Close to 50 per cent of Australians would ride to work if they were offered financial incentives to do so by their workplace, according to new research from the Heart Foundation and the Cycling Promotion Fund.
The research, which was released on Monday, surveyed 2000 people aged between 25 and 54 years old who do not cycle to work and live with 15km of their office.
Up to 80 per cent of those surveyed said they supported financial incentives to encourage people to ride to work, with a lack of access to a bike being the biggest reason for not riding.
Catholic Health Australia policy director Patrick Tobin said he was certain ride-to-work schemes would encourage more people to make the most of cycling infrastructure in Canberra.
"Obviously lots of jobs provide incentives for people to drive into work so it's always seemed a bit strange that employers aren't making the same offers for something more healthy," he said.
Mr Tobin has been riding from his home in Higgins to his office in Deakin for the last three years and said riding to work was much safer in Canberra than in other larger cities.
"I do tell people that sometimes you have to watch out for kangaroos but compared to cycling in Sydney or Melbourne I feel much more secure in Canberra," he said.
The Heart Foundation's director of cardiovascular health associate professor Trevor Shilton said riding to work would enable more Australians to lead healthy and active lifestyles.
"There are no easy answers to reversing the lack of physical activity in all our lives, but with lack of time cited as the biggest barrier, supporting people to get their daily dose of exercise on the way to work would be a big step in the right direction," he said.
Professor Shilton said inactive lifestyles were responsible for 16,000 premature deaths each year costing the Australian economy $14 billion.
Cycling Promotion Fund spokesman Stephen Hodge said ride-to-work schemes would reduce congestion and carbon output while simultaneously providing health outcomes.
"Overseas experience has shown significant uptake when workplace incentives are provided to cycle to work, with half of participants in a UK scheme indicating they would not have ridden without incentives," he said.
Cycle to work schemes are common in the United Kingdom, Europe and North America and usually involve an annual tax exemption which enables employers to lend bicycles to employees as a benefit.
"We already offer many Australians financial incentive programs to drive a car to work and this would extend a similar model to those riding to work," said Mr Hodge.
Mr Tobin said riding to work in Canberra was often easier than driving given traffic and unexpected delays.
"It depends on the traffic but it takes me about 45-50 minutes to cycle in ... I always know how long it's going to take as when I drive I'm never really sure," he said.