Public hospital staff keen to get riding

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how important it is for our health staff to stay healthy themselves.

We already know that a lot of health staff ride to work because of the health benefits of active transport, but now we know how many more would like to ride to work but are being held back by barriers such as road safety and poor end-of-trip facilities.

A group of staff at the Royal Hobart Hospital who ride have been calling for better end-of-trip facilities for some time and decided to bolster their argument with some facts and figures.

They conducted a Transport to Work survey towards the end of the first stage of COVID-19 restrictions and got over 650 responses.

Not surprisingly, road safety concerns topped the reasons why people didn’t ride to work with just under 45% of respondents citing this as a barrier. This is consistent with most other surveys which find people think it’s too dangerous to ride on roads mixing with cars, and it’s why building separated cycleways is essential for getting more people riding.

Other top reasons why people didn’t ride were worries about weather, living too far from work,  inadequate bicycle parking and shower facilities and too many hills.

The survey showed that during the first stage of COVID-19 restrictions, just under one-third of staff changed their travel habits. The biggest change was a plunge in the number of people taking the bus and a smaller decrease in the number catching taxis and Ubers. Most people drove more (over a 30% increase) but there was also a just over 20% increase in the number of people riding and 10% increase in the numbers of people walking.  

About one-third of respondents said they were now planning or thinking about riding and walking to work more often as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.

Bicycle Network followed up with survey respondents who wanted more help to ride by offering our Pedal Power e-bike program and information on the types of bicycles and gear that can make it easier to ride for transport.

We’ve also provided support to the staff efforts to advocate for better end-of-trip facilities and have offered to advise the hospital on bike parking options when they allocate a secure space. 

Bicycle parking is currently only available in public places and for people working shifts, the concern about finishing at odd hours and finding their bike has been stolen can be enough to stop them riding.

The Tasmanian Government conducted a review of its Walking and Cycling for Active Transport Strategy last year but it has not released an updated strategy. Bicycle Network’s submission to this highlighted the importance of changes to the planning scheme to require buildings to have secure bike parking and end-of-trip facilities such as showers and lockers.