The initial results of our two-hour Hobart Super Tuesday count in 2021 indicated commuter rider numbers were down on previous years and the final analysis shows the drops were significant and across the entire Hobart area.
Our most popular routes were all down on the previous year: the Intercity Cycleway declined by 38%, Sandy Bay Road by 36.5% and Molle and Collins Street by 24%.
Even though Hobart was not in lockdown and had not had an outbreak since the first half of 2020, one explanation for the drop is that the option of working from home seems to have taken hold for some of us.
Also, the count was not held on the usual first Tuesday of the month in preference for the Thursday because of forecast severe winds for Tuesday as windy days deter people from crossing the Tasman Bridge. It may have been that several days of windy weather turns off more riders than we think. The Thursday was a warm 15 degrees at 7 am, but there was still a stiff breeze of 20–30 km/h.
Interestingly, we saw a big spike in cycling during the day on the Foreshore Trail at Kangaroo Bay in 2020 when people were working from home, however, there were no similar upticks for March last year.
The other generally noted change in the count from previous years was the big increase in e-scooter numbers. We may very well include these vehicles in future counts as they are also path users and add to calls for improvements to infrastructure.
Well designed infrastructure pays off
The interesting outcome from the 2021 counts was the popularity of the new Rose Garden Bridge. Before the 2021 count most people who were heading from the cycleway to Campbell Street came in along the waterfront or used the Railway Roundabout underpass.
The underpass is separated from traffic but at one end you have to get off your bike and wheel it down a stair ramp. The new bridge has pretty much taken over from the roundabout as the preferred way of crossing Brooker Ave with a drop of 32 riders at the roundabout and 33 riders using the bridge.
In contrast, the Bridge of Remembrance, which was touted as a cycling bridge but has poorly designed connections at either end, is avoided for the easier and more direct ride along McVilly Drive and/or its footpath.
The short section of separated cycleway on Peltro Street in Glenorchy also bucked the trend, with an increase in riders from 11 in 2020 to 15 in 2021.
University move shifts riders to Campbell Street?
One of the few locations to see a rise in rider numbers was Campbell Street.
At the Liverpool Street intersection there was a rise from 32 in 2019 and 42 in 2020 up to 53 in 2021. This coincides with the opening of the University of Tasmania’s Hedberg campus in late 2020 and the opening of the Rose Garden Bridge providing an easier way to access Campbell Street.
We started counting at the Bathurst Street intersection in March 2020 to provide baseline data before the Rose Garden Bridge opened, and that year there were 67 riders coming in to the city which went up to 95 riders in 2021.
It’s likely that as more of the Melville Street buildings are opened to staff and students more people could opt to come down Campbell Street.
Women continue to build
The good news out of the count was that the percentage of female riders did not go backward.
There were some declines but more routes saw increased percentages, with the 3 routes in and out of South Hobart now at 40% of female and 60% male riders.
Other routes approaching the 40% mark include Elizabeth and Burnett streets (32% up to 36%), Augusta and New Town roads (29% up to 39%), Channel Highway at the Taroona schools (29% up to 36%), and Argyle and Burnett streets (24% up to 32%).
We look at the number of female riders as an indicator of comfort levels of routes as they tend to favour better quality infrastructure and can be an indicator of route suitability for the wider population.
Super Tuesday 2022
It’s going to be important to see whether the drop in commuter numbers has been sustained and whether the current outbreak worsens numbers.
We’ll also be able to measure the impact of the ferry service from Bellerive, it would be great if it’s increased numbers rather than just shifting people from the Tasman Bridge. And, fingers crossed, the long-awaited separated cycleway on Campbell Street that was first floated back in 2019.