Invited presentation to Conference run by Transport for NSW.
Title of presentation: How are we travelling in regional NSW? Riding a bike makes a difference!
Background and aims
This presentation reflects on potential for active transport such as cycling and walking to contribute to improved mental health and wellbeing in regional NSW.
Over a million NSW people (13%) ride a bike at least weekly. Regional rates are slightly higher (NSW Cycling Participation Survey, 2019). Links between exercise and physical and mental wellbeing are well recognised. Regular bicycle riders frequently report feeling freedom, exhilaration and enjoyment. Studies have found positive links between active commuting travel and psychological wellbeing when compared to car travel (Martin et al 2014), that use of a bicycle is linked to vitality and a range of mental health measures, and walking is associated with high vitality and good perceptions of self-health (Avila-Palencia et al, 2018).
This study aimed to find out how people in regional NSW are using bikes, and what would encourage more riding.
An online 10 minute survey of 1325 (87% regional/rural, 92% car owners, 80% bike owners) was done in January 2020. More than half the sample were from central western NSW. Email and paid and unpaid Facebook were used extensively to recruit the sample.
The study found very favourable attitudes to bikes, both for communities and for individuals. Ninety percent agreed cycling would improve communities’ physical health, 72% said the sight of people on bicycles makes a town seem more desirable. Recreation was the main use (81%) followed by 7% for commuting and 5% for other transport purposes (errands/shopping/visits). More use bikes for commuting in Dubbo than Bathurst or Orange. Reasons for riding were overwhelmingly related to personal wellbeing: Physical health and fitness (89%), fun and enjoyment (77%), ‘clears my head’ (56%) and social reasons (41%). Other reasons include environment (30%) and saving money (14%). There was strong desire for more active future mobility, 40% intend to cycle more, 28% to walk more, 15% to use an e-bike more, while 15% will drive cars less. The main encouragements to ride more were more bike paths (76%) and lanes (73%), more motorist displays of respect (71%), better bike signage (64%), and education for motorists on shared road use (63%) .
Findings accord with trends to increased cycling elsewhere in Australia and internationally. Improved regional infrastructure, bike signage, and road sharing education could increase active transport, and enhance physical and mental wellbeing. Support for normalising active transport may improve population health at little direct cost to individuals.
Period10 Oct 2022
Event typeConference
LocationDubbo, Australia, New South WalesShow on map
Degree of RecognitionRegional

Sustainable Development Goals

  • SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being