Australian cyclist numbers
1985/86 - 2023
Following a 2021 surge in Australian cycling attributed to COVID-19 lockdowns, participation collapsed by 2023 and there are now fewer cyclists than in 2011 when the biennial National Cycling Participation surveys began.
The 2023 National Cycling Participation Survey results published by Cycling and Walking Australia and New Zealand show there were almost 159,000 fewer people riding bikes on a weekly basis in 2023 compared to 2011, despite 18.3% population growth.
The 2023 survey results also suggest 21.6% fewer Australians aged 9yo+ were cycling each day than in 1985/86, despite 69.3% population growth.
The cycling reduction since 1985/86 has mostly been among children and young adults, a trend apparent since Australia's bicycle helmet laws were introduced in 1990-92, with growth in the 40yo+ demographic due to predominantly baby boomers continuing the cycling enthusiasm they learned as children when they were not discouraged by helmet laws and the resultant suggestion that riding a bike is dangerous.
In 2019 the NCP authors forecast a continued decline in Australian cycling participation due to this ageing demographic becoming too frail to continue riding and not being replaced by younger generations.
The 2023 participation results show the population proportion cycling weekly was greater than 2011 in New South Wales but collapsed in all other jurisdictions.
- In 2011, 48.3% of 0 to 9 year old Australians cycled in the previous week, compared to 36.6% in 2023.
- In 2011, 33.6% of 10 to 17 year old Australians cycled in the previous week, compared to 31.4% in 2023.
- In 2011, 12.8% of 18 to 29 year old Australians cycled in the previous week, compared to 7.8% of 18 to 29 year olds in 2023.
- In 2011, 14.0% of 30 to 49 year old Australians cycled in the previous week, compared to 11.6% of 30 to 49 year olds in 2023.
- In 2011, 6.7% of 50+ year old Australians cycled in the previous week, compared to 7.8% of 50+ year olds in 2023.
All calculations below are based on the estimated resident population for the December quarter of 2022 provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The 2023 survey was conducted between March and May. Australian Bureau of Meteorology data show that in March, April and May 2023, average national mean temperatures were neither warmer or cooler than the long-term normal and average national rainfall was 3.6mm below the long-term normal.
The tables below show NCP estimated state and national weekly, monthly and yearly cycling percentages, with cyclist reduction estimates based on the survey year percentages applied to the December 2022 all-age population in each state.
The table below calculates that the 1,289,875 bicycle trips per day by Australians aged 9+ in 2023 was 21.6%, or 356,025, less than the 1,645,900 who cycled on any given day in pre-helmet 1985/86, despite a national population increase during that time of 69.3%.
1985/86 daily cycling estimates are sourced from Day to Day Travel in Australia 1985-86. The estimated number of times cyclists ride per week (e.g. 3.1, 3.3) are derived from the NCP 2023 survey reports from each state (source).
It should be noted that the 1985/86 and 2011 NCP surveys averaged the number of trips cycled over the previous week by respondents, whereas the NCP 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021 and 2023 surveys averaged the number of days cycled over the previous week. The NCP surveys define bicycles as a method of transport including riding in your backyard. In 2011, respondents were asked their best estimate of the total number of bike trips they had made in the prior week, whereas since 2013 they have been asked on how many days did they ride a bicycle in the prior week. This redefinition may contribute to the significant national fall from 5.4 trips per week in 2011 to 3.21 days per week in 2023, and may bias the comparison.
The table below shows the breakdown of different age demographics used to calculate total weekly and daily cycling participation in each state and territory, and nationally, in 2023.
Click here for a comparison of daily cycling participation with hospital admission injuries and population growth since 1985/86.