Riding a bike is the most satisfying way to make your morning commute, according to the Great Australian Commuter Experiment recently conducted by Reid Cycles and Bicycle Network.
Riding a bike was also found to be by far the cheapest way to commute on a daily basis – the average annual cost of cycling to work was $72, compared with $1,286 each year spent on public transport fares and a whopping $2,600 each year on fuel and parking for car drivers.
The survey of over 4,500 Aussie commuters compared cycling, driving and public transport on average costs, typical journey time and how commuters felt both during and after their journey. The survey was conducted in the capital cities of all the Australian states and territories, with average commute distances all in a surprisingly close range. The shortest average commute was in Canberra, at 12.3km, whilst the longest was in Perth at 14.9km.
The cost of commuting in Australia
Since the only ongoing costs for a bicycle are the occasional chain grease and new tyre, it’s no surprise that cycling was by far the cheapest option for getting to work each day. Across all states, the cost of cycling averaged out to just 30c per day for typical journey times that ranged from 27 minutes in Adelaide to 32 minutes in Melbourne. The upfront cost of a bike and associated gear is also much less than buying a car – and whilst a cost that’s absent from public transport, the money you save by not paying fares can amortise this within a year.
Car costs, on the other hand, took into account the significant price of fuel and vehicle maintenance. Daily costs ranged from just $6.60 in Darwin up to $8.90 in Melbourne – similar costs were also present in Sydney and Brisbane. Unlike bike commuters, the daily commute time for drivers varied greatly between states: from just 18 minutes in Darwin up to 26 minutes in jam-packed Sydney.
Public transport provided the longest journey times overall, but was significantly cheaper per day than driving a car – when you factor in the complete lack of up-front costs, it’s a cost-effective way to commute if cycling is a difficult option. Costs for public transport ranged from around $6.50 in the smaller cities of Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra all the way up to $9.10 in Brisbane – a city widely seen as having high public transport fares. Journey times also varied widely – in Darwin the average commute was just 18 minutes, but the remaining states ranged from 30 to 42 minutes each day.
What’s the most satisfying way to get to work?
With an average overall satisfaction of 88%, cycling was also found to deliver far higher satisfaction upon arrival at work than commuting by either public transport (15%) or by car (12%). The survey asked commuters whether or not they felt energised or motivated upon arrival, with the combination of the two forming an overall satisfaction rating.
Cycling’s biggest disadvantage is usually longer journey times, and average bike commutes were significantly slower than cars across the board. Cycling was, however, considerably faster than public transport in most states – the exceptions were Darwin, where public transport was 10 minutes faster on average, and Hobart where the two were essentially the same at 30 minutes.
The Great Australian Commuter Experiment was conducted at the behest of two companies in the bicycle industry, so take the results with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, the large sample size and range of metrics makes a compelling case for us to ride to work more frequently in the future – and with increasing city density and our oil supplies steadily decreasing, cycling may soon become the preferred mode of transport in Australia’s major cities.