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Published 18 October 2012 10:00, Updated 19 October 2012 06:13
Bicycles may be slower than trains, trams and buses but their prices have also fallen over the past five years while those of other transport modes have steamed ahead.
A strong Australian dollar and direct importing by retailers that have chosen to bypass wholesalers has contributed to an estimated slide of 3.2 per cent in the average price of a bike (with accessories such as lights and helmet) since 2008, putting the current figure at $721, research firm IBISWorld says.
Over the same time, the overall bicycle industry, comprising retail, repair, wholesale and manufacturing, has risen at a modest average annual 0.7 per cent rate, for a total value of $1.93 billion, IBISWorld says.
By contrast, the steeper annual 3.6 per cent revenue growth of passenger rail transport revenue in the five years to 2011-12 has raised the total (including public subsidies) to $7.49 billion, while revenue of the short-distance bus and tramway transport industry has risen 5 per cent to $4.95 billion over the same time.
The old observation that ‘When times are good people buy bicycles for their children and when they are bad they buy them for themselves’ remains truer than ever. Economic headwinds of the past five years have also pushed more commuters onto bicycles than before. Comparing census data from 1996 with that of 2006 (the latest for which details are available), the proportion of people cycling to work has risen to 1.1 per cent from 0.9 per cent, IBISWorld says.
“As people have been tightening their belts and returning to savings … children’s bikes were an area that suffered, whereas commuter biking has arguably grown over the period,” senior IBISWorld analyst Caroline Finch says.
While more commuters have jumped on their bikes in each of the capital cities surveyed, Canberra won the yellow jersey, with the number rising to 2.5 per cent from 2.2 per cent over the 10-year period. Adelaide was next on the podium, with the number rising to 1.5 per cent from 1.1 per cent.
Melbourne put in a good sprint, with the proportion of cycling commuters jumping to 1.3 per cent from 0.9 per cent. Perth saw its figure rise to 1.2 per cent from 1 per cent, while Hobart also saw a good uphill climb. The figure in the Tasmanian capital rose to 1.1 per cent from 0.7 per cent.
Brisbane found itself towards the back of the peloton, with a modest increase to 1.1 per cent from 1 per cent, but the Lanterne Rouge - or wooden spoon, in Tour de France-speak - goes to Sydney, which ticked up to just 0.7 per from 0.6 per cent.
In fairness to Sydney, however, it maintains the city with the largest proportion of public transport-using commuters, with 21.2 per cent. Melbourne followed with 13.9 per cent , Brisbane (13.8 per cent), Perth (10.4 per cent), Adelaide (9.9 per cent), Canberra (7.9 per cent) and Hobart (6.4 per cent).