‘s band of commuter cyclists is growing.
More than 100,000 people now ride to work after an 8.8 per cent increase between 2011 and 2016, analysis of the latest census by consultancy firm SGS Economics and Planning shows.
The typical bike commuter is a male, white collar worker who lives four to eight kilometres from the central business district. They also tend to earn significantly more than average.
Melbourne is ‘s ride-to-work capital – it had 29,000 commuter cyclists in 2016, about 27 per cent of the national total. Fitzroy North, Carlton North and Brunswick East were among the suburbs with a big share of bike commuters.
In Sydney, a much hillier city, about 16,300 people rode to work in 2016, up from 14,800 five years earlier.
Randwick in the city’s east had the largest number of commuter cyclists followed by Newtown, Marrickville, Redfern and Waterloo.
More people are also riding to work in Brisbane – commuter cycling jumped there by almost a fifth between 2011 and 2016.
But the ride-to-work boom has not been uniform – ridership has declined in most regional areas.
A striking attribute of bike commuters is their high incomes. Over a quarter of those who ride to work earned $104,000 or more each year. In Sydney, the share is over a third.
Armando Mazzei, an urban planner with SGS Economics and Planning who undertook the analysis, said cycling to work is an increasingly elite pursuit.
“It seems like riding is the new golf,” he said.
“Those who cycle to work tend to be in an eight kilometre radius of the CBD and that land is occupied by the most privileged people. This is a sad part of the story – it has become an exclusive activity. Not everyone has the opportunity to do it.”
The report also shows white collar workers are far more likely to ride to work than blue collar workers.
“Relative to blue collar workers, white collar workers generally also have a reduced need for a vehicle as a part of their work, for example to carry tools or equipment, or to travel long distances or to varying locations,” it said.
Mr Mazzei said traffic congestion and overcrowding on public transport had contributed to the increase in bike commuters. Suburbs with less developed public transport also tended to have more bicycle commuters.
The analysis revealed a steep decline in the prevalence of bike commuting beyond eight kilometres from the CBD of big cities.
“Better bicycle infrastructure is also found in central and inner city suburbs, as well as a lower availability of vehicle parking,” the report said.
Even so, there is “evidence of ridership activity in middle and outer suburbs” pointing to a growing interest in bike commuting outside of inner-city areas.
“With better investment into suitable and well-aligned bicycle infrastructure in suburban areas, this interest can be leveraged to ensure the benefits of ridership can be more evenly spread across our cities,” it said.
The report also drew attention to the environmental and health benefits of commuter cycling.
“An increase in ridership among inner city workers is particularly significant given the sedentary nature of many white collar jobs,” it said.