As demand for bikes grow, so does need for investment

cyclist confronted by car door

Craig Duff

Posted April 04, 2022

The rising popularity of cycling and e-bikes as both commuter and recreational vehicles, has highlighted the need for investment.

RACV has joined forces with the AAA and is urging the Federal Government to get on their bikes and fund cycling infrastructure to encourage further take-up of cycling.

Bicycle sales hit 1.7 million last year, after hovering around the 1.1-1.2 million mark for the previous decade, as people looked for an exercise activity and commuting option that complied with social distancing.

The uptake of two-wheeled transport has fuelled a call for investment into cycling infrastructure and safety as part of the RACV's seven key policy priorities ahead of the 2022 Federal Election.

RACV Executive General Manager of Motoring and Mobility, Phil Turnbull, said cyclists need better routes and resources to maintain the pedal-powered momentum.

“The plan also includes improving cycling infrastructure within and leading to inner city Melbourne and regional centres of Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo, including the 17 key metropolitan strategic cycling corridors recommended by RACV, increased physical separation and protected intersections on principal cycling routes,” Turnbull said.

Cycling in the city

An RACV commissioned report identified the 17 strategic cycling corridors within a 10km radius of the central business district.

The report identified the routes based on existing and potential cycling demand. Further, the routes offer “a comparative advantage compared to other modes for transport trips”.

“That is, driving and public transport will be comparatively unattractive given congestion or crowding and a lack of parking. In turn, this suggests the corridors will feed into major activity centres – most notably the Melbourne CBD and surrounding areas.

“These objectives imply routes that serve high population and high workplace density, and with significant constraints on car and/or public transport use, will be assigned a high priority.”

As well as an efficiency and safety benefit for cyclists, there’s an economic benefit for boosting cycling infrastructure. A recent WeRide Australia report found the Australian cycling economy supported almost 35,000 jobs and generated around $6.3 billion in industry output.

The report noted: “growing cycling engagement and participation in the industry relies heavily on the built environment, including active transport infrastructure, but also the programs and safety initiatives that exist to support the industry”.


Cycling through Melbourne

Bicycle sales skyrocketed in 2021 and are only growing in popularity. Photo: Getty

Growing the network

A 2021 study from WeRide Australia showed that while cycling in Melbourne’s CBD dropped off in the year due to working from home arrangements, bike use outside the city doubled compared to pre-pandemic numbers.

RACV General Manager of Mobility, Elizabeth Kim, said encouraging recreational riders to stay on two wheels should be a focus for all sides of politics, given the health and environmental benefits.

“The We Ride research tells us that the largest, and growing, cohort of bike riders in Victoria are those who are interested in (recreational) biking more but are also cautious,” Ms Kim said.

“These riders are not the very experienced road cyclists, rather they are the recreational riders.

“There’s a clear message being sent that people are looking for affordable, sustainable ways to not only get from A to B but also to exercise and enjoy the incredible views around the state.”

RACV supports cycling for Victorians of all riding abilities through a specific bike map on the arevo Journey Planning app that uses the latest cycling infrastructure, bike and road data in Melbourne to help cyclists find safer bike routes

“RACV is here to foster that enthusiasm and lend our voice and services to ensure that those who jumped on a bike for the first time during the pandemic make bike riding a part of their weekly routine long after COVID-19 restrictions are over.”


Mountain bike rider

Recreational bike use has doubled in popularity over the past year. Photo: Getty

On your e-bike

The popularity of e-bikes is also helping drive the shift to cycling.

Consultancy firm Deloitte predicts there will be more than 300 million e-bikes on the world’s road by 2023.

According to We Ride Australia, around 60,000 e-bikes were sold in Australia last year – a number that could have been larger if it had not been constrained by a lack of stock.

Research shows that e-bike users tend to use their machines more regularly than traditional bike riders, while still expending around 70 per cent of the energy.

As the technology matures and the cost of buying an e-bike decreases, it is anticipated that more riders will opt for the hybrid bikes, which will in turn make commuting to work an easier proposition.