Australians towards the back of the peloton when it comes to cycling behaviours and attitudes

Seven in 10 Australians believe cyclists represent a danger to drivers. Just under three in 10 Australians surveyed report having a bicycle for personal use but less than half (45%) would give bicycles priority over cars when it comes to new infrastructure projects

Most Australians consider that cycling plays an important role in the reduction of carbon emissions with eight in 10 in agreement, however we are much less likely to see cycling playing a role in traffic reduction at 68%, a new Ipsos survey finds.

This is out of step with attitudes across 28 countries. While they consider that cycling plays an important role in the reduction of carbon emissions (on average, 86% do so), eight in 10 also agree that cycling does play a role in the reduction of traffic. However, half globally on average (52%) say cycling in their area is too dangerous.

The prevalence of cycling to run errands or to commute is highest in countries where it is most widely perceived as a safe mode of transportation such as China, Japan, and the Netherlands. In most countries surveyed, a solid majority of citizens are in favour of giving bicycles priority over automobiles in new infrastructure projects, whereas in Australia only 45% hold this view.

Key Australian findings

In Australia, the key findings were as follows:

  • Fewer adults report typically using a bicycle for a 2-kilometer trip in their neighborhood (6%) and prefer walking (36%) or driving (40%). Only the US (47%), Canada (43%) and Malaysia (41%) beat us for car use on these short trips
  • Only 6% report riding a bicycle to get to their place of work or education, half as many as the average across the 28 countries in our study (12%)
    • Three times as many Australians claim to ride a bike for exercise (18%)
  • Six in ten (59%) know how to ride a bicycle but only 28% own one they can use personally. Personal ownership is only lower in Brazil (26%), Saudi Arabia (23%) and South Africa (20%)
  • There is a higher incidence among men who are senior executives and decision makers to ride bikes for exercise and riding to their place of work or education
  • Eight in 10 agree cycling plays an important role in the reduction of carbon emissions
  • Seven in 10 agree cycling plays an important role in traffic reduction. On this measure we are ahead of only Great Britain (66%), Canada (63%) and the US (62%)
  • Less than half (45%) are in favour of giving bicycles priority over automobiles in new infrastructure projects, with only the US (44%) and Canada (41%) below us
  • Two thirds (65%) believe cyclists frequently disrespect traffic rules and regulations
  • Seven in 10 believe cyclists represent as much danger to pedestrians as automobiles or motorcycles/mopeds. Only Japan, at 82%, had higher agreement with this statement
  • A similar proportion of Australians believe cyclists represent a danger to drivers. Only South Korea (69%) and Japan (82%) had higher proportions agreeing with the statement
  • A little under half believe cycling infrastructure in their area is excellent (47%).

Ipsos Australia Director, Adri van der Mescht, said: “It is proven that active transport, such as walking and cycling, results in a variety of individual and community health and wellbeing benefits. Add to this the global focus and commitment to reduce greenhouse emissions; the call from the general public to reduce traffic congestion; and the cost associated with road crash hospitalisations, it makes sense for all levels of Government to be looking at encouraging alternative solutions to private vehicles.

“Not only are governments faced with the challenge of getting Australians firmly wedded to their vehicles to consider cycling as an option, but the results also show that significantly fewer millennials aged 18 to 34 years at just 51% have acquired the skills to ride a bike. This, together with the increased availability and popularity of e-mobility devices, means that governments and interest groups will all have to work together on innovative solutions that can get younger generations on pedal bikes and older generations to swap their vehicles for pedal bikes.

“Our attachment to our cars also highlights the challenges governments and service providers face in seeking to reduce private car usage and ownership through the adoption of a ‘Mobility as a Service’ MaaS system. MaaS as it is known in transport circles, is based on the idea that users can plan, access, and pay for a variety of transport options via digital channels, making it easy for them to link different modes of transport together in a single trip. Local versions of apps have been piloted in cities like Helsinki, Paris, Los Angeles and Singapore. For example, someone could, via an app, book and pay for a car ride service to get them to a train or bus, then at the other end an e scooter, all, ideally, with a single app.”

Key global findings

Globally, fewer adults report typically using a bicycle for a 2 kilometre trip in their neighbourhood (14% on average) than walking (37%) or driving (25%). However, cycling is the most common mode of transportation for short local trips in the Netherlands (45%) and China (33%) and is also widely used in Japan (27%), India (21%), Germany (21%), and Belgium (20%).

As many as 30% of adults in the Netherlands, 22% in China and India, and 20% in Sweden report riding a bicycle to get to their place of work or education. In contrast, only 4% in Canada, and 5% in South Africa, the United States, and Great Britain do so.

On average globally, twice as many say they ride a bicycle for exercise (28%) than for commuting (12%). Cycling for exercise is most widely practiced in Poland where 61% report doing it.

Across the 28 countries, almost two-thirds (63%) of adults say they know how to ride a bicycle and 42% report owning one. The Netherlands, Poland, and Sweden show the highest levels of bicycle ownership. Usage of public bicycle sharing systems averages at 8% per country, but it is much higher in China (38%), India (19%), South Korea (15%), and Turkey (15%).

The proportion of cyclists does not differ greatly among major demographic groups. The prevalence of weekly cyclists is only slightly higher among those who are male, younger, urban, more affluent, and highly educated than it is among those who are not. However, one group stands out: business decision-makers. On average, 55% of them ride a bike at least once a week vs. 35% of all adults.

These are some of the findings of a survey of 20,057 adults under the age of 75 conducted between March 25 and April 8 2022 on Ipsos’s Global Advisor online survey platform.

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Cycling as a solution

Large majorities in all countries agree that cycling plays an important role in the reduction of carbon emissions (from a high of 94% in Peru and China to a low of 77% in Germany) and the reduction of traffic (from 94% in Peru to 62% in the US).

Furthermore, cycling enjoys a higher level of favourability than do all other forms of transportation – a global average of 82% view bicycles favourably vs. 74% for automobiles, 73% for e-bikes, 59% for motorcycles or mopeds, 53% for stand-up scooters and 43% for trucks.

Countries where bicycles are most favoured over cars are Turkey, the Netherlands, Hungary, Chile, Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, and Peru (all by 15 percentage points or more). Only four of the 28 countries show a significantly higher level of favourability for automobiles than for bicycles: Australia, the US, Great Britain, and Canada.

Bicycles are viewed favourably in all countries (from 93% in Poland to 64% in Great Britain) as are e-bikes (from 84% in India to 57% in Great Britain). In contrast, other types of vehicles are not viewed as kindly in some countries: stand-up scooters are seen favourably by only 17% in Japan (vs. 79% in India), motorcycles and mopeds by only 23% in South Korea (vs. 85% in India and 79% in Malaysia), and trucks by 24% in Turkey and 28% in China (vs. 70% in the U.S.).

Prioritising bicycles

In this context, twice as many agree as disagree (64% vs. 36%, on average per country) that new road and traffic infrastructure projects in their area should prioritise bicycles over automobiles. Support is higher than average in all emerging countries surveyed. The only countries where fewer than 50% agree are Canada, the US, Australia, Japan, and Great Britain while opinions are evenly split in Belgium and Norway.

Support for prioritising bicycles in infrastructure prevails where large majorities agree that “cycling from one place to another in my area is too dangerous”, including all countries surveyed across Latin America and Southern Europe as well as Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

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About the Study

This study did not have any external sponsors or partners. It was initiated and run by Ipsos, because we are curious about the world we live in and how citizens around the globe think and feel about their world.

These are the findings of a 28-country Ipsos survey conducted March 25 – April 8, 2022, among 20,057 adults aged 16-99 in Norway, 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, and 16-74 in 22 other countries, via Ipsos’s Global Advisor online survey platform.

Each country’s sample consists of ca. 1,000 individuals in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland), France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the United States, and ca. 500 individuals in Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Hungary, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, and Turkey.

The samples in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the United States can be taken as representative of these countries’ general adult population under the age of 75.

The samples in Brazil, Chile, China (mainland), Colombia, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Turkey are more urban, more educated, and/or more affluent than the general population. The survey results for these markets should be viewed as reflecting the views of the more “connected” segment of their population.

The data is weighted so that each market’s sample composition best reflects the demographic profile of the adult population according to the most recent census data.

The Global average reflects the average result of all the countries and markets where the survey was conducted that year. It has not been adjusted to the population size of each country or market and is not intended to suggest a total result.

Where results do not sum to 100 or the ‘difference’ appears to be +/-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses, or the exclusion of don't knows or not stated responses.

Sample surveys and polls may be subject to sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error. The precision of the online surveys conducted is measured using a Bayesian Credibility Interval. Here, the Australian results have a credibility interval of +/-3.5 percentage points. For more information on the Ipsos use of credibility intervals, please go to: https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/2017-03/IpsosPA_CredibilityIntervals.pdf

The publication of these findings abides by local rules and regulations.

As a foundation member of the Australian Polling Council Ipsos complies with the Council’s Code of Conduct. The purpose of the Code is to provide journalists and the public with greater confidence and trust in publicly released polling and survey data. We strongly encourage the inclusion of methodological details in any reference to published Ipsos results. The Long Methodology Disclosure Statement for the study will be available at https://www.ipsos.com/en-au/disclosure_statements within two business days.

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