Section 3.2 National Cycling Participation Survey (NCPS)

The National Cycling Participation Survey is a standardised survey that has been repeated every two years since 2011. Repeating the survey regularly is the only way to detect and analyse trends. The survey provides data on cycling participation across Australia and estimates of participation in the ACT, too.

What is it about?

About 93,700 residents ride in a typical week. The cycling participation rate in the ACT is significantly higher than the national average. Men are significantly more likely to have ridden in the last week than women (28% males and 17% females).


The study was NOT about the barriers to cycling by non-cyclists for this is well understood.

Trends measured

The survey measures cyclists attitudes:

  • feelings of comfort while riding
  • change in cycling conditions over the past 12 months
  • barriers to riding for different purposes (commuting, education, shopping, recreation, and to access public transport)
  • priorities to improve cycling conditions.


“Measured over the previous week the cycling participation rate has declined from 15.5% in 2017 (95% CI: 14.4% – 16.7%), to 13.8% (95% CI: 12.8% – 14.8%) in 2019. This decline is statistically significant and appears to be consistent with the trend since the survey was first conducted in 2011.”

Australian Cycling Participation 2019, Austroads, 19 September 2019

Any decline in bike riding participation in Australia is alarming, yet sadly not entirely surprising. While bike riding across the world is continuously growing, Australia’s participation continues to fall. Despite the health and environmental benefits of cycling, our governments are reluctant to act decisively and systematically.

2019 National Cycling Participation Survey Results, Bicycle network, 26 September 2019, accessed 22/8/2020
2019 National Cycling Participation Survey Results, Bicycle network, 26 September 2019, accessed 22/8/2020


Source: Cycling in the ACT

Here is the link to the full report of the key findings.

The right of passage

The proportion of the population cycling drops by roughly two thirds between the teenage and early adult years. Once young people learn to drive, they never come back – unless cycling has become a strong personal interest and/or habit.

Portion of the population cycling by age (ACT 2019): The participation rate declines precipitously as older children become adults.

Cycling in the ACT is stagnating

There are no major shifts across any gender or age group between 2011 and 2019. Children aged under 10 were most likely to have cycled in the past week.

Understanding Canberra cyclists

Source: How Canberrans use their bike

The National Cycling Participation Survey tells us how Canberrans use their bike and what they think about cycling.

How many ride bikes

In the ACT, the proportion riding for transport is much higher than the national average.

“Among those who had ridden at least once in the past year, and had travelled at least once for one of the transport purposes (commuting, education, public transport, shopping and visiting friends or relatives) most had ridden for commuting, education or shopping. Very few had ridden to access public transport. “

The National Cycling Participation Survey (NCPS), Austroads (2019), page 7

Riding to access public transport multimodal travel. Many more ride to work or to a place of education in Canberra than elsewhere in Australia.

“Around 57% of households have access to a working bicycle. “

The National Cycling Participation Survey (NCPS), Austroads (2019), page 8

What would make us ride more

“Respondents were asked to prioritise actions that could be taken to encourage bicycle riding. The most supported actions (from figure 3.8) were: 

> more off-road paths and cycleways (62% of respondents rated this a very high or high priority)
> better connections between bike paths and schools (51%)
> better connections between bike paths and shops (51%)
> more signs highlighting bicycle routes (41%)
> more on-road bicycle lanes (40%)
> better connections between bike paths and parks and swimming pools (40%). “

The National Cycling Participation Survey (NCPS), Austroads (2019), page 13

The least likely reasons are: 

> lower local road speed limits, and
> more bike skills training.

The National Cycling Participation Survey (NCPS), Austroads (2019), page 14

We know that from decades of research that lower speed limits save lives, but people still are largely unaware of the role speed plays in personal safety as vulnerable road users – both perceived and measured. Skills training, too, is an effective way to encourage riding. Through skills training, people experience riding as comfortable and safe. Safety and transport psychology are important for the success of active travel and people’s wellbeing.

Only when our decision makers plan, invest, and strategically create space for active transport, will we create people centric, active, and healthy communities. Our cities and towns will continue to be choked by congestion, and our health will suffer unless we have transformative leadership – visibly role modelling active travel.

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