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The massive potential for bike riding in ‘30 minute cities’

A new study by RMIT University has found that nearly 30 per cent of Australian workers could reach their current workplace by riding a bike, despite only 1.1 per cent currently hopping on the pedals.    

Researchers from the Centre of Urban Research were interested in the role that active travel could play in a shift from sprawling car-centric cities to sustainable ‘30 minute cities’ that promote local living.

You may have seen the terms ’20 minute neighbourhood’ or ’30 minute city’ being thrown about. But what do they mean, exactly?

The basic concept is living locally. In a ‘30-minute city’, for example, people have their workplace, goods and services within a 30 minute trip (either by foot, bike or public transport).

The authors used CENSUS travel survey data to estimate the existing and potential uptake of all active travel modes (walking, public transport, riding a bike), and how these would look under a 30 minute city setting.

The results paint a promising portrait, for bikes in particular.

As well as highlighting the amount of people who could potentially ride to work (30 per cent), the researchers also investigated what percentage of people could get to work within 30 minutes, should they take a job closer to home. Astonishingly, the percentage of people who could ride to a local workplace in a 30 minute city would be just short of 70 per cent.

Switching to a bike-friendly 30 minute cities a could drastically reduce the demand on private vehicles, cutting their use by nearly 50 per cent according to the research team.

But, there is a lot of work to be done. Achieving 30 minute cities in Australia would involve bringing jobs to local areas, strengthening local transport connections, building affordable housing, and improving local liveability.

What should we do to stimulate active transport? The authors recommend building separated bikes paths on roads connecting to train stations and primary schools, and behaviour change programs that motivate people to give the bike a go.

A concerted effort by all forms of government to foster local living could have a strong impact on Australians’ quality of life and, of course, the environment.  

You can read about the study here.

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.