion as discussed on this page.




Australia

australia cycling numbers

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p23)


australia cycling percentages

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p23)


Cumulative ABS data listed in the states below shows there were 2,285,937 people across Australia aged 10 to 17 in 2010/2011. The 2011 Australian Cycling Participation survey (p23) shows 33.6% of people aged 10 to 17 cycled in the previous week. This is 768,075 Australians aged 10 to 17 who cycled an average 5.4 times in the previous week, which totals 4,147,605 trips per week, or an average 592,515 who cycled daily.

Cumulative ABS data listed in the states below shows there were 7,079,921 people across Australia aged 18 to 39 in 2010. The 2011 Australian Cycling Participation survey (p23) shows 13.4% of people aged 18 to 39 cycled in the previous week. This is 948,709 Australians aged 18 to 39 who cycled an average 5.4 times in the previous week, which totals 5,123,029 trips per week, or an average 731,861 who cycled daily.

Cumulative ABS data listed in the states below shows there were 10,144,447 people across Australia aged 40+ in 2010. The 2011 Australian Cycling Participation survey (p23) shows 8.5% of people aged 40+ cycled in the previous week. This is 862,278 Australians aged 40+ who cycled an average 5.4 times in the previous week, which totals 4,656,301 trips per week, or an average 665,186 who cycled daily.

Together, this is 1,989,562 Australians aged over nine who cycled daily in 2011. This compares with 1,645,900 bike trips per day by people across Australia aged nine or above in 1985/86, according to the CR69 survey over 12 months including winter when cyclist numbers are far lower than in March and April when the 2011 survey was conducted.


victoria bicycle use

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


This data shows the number of people in Australia cycling per day increased by 20.9% from 1985/86 to 2011. Australia's population increased by 43.2% from 1986 to 2011 (15,602,156 to 22,342,398).

On a 25 year comparison from 1985/86 to 2011, the rate of growth in Australia's cycling participation was 22.3% less than the rate of total population growth.

The data above can be tabulated as a comparison of percentage growth in daily cyclist trips aged 9+ and percentage growth in total population from 1985/86 to 2011, as below:


% change in
trips per day
% change in
population
Difference in %
ACT+46.8%+43.8%+3%
NSW+9.8%+34%-24.2%
NT+56.9%+48.3%+8.6%
QLD+32.8%+74.6%-41.8%
SA-26.1%+22.2%-48.3%
TAS+75.4%+16.3%+59.1%
VIC+32%+38%-6%
WA+40.5%+63.2%-22.7%
AUS+20.9%+43.2%-22.3%


Alternatively, the data above can be tabulated as a comparison of percentage growth in daily cyclist trips aged 9+ and percentage growth in population aged 9+ from 1985/86 to 2011, as below:


CR69 85/86
pop 9+
ABS 2010
pop 9+
Population
% change
85/86
trips
2011
trips
Trip
% change
Trip-pop
% change
ACT183,000317,794+72%30,20044,336+46.8%-25.2%
NSW4,402,0006,423,385+45.9%420,700461,929+9.8%-36.1%
NT99,000197,015+99%23,80037,345+56.9%-42.1%
QLD1,957,0003,971,290+102.9%321,900427,539+32.8%-70.1%
SA1,114,0001,470,964+32%171,100126,444-26.1%-58.1%
TAS357,000449,477+25.9%29,30051,394+75.4%+49.5%
VIC3,293,0004,931,527+49.8%466,100615,147+32%-17.8%
WA1,084,0002,028,391+87.1%182,900257,024+40.5%-46.6%
AUS12,488,00019,789,883+58.4%1,645,9001,989,562+20.9%-37.5%


There are various differences in the survey methods used in 1985/86 and 2011. These include the 1985/86 survey including nine year olds and the 2011 survey comparison excluding nine year olds. The 2011 survey also included use of a bicycle in the backyard as a cycling trip, whereas the 1985/86 survey did not.

The 1985/86 survey was done by mail and contained details of trips by 45,000 people from 18,000 households. The 2011 survey was by telephone and contained details of trips by 24,858 people from 9,661 households.

2011 Australian Cycling Participation states: "Population statistics were estimated using weights derived from the ABS estimated resident population for 2010 ... The most recently available resident population estimates at a state/territory level available at the time of this study were for 30 June 2010".

The 1985/86 CR69 survey findings were weighted against the 1981 population census (Australia's population 14,576,330 in 1981).

It should also be noted that between 1986 and 1990, just before Australia's first helmet law, cycling levels were increasing substantially across Australia - in WA by about 12% per annum1, in Sydney by about 250% throughout the 1980s2, and in Melbourne by about 47% from 1986 to 19893.

There are differences between survey methods but these two reports remain the only officially recognised database estimates of Australian cycling participation in 1985/86 and 2011, the latter upon which the Federal Government's national cycling strategy is based.

Statistics showing Australian cycling participation before 1990/92 mandatory helmet law enforcement are scarce. However, this 1954 newspaper article in Melbourne's Argus newspaper shows that in 1952, there were 1.67 million cars and trucks, 150,000 motorcycles and 1.5 million bicycles on Australian roads. Deaths per 1,000 vehicles: cars and trucks - .54; motorcycles - 2.3; bicycles - .08. Injuries per 1,000 vehicles: cars and trucks - 11.8; motorcycles - 45.9; bicycles - 2.6.

See Too much inactivity is killing us published 21 July 2012 by The Australian newspaper.


1) Main Roads WA
2) Webber R. Cycling in Europe. In: Shepherd R, editor. Ausbike 92 p472
3) Lambert J. Number of cyclists, bicyclist trips and bicyclist accident reports in Victoria, 1986 - 1989. Vic Roads internal report, May 1990.


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Australia     New South Wales     Northern Territory     Queensland
South Australia     Tasmania     Victoria     Western Australia




Australian Capital Territory


australia cycling numbers

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p23)


act cycling percentages

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p30)


Australian Bureau of Statistics population data (Excel 635kb) shows that on 30 June 2010, the ACT's population comprised the following age groups above nine years old:

10-17 - 34,563 (x 42.5% = 14,689)
18-39 - 126,068 (x 18.7% = 23,575)
40+ - 150,068 (x 12.8% = 19,209)

That totals 57,473 people in the ACT aged above nine years who cycled an average 5.4 times in the previous week, which totals 310,354 trips per week, or an average 44,336 trips per day in 2011.

This compares with 30,200 bike trips per day by people in the ACT aged nine or above in 1985/86, according to the CR69 survey over 12 months including winter when cyclist numbers are far lower than in March and April when the 2011 survey was conducted.


victoria bicycle use

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


This data shows the number of people in the ACT cycling per day increased by 46.8% from 1985/86 to 2011. The ACT population increased by 43.8% from 1986 to 2011 (249,408 to 358,644).

On a 25 year comparison, the growth in ACT cycling participation has exceeded the rate of population growth by 3%.


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Australia     Australian Capital Territory     Northern Territory     Queensland
South Australia     Tasmania     Victoria     Western Australia





New South Wales


australia cycling numbers

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p23)


nsw cycling percentages

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p33)


Australian Bureau of Statistics population data (Excel 643kb) shows that on 30 June 2010, the NSW population comprised the following age groups above nine years old:

10-17 - 732,412 (x 25.5% = 186,765)
18-39 - 2,286,098 (x 11% = 251,471)
40+ - 3,315,648 (x 7.1% = 235,411)

That totals 673,647 people in NSW aged above nine years who cycled an average 4.8 times in the previous week, which totals 3,233,506 trips per week, or an average 461,929 trips per day in 2011.

This compares with 420,700 bike trips per day by people in NSW aged nine or above in 1985/86, according to the CR69 survey over 12 months including winter when cyclist numbers are far lower than in March and April when the 2011 survey was conducted.


victoria bicycle use

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


This data shows the number of people in NSW cycling per day increased by 9.8% from 1985/86 to 2011. The NSW population increased by 34% from 1986 to 2011 (5,401,881 to 7,238,819).

On a 25 year comparison, the growth in NSW cycling participation has not kept pace with population growth.


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Australia     New South Wales     Australian Capital Territory     Queensland
South Australia     Tasmania     Victoria     Western Australia





Northern Territory


australia cycling numbers

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p23)


northern territory cycling percentages

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p36)


Australian Bureau of Statistics population data (Excel 639kb) shows that on 30 June 2010, the Northern Territory population comprised the following age groups above nine years old:

10-17 - 26,732 (x 43.3% = 11,575)
18-39 - 84,411 (x 17.9% = 15,110)
40+ - 82,215 (x 15% = 12,332)

That totals 39,017 people in the Northern Territory aged above nine years who cycled an average 6.7 times in the previous week, which totals 261,414 trips per week, or an average 37,345 trips per day in 2011.

This compares with 23,800 bike trips per day by people in the Northern Territory aged nine or above in 1985/86, according to the CR69 survey over 12 months including winter when cyclist numbers are far lower than in March and April when the 2011 survey was conducted.


victoria bicycle use

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


This data shows the number of people in the Northern Territory cycling per day increased by 56.9% from 1985/86 to 2011. The Northern Territory population increased by 48.3% from 1986 to 2011 (154,848 to 229,675).

On a 25 year comparison, the growth in Northern Territory cycling participation has exceeded the rate of population growth by 8.6%. Bicycle helmets are not mandatory for adults on cycle paths in the Northern Territory.


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Australia     New South Wales     Northern Territory     Australian Capital Territory
South Australia     Tasmania     Victoria     Western Australia





Queensland


australia cycling numbers

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p23)


queensland cycling percentages

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p39)


Australian Bureau of Statistics population data (Excel 639kb) shows that on 30 June 2010, the Queensland population comprised the following age groups above nine years old:

10-17 - 483,774 (x 34.6% = 167,386)
18-39 - 1,424,729 (x 12% = 170,967)
40+ - 2,003,497 (x 7.6% = 152,266)

That totals 490,619 people in Queensland aged above nine years who cycled an average 6.1 times in the previous week, which totals 2,992,776 trips per week, or an average 427,539 trips per day in 2011.

This compares with 321,900 bike trips per day by people in Queensland aged nine or above in 1985/86, according to the CR69 survey over 12 months including winter when cyclist numbers are far lower than in March and April when the 2011 survey was conducted.


victoria bicycle use

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


This data shows the number of people in Queensland cycling per day increased by 32.8% from 1985/86 to 2011. The Queensland population increased by 74.6% from 1986 to 2011 (2,587,315 to 4,516,361).

On a 25 year comparison, the growth in Queensland's cycling participation has not kept pace with population growth.


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Australia     New South Wales     Northern Territory     Queensland
Australian Capital Territory     Tasmania     Victoria     Western Australia





South Australia


australia cycling numbers

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p23)


south australia cycling percentages

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p42)


Australian Bureau of Statistics population data (Excel 639kb) shows that on 30 June 2010, the South Australia population comprised the following age groups above nine years old:

10-17 - 163,617 (x 29.1% = 47,613)
18-39 - 484,794 (x 15.6% = 75,628)
40+ - 803,462 (x 8.1% = 65,080)

That totals 188,321 people in South Australia aged above nine years who cycled an average 4.7 times in the previous week, which totals 885,109 trips per week, or an average 126,444 trips per day in 2011.

This compares with 171,100 bike trips per day by people in South Australia aged nine or above in 1985/86, according to the CR69 survey over 12 months including winter when cyclist numbers are far lower than in March and April when the 2011 survey was conducted.


victoria bicycle use

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


This data shows the number of people in South Australia cycling per day decreased by 26.1% from 1985/86 to 2011. The South Australia population increased by 22.2% from 1986 to 2011 (1,345,945 to 1,644,642).

On a 25 year comparison, the growth in South Australia's cycling participation has not kept pace with population growth and has in fact fallen by 26.1%.


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Australia     New South Wales     Northern Territory     Queensland
South Australia     Australian Capital Territory     Victoria     Western Australia





Tasmania


australia cycling numbers

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p23)


tasmania cycling percentages

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p44)


Australian Bureau of Statistics population data (Excel 639kb) shows that on 30 June 2010, Tasmania's population comprised the following age groups above nine years old:

10-17 - 54,184 (x 38.6% = 20,915)
18-39 - 136,103 (x 16.7% = 22,729)
40+ - 252,881 (x 7.7% = 19,472)

That totals 63,116 people in Tasmania aged above nine years who cycled an average 5.7 times in the previous week, which totals 359,761 trips per week, or an average 51,394 trips per day in 2011.

This compares with 29,300 bike trips per day by people in Tasmania aged nine or above in 1985/86, according to the CR69 survey over 12 months including winter when cyclist numbers are far lower than in March and April when the 2011 survey was conducted.


victoria bicycle use

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


This data shows the number of people in Tasmania cycling per day increased by 75.4% from 1985/86 to 2011. The Tasmania population increased by 16.3% from 1986 to 2011 (436,353 to 507,626).

On a 25 year comparison, the growth in Tasmania cycling participation has exceeded the rate of population growth by 59.1%.


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Australia     New South Wales     Northern Territory     Queensland
South Australia     Tasmania     Australian Capital Territory     Western Australia





Victoria


australia cycling numbers

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p23)


victoria cycling percentages

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p46)


Australian Bureau of Statistics population data (Excel 639kb) shows that on 30 June 2010, Victoria's population comprised the following age groups above nine years old:

10-17 - 548,817 (x 38.4% = 210,746)
18-39 - 1,798,348 (x 15.7% = 282,341)
40+ - 2,518,598 (x 9.4% = 236,748)

That totals 729,835 Victorians aged above nine years who cycled an average 5.9 times in the previous week, which totals 4,306,027 trips per week, or an average 615,147 trips per day in 2011.

This compares with 466,100 bike trips per day by Victorians aged nine or above in 1985/86, according to the CR69 survey over 12 months including winter when cyclist numbers are far lower than in March and April when the 2011 survey was conducted.


victoria bicycle use

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


This data shows the number of Victorians cycling per day increased by 32% from 1985/86 to 2011. Victoria's population increased by 38% from 1986 to 2011 (4,019,478 to 5,547,527).

On a 25 year comparison, the growth in Victoria's cycling participation has not kept pace with population growth.


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Australia     New South Wales     Northern Territory     Queensland
South Australia     Tasmania     Victoria     Australian Capital Territory





Western Australia


australia cycling numbers

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p23)


western australia cycling percentages

2011 Australian Cycling Participation (p48)


Australian Bureau of Statistics population data (Excel 639kb) shows that on 30 June 2010, the Western Australia population comprised the following age groups above nine years old:

10-17 - 241,838 (x 45.1% = 109,069)
18-39 - 739,370 (x 14.5% = 107,209)
40+ - 1,018,078 (x 12.1% = 123,187)

That totals 339,465 people in Western Australia aged above nine years who cycled an average 5.3 times in the previous week, which totals 1,799,165 trips per week, or an average 257,024 trips per day in 2011.

This compares with 182,900 bike trips per day by people in Western Australia aged nine or above in 1985/86, according to the CR69 survey over 12 months including winter when cyclist numbers are far lower than in March and April when the 2011 survey was conducted.


victoria bicycle use

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


This data shows the number of people in Western Australia cycling per day increased by 40.5% from 1985/86 to 2011. The Western Australia population increased by 63.2% from 1986 to 2011 (1,406,929 to 2,296,411).

On a 25 year comparison, the growth in Western Australia's cycling participation has not kept pace with population growth.

Note: This data should be considered in association with an analysis of per capita cyclist numbers in Perth since 1976 published in September 2011 by leading travel planner Ian Ker, adjunct associate professor from the Planning and Transport Research Centre at Curtin University.

Note: This data should be considered in association with Bike Ahead - Bicycle Strategy for the 21st Century by the WA Department of Transport and Bikewest which shows that in pre-law 1991, cycling represented 5.7% of 4,092,000 personal trips in Perth each day - equalling 233,244 daily bike trips in Perth alone. Perth's population has increased 51.8% from 1,205,500 in 1992 to 1,830,000 in 2011. This 1997 government strategy has failed to achieve its stated goal of lifting the percentage of all trips by bicycle to 8% in 2010. ABS data shows bicycles represented 113,200 out of 2,499,300 transport modes in Perth in March 2012, or 4.5%.


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