written in 1994
Ratcliffe (1993) reported that mean weekday cycle path daily volumes in the ACT were recorded in (December) 1992 to be about one third lower than the similar period in (November) 1991, with mean weekend daily volumes declining by about half. This was after compulsory helmet legislation was introduced in July 1992, compelling cyclists of all ages to wear a helmet whilst riding a bicycle in any public place.
In 1993/94 the counts were done mainly in February. The Government has claimed from these 1993/94 counts that cycling has increased back to almost pre-law levels. A ministerial brief (obtained by the Cyclists’ Rights Action Group through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request) advised the Minister for Urban Services Mr Tony De Domenico that commuter cycling had increased by 34% since 1992 (almost back to pre- law figures). This advice is wrong.
Cycling is, obviously, a highly seasonal activity. February, being one of the hottest times of the year in a cold Canberra climate, is one of the most popular months for cycling and is significantly more popular than either November or December, as shown in the following table taken from the ACT Bicycle Volumes:
Month B16: Between Albert Street and B55: Between Flynn Place and Commonwealth Ave Bridge, Parkes Kaye Street, Parkes Weekday Weekend Weekly Weekday Weekend Weekly Jul-93 0.59 **** 0.65 0.89 0.82 0.89 Aug-93 0.59 0.40 0.52 0.98 0.97 0.97 Sep-93 0.71 0.63 0.68 1.07 1.33 1.14 Oct-93 1.30 1.18 1.35 0.87 1.03 0.91 Nov-93 1.43 1.09 1.46 0.51 0.49 0.50 Dec-93 **** **** **** 0.87 0.83 0.86 Jan-94 0.49 0.68 0.49 1.50 1.34 1.45 Feb-94 1.60 1.52 1.68 1.31 1.20 1.30 Mar-94 1.76 1.71 1.56 **** **** **** Apr-94 0.86 1.08 0.93 **** **** **** May-94 0.67 0.72 0.69 **** **** **** Average Volume 655 476 594 426 374 412 **** counts not available
It is obvious that comparisons between figures for different times of the year are not valid. However, there were four sites counted in December 1993, rather than January or February 1994. These can be compared with the post-law December 1992 counts and fail to show any significant overall increase:
Site Between Nov 91 (pre law) Dec 92 (post law) Dec 93 Challis St/Cowper St 3153 1829 1351 Adelaide Ave/Caruthers 1852 1485 1724 Luxton/M'Dermott 2977 1549 1716 AIS/Dryandra St 3521 2900 3019 Total 11503 7763 7810
Comparisons of those few sites with figures available for the same months, show a total count of 7763 for 1992/93 versus 7810 for 1993/94. This is an increase of only 0.6%, and is still 32% less than the pre-law figures.
The ministerial brief also mentioned a helmet wearing rate of 90%. This figure is based on data from early 1994. However, anecdotal evidence sugggests that the helmet wearing rate may have recently dropped to as low as 50%. Perhaps another study should be conducted on this, and any future surveys on numbers of cyclists should also take into account helmet wearing rates, since any increase in cyclists may well be purely the result of lax law enforcement. It is also possible that the activities of anti-helmet law advocates may be undermining public faith in helmets as the solution to bicycle safety, leading to more cyclists but lower helmet wearing rates.
There is no evidence to support the claim that cycling has increased back to pre-law levels after the initial decline.
W.J. (Bill) Curnow
D.L. Robinson (UNE)
ACT Bicycle Volumes; Trends, Variations, Survey Results, Helmet Wearing And Cyclist’s Characteristics, 1991 – 1993/94; Report prepared by the Traffic Monitoring Unit, ACT City Services, Department of Urban Services, PO Box 158 Canberra ACT 2601, Australia.
Ratcliffe, P., Bicycling in the ACT – a survey of bicycle riding and helmet wearing in 1992, ACT Department of Urban Services, Canberra, 1993.