CYCLING IN AUSTRALIA: In 1970, nearly all young people in Australia walked, cycled or took public transport to school or university (84%). Few travelled by car (16%). Fast forward to 2011 and most children are now driven to school.
So what has changed in the past 40 years? What can we do to get more children cycling to school? And why does this even matter?
National data are no longer available but in Melbourne, nearly four times as many young people are being driven to school than in 1970. Cycling levels are at an all-time low of 2.6%.
In fact, Australian children are among the most chauffeured young people in the developed world. Out of the total distance 10-14 year olds travel, walking and cycling is used for 33.5% of the distance in the Netherlands, 14.4% in Switzerland and 13.8% in Germany.
In Melbourne (again, there is no national data), it’s 4.6%.
Is this trend a cause for concern?
There are many reasons why cycling to school (and other local destinations) is better for children than sitting in a car.
Children who cycle to school are also likely to have:
- improved mental health and social wellbeing
- increased IQ and educational attainment
- greater independent mobility.
The community benefits from:
- reduced traffic congestion
- environmental sustainability
- community liveability
- reduced chauffeuring duties for parents.
Primary school students consistently say they’d rather ride or walk to school. They say it’s fun, they like travelling with their friends, and it makes them fit and healthy.
Car travel on the other hand – which is their least preferred way of getting to school – is considered “boring”, it means “you have to sit still”, you “don’t get any exercise”, and cars “make bad gas in the air”.