Who Loves Cycling the Most in Australia ?
By Emma Chu
Australians love sports and outdoor activities, and cycling is always a popular choice. The report “Australia’s Top 20 Sports and Physical Activities” published in April 2019 by Sport Australia showed that cycling ranked no. 5. In another survey “2019 Australian Cycling Participation”, which was published in September, it was estimated there are around 3.43 million Australians riding in a typical week and 8.39 million in the past year. Bicycles are a common fixture in Australian households, with 57.2% of households owning at least one bicycle, and the majority of those households owning three or more.
Do you know who loves cycling the most in Australia, though? The answer is not young people or high school students but 40+ middle aged males! This group is known as MAMILs (Middle-aged man in lycra). The profile by gender and age of the cycling population aged 15+ showed that males aged 35+ contributed 50% while females aged 35 to 54 contributed 20%. Based on age, young people aged 15 to 24 made up just 8% of the cycling population, people aged 25 to 34 only 15% while people aged 35 to 54 contributed almost 50%.
In terms of the motivation to participate in cycling, some people use a bicycle as transportation to go to work, go to school or to go shopping, while others are motivated to improve physical health or fitness. Some people participate in cycling for fun or enjoyment while some use it to make a living, such as food delivery services. If you tried to guess what the top motivation is, it wouldn’t be hard to get the right answer, because we all know Australians love sports. Despite gender, the top motivation to participate in cycling is physical health or fitness. Among all age groups, except high school students aged 15 to 17 who ride a bicycle for fun or enjoyment, the primary motivation is physical health or fitness, followed by a way of getting around.
For the participation levels, the median annual frequency was 52 times which is equal to once per week. The average annual frequency was 105 times which is equal to twice per week. In terms of duration of participation, the median duration was 60 minutes while the average duration was 91 minutes. Based on these numbers, Australian cyclists on average would ride a bicycle twice per week for one and half hours each time. We can assume that those middle aged men who are keen on cycling would have higher participation levels for frequency and/or duration. As a result, it’s very common to see middle age male cyclists on the road in Australia.
The “2019 Australian Cycling Participation” wasn’t all good news, however. This survey, which has been repeated biennially since March/April 2011, showed that over the eight years between 2011 and 2019 the cycling participation rate appeared to have declined steadily. Although cycling participation among those aged 30 and above has been relatively stable or increased, it appeared that young people, teenagers and children aged under 30 were responsible for the overall decline. This is a warning sign for the future of cycling in Australia.
To promote cycling and educate young people, Bicycle Network, the biggest bike riding organization in Australia, delivered a nationwide program “Ride2School Day” that encourages students to get physically active on their journey to school. To do this, they work with schools, students, parents and local government to cultivate active and healthy school communities. It is held annually in March. In 2019, more than 900 schools and around 370,000 students participated. Held annually in October, national “Ride2Work Day” is Australia’s largest celebration of commuter riding. Working together with companies and local governments, the main objective of the day is to normalize the idea of riding to work.
If the efforts to promote and encourage young people and children to ride a bicycle work, hopefully we can expect to see not only many middle age male cyclists on the road but also more and more young guns and girls riding a bike in Australia in the near future.