The recently released National Cycling Participation Results show a 20% drop in cycling in SA since 2011.

Now I've never found cycling in Adelaide to be well blessed. While I can see it is difficult to retrofit a city with easy bike routes, I would not have excpected it to drop. Stay a bit still maybe but to drop?

I'm not SA so maybe someone can give some reasoning to this? Law changes? Reduced infrastructure? More people telecommuting?

What gives?

Added by request:

Ian Radbone of THe Bicycle Institute South Australia has blogged this.


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I think it's possible David. You'll remember in the first Gulf War that high petrol prices drove peaks in public and active transport. The all-in cost of car use isn't that great at the moment.

From a public policy point of view you always want to be a step ahead, and it's plain that the all-in cost of car use is going to go up a long way. Interest rates can only go up, cars will double in price as they move to electric drive, eventually there will be some sort of price on petrol which prevents the release of the remaining CO2 in oil deposits.  The worrying bit is if this happens in an unplanned way -- so that there are sudden unanticipated changes -- then cycling is the only form of transport which can cheaply take more than a 5% rapid change in patronage. Cycling facilities are as much insurance as they are servicing current cyclists.

It would make sense for authorities to fully support and encourage bicycle transport now. Cycling can reduce road congestion, infrastructure costs and public health spending.

Downloaded the survey results and analysis. It's a telephone survey using recall of the past week, month and year for all members of the household. 530 households giving 1101 individuals. That sample was then weighed by the Census proportions of sex/age/household_size to give an estimate for the entire state. I read the script and the analysis and for a survey of this type both were professionally done, although I would have liked a table of how the sample size fitted into each weighting category.  With surveys like this you get what you pay for -- we could all wish for a larger sample size, a non-recall survey, but given what the client was paying for, the job was well done.

There's two basic failure modes in the survey, and neither was investigated in the analysis. Firstly, the weather. Secondly the change in use of mobile phones, and the age skew of mobile phone-only households. Both of these failure modes should have been investigated to ensure that they were not large.

One of the results of the not-huge money paid is that the confidence intervals are large. 14% of South Australians rode in the week prior to the survey, but with a 95% confidence interval that's 11.8% to 16.2%.  This is plenty sufficient for roads planning, but not that useful for determining trends in participation.  It's a shame The Advertiser chose to highlight one of the less reliable uses of the data.

People commenting on the change in statistics should read the report. The results are very sensitive to children's cycling, with frequent riders under 20 being over 50% of all cycling participation. Comments alluding to lycra and other adult cycling attributes are less likely to be the cause of the change in statistics than issues affecting children; and I'd think about factors such as parental perceptions of safety, school terms, changes to recreational cycling facilities and so on.

Bear in mind this article refers to an online survey (which are inherently unreliable) with 258 respondents.

The top frustrations in the online survey were drivers' attitudes (38%), infrastructure (26%) and lack of road safety (15%). What I don't understand is how that explains the change over the last 6 years reported by the National Cycling survey has been running. Because in those 6 years I'd say that infrastructure has certainly improved, and the 1 m rule has also improved attitudes somewhat.

Especially Adelaidenow online surveys which has skewed readership. Also I am not sure if Adelaidenow was behind paywall in 2011, so that could be a significant impact on the demographic

I think you've misunderstood me. The AdelaideNow survey (which Roady refers to) was online and shouldn't be trusted. But the "National Cycling Participation Survey" was done much more rigorously and has been running 2-yearly since 2011: . (Though I still suspect something is amiss).

Glen's comment that the survey is sensitive to the number of children cycling can explain the results.  Schools and Councils continue to do nothing about the mess of school drop-off zones and lowering speed limits in residential streets.   

Without reading the newspaper article regarding the survey my first thought was the TDU. I have no statistics to back my preposition but I think we saw a massive rise and interest in cycling in Adelaide over the early years of the TDU. As with any fashion this rise plateaued and is now in decline. However I am inclined to think that the 20% figure is probably exaggerated.

Looking at the report more closely, it should actually say there was a drop between 2011 and 2013, and cycling rates have held steady since 2013 - both in SA and Australia wide. The state-by-state figures are shown below.

Note the comment at the bottom: NSW numbers used a different survey (held at a different time of year) before 2017 and should probably be ignored.

All other states or territories are at or close 2013 levels. I'm not sure what happened in 2011 but I wonder if the weather played a part.

Maybe the NSW numbers shouldn't be ignored. The ridiculous fines introduced in 2016 are bound to discourage cycling. Who knows? The decline may well be worse than that suggested by the survey - errors can cut both ways.

It depends what you're trying to measure. If you want the Australian average, then it's hard to ignore the NSW numbers.

But if you want to look at what's happening in SA, then it makes sense to only include states with a comparable situation to SA (and comparable survey methods). Because some cycling opponents (hello Anne Moran) are using these figures to say that cycling has decreased in SA by 20% since 2011 despite money being spent on infrastructure in recent years. And that's far from the whole story, as I think I've shown above.

2011 might be a Cadel Evans effect maybe (especially among kids)? It's a pity the survey wasn't conducted pre-2011 ..


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