The COVID dividend for cycling in cities
2020 was a year of enormous changes to work and transport in our cities and towns.
The June Parliamentary Friends of Cycling event, hosted by WeRide, investigated the economic and transport benefits of the boom in cycling across the country. The presentations highlighted the substantial economic success of investments in pop-up bikeways and cycle lanes, the job creation as well as the efforts of major business and governments to offer active transport options to commuters who had ‘got back on the bike’ during lockdown – we called this the ‘COVID dividend.’
This is the role of WeRide – taking the interests of people who ride bikes directly to the heart of our federal Parliament.
Our expert speakers for the June event, Sara Stace and Mark Ames, presented data and outcomes from the policy and investments made to accommodate the pandemic surge in cycling.
- Videos from out experts, co-convenors and below our Members of Parliament can be found below.
What is the opportunity?
WeRide is taking the case directly to federal MPs of the positive economic story of investing in bike riding during the pandemic. This investment is getting more Australians riding, more diversity in participation and we are working to lock this into future investment and policy decisions.
We provide the information and opportunities to help our federal MPs and Senators to understand that bikes really contribute to building a better transport system and to the health and wellbeing of our communities.
The Parliamentary Friends group provides the platform for this communication.
Interview with Dave Sharma MP | Interview with Dr. Hon Andrew Leigh MP | Interview with Dr Helen Haines MP
Australians rode bicycles in unprecedented numbers during COVID. The significant changes during the pandemic – less traffic, new infrastructure, the chance to increase skill and confidence in a safer environment, and the ability to spend time with family, overcame many of the traditional barriers to riding.
The big increases in cycling were most pronounced among those new to cycling. The COVID crisis was a once in a generation event to which Australians responded in big numbers with the improved conditions. There were record bike sales and investments in safe, separated bicycle infrastructure provide significant economic and social returns – especially for women.
With traffic congestion now worse that pre-COVID as many commuters avoid public transport and drive instead, investing to give Australians the opportunity to ride a bike for short trips is paying big dividends for local, state and federal governments.
Some key points (see our information sheet for more):
- Cycling levels around Australia increased by up to 69% compared to pre-COVID
- Cycling numbers remain high after the initial boom.
- A new record for Australian bicycle sales will be set in 2020-21 of 1.75 million bikes (2). The previous record set was 1.42 million in 2014.
- Traffic on Sydney’s pop-up cycleways reached 500,000 trips in the first 9 months and is expected to reach 800,000 in first year.
- Sydney’s investment in the first 8.3km of pop-up cycleways has resulted in a more significant increase in traffic than forecast, with payback/ROI now expected to be less than 1.5 years.
- More direct jobs are generally created per $1m investment in pop-up lanes, up to 2.5 time more jobs per dollar than other transport infrastructure.
- The Escarpment Boardwalk in Parramatta opened in April 2021 with 55,000 bike users in the first month – this was the target the business case assumed it would take ten years to reach.
- The Heidelberg Road pop-up lanes (Melbourne) have had 70,000 trips since opening and a 30% increase in commuting on week days (5).
- Macquarie Park – North Ryde is Australia’s 4th largest CBD – with 110,000 people living, working & studying there. Reluctance to catch public transport has seen a 7% increase in driving to work post-COVID. This equals an additional 7,000 cars on the road. They invest in state-of-the-art facilities, programs and incentives but rely on an effective bike network to encourage cycle commuting.
Link to information sheet
- The full Parliamentary Friends of Cycling event – 35minutes
- Mark Ames – General Manager Connect Macquarie Park – presentation
- Senator The Hon Richard Colbeck – Minister for Sport
- Andrew Giles MP – Shadow Minister for Cities and Urban Infrastructure
- Dr Helen Haines MP – Member for Indi
- The Hon Dr Andrew Leigh – Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury
- Dave Sharma MP – Member for Wentworth
- Sara Stace – fmr Assoc Director Walking and Cycling Transport for NSW, Director Cities at WSP – presentation.