Kathryn Lee - 11 Feb, 2020

Australia’s most cycle-centric cities

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Ever thought about cycling to work? Besides being good for the environment, as well as your hip pocket, it’s gaining popularity in cities around Australia.

Besides the obvious trope of cutting down on rising fuel costs, cycling is also good for your health. A 2017 study from the University of Glasgow found that cycling to work is associated with a 45% lower risk of developing cancer and a 46% lower risk of heart disease. It also found that cycling commuters had 41% lower chance of premature death.

Completed over a 5–year period, the study analysed data from 264,337 participants, relating new cases of cancer, heart attacks or deaths over the period to their form of commute.

Although it was a UK based study, the popularity of cycling is not lost on Australians. According to the 2016 Census, despite cycling making up just a small percentage of the stats compared to other commute types – with cars being dominant – 107,756 of us cycle to work.

But in what Australian cities is cycling most popular? The 2016 Census also revealed the cities with the biggest percentages of cycling commuters – and no, despite what you might think Melbourne didn’t make the list.

Alice Springs, NT – 5.6%

Who would have thought that in Alice Springs, deep in the red-centre of Australia, cycling would be most popular? Here, a massive 5.6% of commuters choose it as their form of transport. Interestingly, The Northern Territory also has some of the most relaxed cycling laws in the country. Although those under 17 are obligated to wear a helmet, over 17s only need to wear a helmet if travelling by road.

Broome, WA – 4.5%

Another surprise, Broome came up second for the popularity of the cycle commute – and a housing estate in Broome’s north might be partly to thank. According to a report from Perth Now Waranyjarri Estate has been built with sustainability in mind, and includes a network of footpaths and cycle-ways that connect to local services and amenities. Locals can access schools, parks, and retail/entertainment strips – all without having to touch a main road.

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Canberra/Queanbeyan – 2.8%

With its clean air and amazing roads and infrastructure, it’s hardly a surprise that Canberra has made the list, although if being critical, perhaps Canberra should rank higher. University of Canberra associate professor in sport and exercise psychology, Richard Keegan, says that the popularity of cycling is growing slowly, despite Canberra being well set–up.

“Canberra has worldly excellent cycle lanes and accessibility, so I don’t think that’s the reason why the target is moving slowly,” he said.

Keegan believes that if the rate of cycling is to improve, there needs to be more places for people to park their bikes at work.


Darwin, NT – 2.6%

Far in the top-end, despite the heat, wet season and the odd snake lining your path, Darwin is still the fourth most popular city for cycling commuters. According to the City of Darwin council, Darwin is well set-up for cyclists, with approximately 70 kilometres of on-road cycle-ways and dedicated shared paths.

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Cairns, QLD – 2.3%

Northern Queensland might just be the adventure capital of Australia, so it makes sense that they are the 5th most popular city for cycling commuters. According to the Cairns Regional Council, Cairns is a great place to get outdoors and be active, with a range of paths and cycle ways for cyclists and walkers alike.

Words by Kathryn Lee

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