Census 2016: Canberra leads the nation for riding to work

Not many people choose the long way home from work.

But as one of a growing number of Canberrans riding a bike everyday, Bella Molloy regularly opts for the scenic route home around Lake Burley Griffin.

“I had been riding since I was a kid and like most Australians I stopped when I was a teenager and started driving a car,” she said.

“In my early 20s I took it up again, originally mountain biking, but then found a passion I forgot I’d had.”

Monday’s release of new 2016 census data showed Canberra leads the nation on riding and walking to work, along with a 5 percentage point increase in the number of people who report driving or being a car passenger.

In 2016, 74.9 per cent of ACT residents reported driving to work, up from 69.3 per cent in 2011.

A further 8.4 per cent said they rode a bike or walked and 7.1 per cent said they used trains or buses.

The proportion of Canberrans riding to work has grown steadily from 2.1 per cent in 2006 and 2.4 per cent in 2011.

As the ACT government promotes active travel options and encourages commuters to look for alternatives to their car, Ms Molloy said Canberra was the best place in Australia to be a cyclist commuter.

A Pedal Power ACT member, she said her commute can be as little as 10 minutes door-to-door, but sometimes she adds a lap of the lake to take advantage of the daylight saving and warmer weather.

“It can be a bit daunting, with people worried about how they’ll get there, what to do once they’re at work, what they’ll wear, what about the rain and the cold.

“But once you get riding, you find it’s so easy and sets you up for the day energising,” she said.

Nationally, driving remains the most popular way to get to work as 6.5 million people or 69 per cent of the working population report driving.

A further 5 per cent or 490,000 people travelled as a passenger on census day.

The cycling advocacy group’s Cycle Works program aims to increase the number of people who ride to work in Canberra and to raise awareness of how healthy and active living can be incorporated into a busy lifestyle.

It starts again next month.

Ms Molloy said riding was good for her physical and mental health and could be quicker than taking her car.

“I find I either solve problems or forget about problems when I’m on my bike,” she said.

“My cycle commute to work gets me ready for the day, my cycle home gets me ready for the evening.”

Census program manager Bindi Kindermann said the latest Census insights were important in helping governments plan services for communities.

“From how people get to work, to what they are studying, what their jobs are and where people are moving to, this census information tells us so much about the lives of people in the ACT,” Ms Kindermann said.

“While car use remained by far the most common, as was the case nationally, it had the lowest percentage increase of 5 per cent.”