3 facts to remember

Canberra.bike has frequently published data about cycling in Canberra. Three facts stand out and are worth remembering as proof that we could do much better – with strong change leadership in place.

A common myth would have us think riding to work in Canberra is impossible: “What?! But it’s so far!” Commuting by bike in Canberra is achievable for most, and most certainly normal practice in many other cities.

In Canberra, we all too often hear reasons why cycling is not likely to catch on. Always remember, behaviour follows infrastructure! If the cycling infrastructure was built for commuting at a standard that has been benchmarked in many northern European countries, many of us would be cycling. Cycling is in every way affordable for the ACT Government, if they were not so focused on other things, not least a love of road construction.

So let us keep 3 facts in mind and repeat them like a mantra every morning before we get out of bed.

Fact 1: Too few cycle

In the ACT (2017), most trips were in a car (77.6%) either as a driver (54.7%) or passenger (22.9%). Walking was 13.6% of the trips, bus 4.3% and cycling 2.4%.

2017 ACT Household Travel Survey

Some facts can be pretty depressing, but it does not make them less true. The 2017 ACT Household Travel Survey found that most of our trips are in a motor vehicle, either as a driver or a passenger. This is not just commuting, but all the other little trips we do throughout the day. Some passengers would be children being driven to school, for example. Education is a common reason for travel. Sadly, only 2.4% of trips were by bike. The ABS Census 2016 produced similar depressing statistics regarding commuting to work. What will the next census in August tell us?

The upside of this is that we have an enormous potential to change how we get around Canberra. Should the ACT Government provide the right sponsorship and change leadership, much could change very quickly. In 2020, other countries took the lead and showed how it is done. Canberra, well, sort of ignored that window of opportunity and drove more and faster instead.

Fact 2: The distance is short

In Canberra, the average commute to work is less than 10 km.

2017 ACT Household Travel Survey

10 km is a distance that anybody can proudly and comfortably achieve with the help of an electric bike – and with a bit of fitness on any normal bike. Getting started is the hardest part of cycling. We need to change our habits, and that’s the real challenge. First we make our habits, then our habits make us!

An electric bike makes the transition to cycling easier for most people. An electric car costs $60,000 and an electric bike around $3,000. You should think that if we can afford electric cars, we can afford electric bikes. We are not spending less on old style combustion vehicles. In 2020, the most commonly sold car cost $57,000 for the base model.

Cycling, instead of driving, has many benefits. For the most of us, riding to work is not too far and an electric bike, in comparison to the cost of a car, is cheap.

Fact 3: Cars are slow, bikes are fast

The average time commuting to work (in Canberra) has increased from 31.3 minutes in 2002 to 51.5 minutes in 2017, an increase of 64.5% over 15 years.

HILDA Survey, Melbourne Institute, 2019

Getting to work by car is getting slower. The average car is getting bigger, more expensive, and has more power, but the commute to work is getting slower for most Canberrans. Cars are slow. Building cities for cars was a 20th century mistake that is not sustainable! We need a paradigm change.

Bikes are the new fast and healthy way of getting to work. An electric bike requires less than 51.5 minutes to ride 10 km. The travel time by bike would indeed be faster for those living close to work.

We live fast lives and buy fast cars, thinking we will save time. The reality is often a paradox. We recommend that we embrace the new paradigm of “slow city” and “slow cycling”, because it is faster, healthier, and more dopamine induced fun! 😊

Extra3 satire in early July 2021: “7 major German cities will pilot 30km/h city wide. That means they will be able to commute 3 times faster than at the moment!”

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