Rider numbers steady across country while Melbourne rises

Update 22 May: This article was amended to reflect updated Super Tuesday data for New South Wales, which experienced greater growth than originally reported. 

Results from this year's Super Tuesday counts have been finalised, telling a tale of steady active travel numbers around the country and commuting making a comeback in Melbourne.

The annual Super Tuesday South Count takes place on a Tuesday in March every year, when Bicycle Network teams up with local councils to count bikes travelling along key commuter routes across the country.

On 7 March, 2023, counters were stationed at 785 sites around Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and New South Wales and tallied more than 120,000 active travel journeys.

In terms of bike riders, several states saw no dramatic changes. The numbers dipped by 3% in South Australia and increased by 6% in Western Australia, while Tasmania (-1%) experienced a more marginal shift. In New South Wales, meanwhile, there was an increase of 10%. 

The numbers in Melbourne depict a city springing back to life after the dull years of the pandemic, and illustrates the role bikes are playing in getting people moving once again.

Rider numbers had declined in recent years as work-from-home arrangements became the norm, and sectors like entertainment and dining ground to a halt.

Bike trips plummeted by -45% between 2020 and 2021 as these effects took hold in Melbourne, and then again by -13% between 2021 and 2022.

Bicycle Network's preliminary analysis of key routes on Super Tuesday revealed some promising signs, with increases of more than 50% seen at some of the Melbourne sites sampled.

The final results now confirm that bike commuting is indeed making a roaring comeback in the city. Numbers increased by 56% across 44 sites counted in the City of Melbourne compared to last year, and it was a similar case across the state with an average 46% increase seen at the 503 sites counted.

The active travel slide brought on by the pandemic, and its effect on working life in the CBD, may be a factor well into the future. 

Office occupancy figures shared in April by the Victorian Chamber of Commerce indicate that hybrid working is becoming the norm for many CBD businesses.

The number of employees working in the office five days a week has declined from 19% in November 2022 to 8% in March 2023. Around three quarters of workers have settled into a routine of working from the office two or three days a week. 

That rider numbers are making such a strong return in light of lower office occupancy creates an exciting outlook for active travel in the city. 

"To see bike riders returning to Melbourne's paths, trails and key commuter routes is heartwarming," says Bicycle Network CEO Alison McCormack. "Let's hope the trend continues."

Also of note is the large proportion of micromobility trips in certain states. In Western Australia, these made up 1904 of a total 17,650 trips counted (11%) and in Tasmania, 459 of a total 3110 (15%). In Victoria, where 3759 of a total 92470 trips where logged as micromobiity, this figure sits at just 4%.

Bicycle Network has worked with local councils to conduct its Super Count events at select sites since 2007, making it one of the largest and most reliable active travel data surveys in the country.

Bicycle Network makes donations on behalf of volunteer counters to their nominated non-profit organisations or charities. Through this, the 2023 Super Tuesday South Counts raised nearly $58,000.