Panel to discuss how to get more people riding a bike to work in Canberra
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Panel to discuss how to get more people riding a bike to work in Canberra

Planners, academics and cycling enthusiastics will get together on Wednesday to work out how to encourage more people to bike to work, with cyclist numbers stubbornly refusing to move.

In 2015 the ACT government set a target of 7 per cent of people commuting to work using a bike by 2026, but Pedal Power said although the capital had a "very active and engaged cycling community" only 3 per cent of Canberrans were cycling to work.

Richard Keegan will be part of a panel discussing options to boost the number of Canberrans riding to work.

Richard Keegan will be part of a panel discussing options to boost the number of Canberrans riding to work.Credit:Jamila Toderas

The percentage using a bike had increased by only 0.8 of a percentage point over 35 years, Pedal Power executive officer Ian Ross said.

"At this rate of change we won't reach our 7 per cent target until 2096."

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University of Canberra associate professor in sport and exercise psychology Richard Keegan said the rate of cycling was "shifting quite slowly" despite excellent infrastructure.

"Canberra has worldly excellent cycle lanes and accessibility so I don't think that's the reason why the target is moving slowly," Mr Keegan said.

"I think while cycle paths are excellent, the roads are also pretty good and it's still easier to physically hop in the car."

He said there needed to be more places for people to park their bikes, as well as secure parking closer to workplaces.

"It's shifting the balance because on the one hand, it's very easy to cycle in Canberra, but on the other hand, it's very easy to drive to your office and get out and be at your desk in 30 seconds."

Mr Ross said Canberras remained committed to their cars for getting to work.

"Despite improvements in cycling infrastructure and community engagement programs, the percentage of people using bikes to commute to work has barely shifted over time," he said.

According to ABS data, 75 per cent of Canberrans drive to work, similar to Melbourne, Brisbane, Hobart and Darwin, but higher than Sydney at 65.5 per cent and lower than Adelaide and Perth at 79-80 per cent.

A further 8.4 per cent said they rode a bike or walked and 7.1 per cent said they used trains or buses. Cycling and walking in the ACT was highest in the country.

The proportion of Canberrans riding to work has grown steadily from 2.1 per cent in 2006 and 2.4 per cent in 2011.

A spokeswoman for Transport and City Services Minister Meegan Fitzharris said cycling was more than just riding bikes.

"It is about setting a different course for the future of Canberra that is less car dependant and more sustainable, productive, and desirable," she said.

"The ACT government's vision is that Canberra will be Australia's most walkable city and cycling capital."

She said over the past few decades, cycling had grown steadily to 3 per cent of all work journeys, however a faster rate of growth was needed to achieve the target. The government measures the progress using data from the ABS census.

"Seven per cent of journeys by bicycle is an ambitious target but some areas of Canberra already exceed the target," she said.

"For example, in 2016, 11 per cent of north Canberra residents commuted to work by bicycle. Some areas have lower rates of cycling to work due to the longer distances to employment areas."

She said to achieve the target the government would focus on cycling for short, everyday journeys – particularly children travelling to school – and enabling more women and girls to ride.

Pedal Power holds a public forum on how to improve cycling rates on Wednesday at 6pm, where Professor Keegan, along with Tony Stubbs from the Heart Foundation, Dr Anthony Burton of Anthony Burton and Associate and Cycle Education's Raynie McNee will speak.

Han Nguyen reports on property for The Canberra Times. She joined the Times in 2017 after working as a breaking news reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.

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