Breaking down barriers to drive more cycling in Sydney

Sydney, 4 June - An internationally-backed transport study has shed light on why women are not walking and riding at the same rate as men. 

Produced by City of Sydney and C40 Women4Climate, On the Go - How Women Travel Around Our City, looked at the key drivers and barriers that are shaping women’s transport choices across Greater Sydney. 

The latest research shows that barriers to women walking and cycling included concerns about safety, lack of access to end-of-trip facilities and the perception that walking and cycling were for certain types of people. 

The City is now using the report findings to work with the NSW Government, urban planners, and transport, health and sustainability professionals to examine policy and infrastructure opportunities at a series of seminars and workshops from 4 June. 

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the need to get more people walking and riding more often across Greater Sydney. 

“Before Covid-19, around one million people travelled to the city centre to work, study or visit every day. People are now returning to the city, but we must maintain physical distancing – so we need more people to walk or ride, freeing up space on public transport and roads for those who can’t,” the Lord Mayor said

“Our connected bike lane network has been invaluable during the coronavirus pandemic, given the renewed uptake in cycling. I’m pleased to be working with the State Government to install pop-up cycleways to improve the network coverage even more through this difficult time. We’ve also seen increased interest in our confidence classes, which help get new riders on the road. 

“By breaking down the perception, safety and access barriers that are stopping women from riding to work, to schools and local businesses, we will create connected active transport infrastructure for all people of all ages, abilities and confidence levels.” 

The Lord Mayor said increased active transport would also be crucial to the City meeting its emissions reduction targets of 70 per cent on 2006 levels by 2030, and net zero by 2040. 

“Around 15 per cent of carbon emissions in the City of Sydney area come from transport. As we look to mark World Environment Day on 5 June, we are doubling down on our commitment to reduce emissions with a shift to zero-carbon transport,” the Lord Mayor said. 

The research was co-funded by the influential C40 Cities, a global climate action organisation that connects 96 world cities and one-quarter of the global economy. The City of Sydney is a founding member of C40 Cities. 

Mark Watts, C40 Executive Director said the report filled a vital research gap. 

“This research will be hugely helpful for the people of Sydney, but it also fills a major data gap globally,” Mr Watts said

“In cities around the world, people are using their bikes more as a safe and healthy way of getting around during the COVID pandemic. 

“Mayors have long been trying to enable more people to cycle, because it is good for public health and good for the climate. Understanding the barriers that are stopping women from getting on their bikes is going to help cities everywhere. As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, that is more important than ever.” 

Nearly 900 women were survey online and in person in three key areas around Redfern, Liverpool and the Hills Shire. Researchers also interviewed experts from councils, state government, academics and community organisations to develop planning and policy ideas to make walking and cycling more women-friendly. 

Researchers from CRED Consulting also walked and cycled alongside 18 women of different ages, abilities, cultural backgrounds and experiences to learn their stories and better understand how they travel across Greater Sydney. 

One of these women was Melissa Derwent of Oatley started riding her electric cargo bike only a few months ago but has already racked up over 600 kilometres. Her daily commutes with her two young children on the back regularly turns heads in her hilly district. 

“I think in the Inner West and inner-city area, people are more used to seeing it. But in good old suburbia, they’re not so used to it,” Melissa said. 

“I started cycling because I was concerned about the environmental impacts of driving, but I also wanted to incorporate more exercise into my family’s life. Now the girls love our daily rides to school and daycare, and they love pointing out all the wildlife along the way. 

“There’s no bike lanes around here and I was a little worried about riding on the road at first, but I’m much more confident now. I’d like other mums around here to know that cycling’s not just for inner city people and to join me.” 

Tanya Grabowski, 30, moved to Sydney from Germany three years ago. She now lives in Redfern and uses her bike and public transport to get to her job in Parramatta. 

“I think the big difference is here you have some roads which have really good cycle facilities, but you need to know where they are and then you have to really plan your commute or travel,” Ms Grabowski said. 

“If you plan, you can have a really lovely cycle experience, but in Europe it’s a little easier because the majority of streets are less busy and more cycling friendly.” 

To increase the number of women who walk and cycle as part of their everyday journey, the report recommendations included: 

  • challenge perceptions to increase participation and confidence of women 
  • behaviour change campaigns can help to alter these perceptions 
  • apply a gender lens that considers the needs of women when designing active transport infrastructure and public transport 
  • plan for safety beyond street lighting and separated cycleways 
  • work hand in hand with public transport 
  • build end of trip facilities in offices, institutions and shopping centres