Benefits of Riding a Bike

The Benefits of Cycling (from

Benefits of Riding a Bike

Riding a Bike offers a range of important benefits. As a zero emission form of transport, it can help reduce Australia’s soaring greenhouse gas emissions. Cycling is also a proven method of reducing obesity and diabetes levels.

With urban congestion becoming an increasing feature of our daily lives, cycling presents a refreshing alternative that takes only 1/12 the road space of a car. Finally, spiralling fuel costs are straining household budgets. Cycling is a great way to make shorter trips and avoid the pain at the pump.

Climate Change

Climate change has become an issue of urgent concern. All major political parties agree that Australia’s contribution to climate change must be significantly reduced. Lowering our greenhouse gas emissions is essential.

According to the Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO), transport currently accounts for 34% of household emissions. In fact, the AGO have shown that Australia’s transport greenhouse gas emissions have soared 30% from 1990 levels.

Bicycles, as a zero emission form of transport, offer the potential to make a practical and significant cut to Australia’s transport emissions.

Although Australia is a big country, the majority of our population reside in cities. Many of our car journeys are of a distance suitable for cycling. The graph below highlights that over half our car trips are under 5kms – a perfectly rideable distance.

It is well accepted that federal action is required to deal with climate change. Commonwealth involvement to boost the level of bicycle infrastructure and encouragement programs is an integral component of any comprehensive national climate change strategy. This will help stem Australia’s soaring transport emissions.


Australia’s health is one of our most important national issues. Over several decades the Australian workforce has transformed from one largely based in manual labour/manufacturing industries, to a service economy. This, coupled with the adoption of car dependent lifestyles, has dramatically reduced our physical activity.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2006), over half the Australian population participate in lower-than-recommended levels of physical activity and this number is growing. This lack of physical activity has lead to the rise of sedentary lifestyle diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

Reliance on motor vehicles is now understood by health professionals to be a threat to human health. Professor John Pucher of Rutgers University specialises in the health impacts of transport policy.

His research has demonstrated that countries with high rates of car use have the highest obesity levels – even when adjusting for diet. This is due to the fact that communities that drive more also walk, cycle and catch public transport less.

Source: Pucher & Dijkstra, 2003 Promoting Safe Walking and Cycling to Improve Public Health, American Journal of Public Health.

Obesity costs Australia $21b

In 2006 Access Economics demonstrated that obesity costs the Australian economy $21b annually. This problem is becoming worse. The same study found that obesity increased 2 – 4 fold between 1985 and 1997 and that 7 million Australians are estimated to become obese by 2025.

Cycling is an excellent form of preventative medicine. The World Health Organisation has shown that a 30 minute bicycle ride provides all the exercise you need to halve the chance of becoming obese or diabetic. The British Medical Association found that the health risks of inactivity are 20 times greater than the health risks posed by a potential cycling accident. In addition, road safety research indicates that as more people begin to take up cycling, the safer it becomes.

It is in Australia’s national interest for the federal government to help create the conditions necessary for more Australians to see cycling as a safe, healthy option. Funding local governments to build bicycle friendly communities and encouragement programs such as Ride to School and Ride to Work Day will help make the healthy choice the easy choice for more Australians.


Traffic congestion is a growing problem in many Australian cities. The Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics found congestion costs the Australian economy $21 billion annually. As our cities grow, the problem of congestion is predicted to worsen.

Cycling: take twice daily to avoid congestion

Occupying only a fraction of the road space taken by cars, bicycles are an effective decongestant for urban traffic problems.

60 Cars Vs 60 Bicycles – the solution to congestion is obvious

Image: City of Muenster

Some 20% of peak hour congestion is made up of parents driving their children to school, with single occupant commuters making up much of the rest. The Ride to School and Ride to Work programs focus on encouraging people to make these journeys by bicycle. National support for these highly success programs, coupled with a significant increase in federal support for bicycle infrastructure development will help give Australians the choice to avoid the gridlocked commute.

Rising Fuel Costs

Since September 2005, the price of fuel has risen dramatically. A growing number of oil experts, including the former energy advisor to the Bush Administration, Matt Simmons, are concerned that the world is approaching or has reached Peak Oil. Peak oil is the point at which global oil production reaches its maximum. Beyond the peak, less and less oil is produced each year.

Surging world demand and supply limitations explain much of the reason why Australians are paying $1.35 per litre, in contrast to the 80 cents per litre enjoyed in 2001. The pain at the pump is set to worsen as China and India attempt to adopt Western levels of motoring and global oil supply tightens.

Cycling is a great way of avoiding the soaring cost of petrol. The recent rise in fuel costs has already caused a dramatic increase in the numbers of bicycle commuters. These increases have been most pronounced in areas with quality bicycle infrastructure.

Minimising Australia’s exposure to a future of high fuel costs is an issue of national importance. Offering more Australians the option to reduce their fuel expenditure by providing appropriate bicycle infrastructure and programs encouraging smarter transport choices is essential.

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