Cycling still mostly a male affair in Melbourne

Cyclist Simon Vincett regularly makes a nine-kilometre ride to work in the CBD Photo: Simon Schluter
Cyclist Simon Vincett regularly makes a nine-kilometre ride to work in the CBD Photo: Simon Schluter

Who is the average Melbourne bike rider?

According to an analysis of 12 months of cycling data, he is male, aged in his mid-thirties to mid-forties, and usually rides five to 10 kilometres each time he gets on his bike, either for commuting or for general transport.

And he isn't shy about mixing it with general traffic on the roads, something most women cyclists are less inclined to do.

The University of NSW study of Melbourne cycling behaviour has also revealed a deep gender divide on the city's roads and bike paths.

Fewer than one in five riders is female, the study found, a clear sign that Melbourne has a long way to go before it can badge itself as a truly bike-friendly city.

"Melbourne is better than Sydney but it's not up there with the world-leading cycling cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen," study author Chris Pettit said.

According to Professor Pettit, chair of urban science at UNSW's City Futures Research Centre, cities and routes that are safe and comfortable for cycling typically have more than 35 per cent female riders, while cities that are more geared for getting around in a car will have between 15 and 20 per cent female riders.

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Professor Pettit's study puts Melbourne squarely in the second category, with an average female participation rate of 18 per cent.

He said this was a sign the city's network of bike trails and dedicated paths wasn't contiguous and often forced riders to ride on the roads to complete their journeys.

"In general, females are more sensible and less likely to cycle if there is no dedicated, well-connected infrastructure," he said.

His study was based on records of one year of bike journeys clocked on Bicycle Network's RiderLog app in 2012.

More than 1200 cyclists participated, and more than 18,000 individual rides were tracked and analysed.

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Another standout finding was the low cycling rate among young people, with just 5 per cent of riders aged under 26.

Professor Pettit said this could be attributable to the long-term decline in children riding to school.

Simon Vincett fits the mould of an average Melbourne cyclist.

Aged 42, he lives in Thornbury and regularly makes a nine-kilometre ride to work in the CBD, favouring bike paths but happily riding on the road when he has to.

Editor of Bicycle Network's magazine Ride On, he agrees with the study's finding that riding is a male-dominated activity in Melbourne, but says that is gradually changing as more bike lanes are built and riding gains popularity. 

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This is creating a new set of problems, he said.

"Over the years I've noticed more and more people are riding," Mr Vincett said.

"Where I used to be on my own or in a small group at the lights waiting, now there are heaps of bike riders around me, to the extent that some of the bike infrastructure really needs to be expanded to cope with the volume of bikes."

Professor Pettit will present the findings of his research at Bicycle Network's Bike Futures conference on Friday.

This story Cycling still mostly a male affair in Melbourne first appeared on The Age.