Cycling triples in Perth thanks to COVID-19

Perth cycling boom

Recent data shows that Perth residents are jumping on their bikes like never before. A streak of sunny weather, coronavirus restrictions and three public holidays have culminated in average cycling volumes tripling in many suburbs compared to the same period last year.

Maurice Berger, cycling enthusiast and traffic data expert from MetroCount, says he expected to see a small uptick in riders because of COVID. However, the growth rate he witnessed as data streamed in over recent weeks has left him speechless.

“Usually it takes years, if not decades, to see this sort of cycling growth,” Maurice explains.

“We’re seeing similar trends in cities all over the world, but I didn’t expect Perth, which has been less affected by the virus than most, to have three times as many riders than usual.”

Maurice attributes the increase in part to people avoiding public transport and commuting by bike instead; but also to those wanting a way to exercise and make the most of the sunny weather while maintaining social distancing.  

“So many of us have been stuck working or studying at home and unable to play sport or go to the gym like we normally would. Like most, I’m now working from home and have been riding almost every day to get some fresh air, go quaxing (shopping) and keep active,” he says.

Perth cycling boom: data

Historical data from the City of Fremantle shows that, on any average day in 2019, there were 250 riders using the Leighton Beach shared path. That number increased to 740 a day in April and May this year.

Perth cycling boom in North Fremantle
Data collected using the RidePod BP cycling, pedestrian & scooter monitoring device.

Similarly, a daily average of 1,200 cyclists rode along the South Perth foreshore in 2019. That number jumped to 2,518 in April this year and almost tripled to 3,079 a day for the beginning of May.

Data collected on other cycle paths around the city, including from the City of Joondalup and South Fremantle show similar increases.

South Perth cycling boom
Data collected using the RidePod BP cycling, pedestrian & scooter monitoring device.

Regional travel restrictions also played a role in cycling growth, especially over the Easter and ANZAC day long weekends.

“Vehicle data shows that there was an 89% drop in Easter weekend traffic on the 3 key highways leaving Perth,” says Maurice.

“That meant most people stayed in Perth where many attractions and cafes/restaurants were closed.

What better to do on such a sunny long weekend than go for a ride?”.

Thanks to Rita Saffioti, WA Minister for Transport and Planning, for the graph to the right that highlights the traffic drop over Easter.

With bikes being referred to as the ‘new toilet paper’, cycling shops around the globe are struggling to keep up with the demand for bike sales and services. Cities such as Melbourne, Milan, Bogotá and New York are implementing pop up cycle lanes to cater for extra cyclists and to allow them the space required to maintain social distancing while on their bikes.

Perth cycling boom in South Fremantle
More data showing increased cycling in South Fremantle.

So, what does this mean for the future of cycling? Will growth be sustained after the coronavirus passes? Maurice certainly hopes so but claims it is dependant on local councils and Main Roads WA investing in bike infrastructure to keep riders safe and interested in cycling.

He encourages bringing forward investment plans to take advantage of the increased uptake in riders and pedestrians.

South perth bike data collection site
MetroCount’s cycle data collection site on the South Perth Foreshore

“The UK is investing £2 billion in active travel infrastructure. France and Italy are giving up to €500 a person to buy a bike or learn to ride. And New South Wales has created a $15 million fund to pay for pedestrian and cycling projects across the state,” he explains. “Transport professionals everywhere understand that we need to strike while the iron is hot and improve cycling as an experience for everyone to see these trends continue”.

About MetroCount:

For over 25 years, MetroCount has been supporting the creation of sustainable, liveable, and smart communities by providing the most accurate and comprehensive traffic data worldwide.

Our vehicle counters/classifiers, designed and built in Western Australia, monitor road, bike, e-scooter and pedestrian traffic in 120 countries.

Today we work closely with road authorities and traffic managers to achieve safer, more efficient road and cycle networks.

High-resolution photos and graphs: Perth cycling boom

Click here to access all photos and graphs in high resolution.

For more information contact:

Michaela Cohen Ferreira
Phone: 9430 6164
Mobile: 0460 010 086
Email: michaela@metrocount.com

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