Cycling in China and Australia


An article published last week on The Conversation
drew comparisons between cycling in China and Australia, ultimately with the
aim of applying 
learnings from the high
bicycle usage in China to the growing but still infant usage in our country.

The author, Matthew Burke, a research fellow at
Griffith University, believes firstly that infrastructure is critical to
uptake, with every arterial road built in Shanghai including a bicycle lane,
usually barricaded from cars. He claims that this makes a safe continuous
network of routes right across the urban area.

There are also other supporting reasons: from lower
driving speeds in China being more conducive to bicycle riding, to Australian
bicycle shops being too daunting for the ‘everyday’ rider, to the availability
of the right types of bicycles, to regulation governing the use of electric
bicycles.

We agree that all of these elements may be
contributing factors to the slower uptake in Australia, but fundamentally we
feel that the biggest reason for the high bicycle usage in China is due to the
cost of car ownership in that country. Historically, the prospect of owning a
car has been an inaccessible dream for many generations, and it is only now, as
China rapidly emerges as an economic powerhouse that cars are becoming
affordable for the masses. We recently posted research by IBIS World that
showed that whilst bicycle usage is on the increase in Australia, it’s actually
declining in China due to their rapid urbanisation, trading in two wheels for
four.

Whilst the supporting infrastructure in China is
great, this would have been driven more by the burgeoning demand than the
supply of dedicated bicycle lanes. However, there are many learnings that
Australia can take from bicycle usage in China to help increase our own cycling
take up.


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