Cycling contribution to Australian economy put at A$16.8 billion as bike sales ramp-up

MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA OCTOBER 19 Cyclists ride up Yarra Boulevard on October 6 2021 in Melbourne Australia Lockdown restrictions will lift in Melbourne from Friday 22 October as Victoria reaches the target 70 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated against COVID19 From Friday the curfew for residents in metropolitan Melbourne will end and travel limits within the city will be lifted although travel to regional Victoria will still not be permitted The six reasons to leave home will no longer apply home visits with restrictions will be allowed and hospitality businesses will reopen Photo by Quinn RooneyGetty Images
Riders out on Melbourne's Yarra Boulevard during the latest COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, with a block of exercise within a restricted distance allowed each day (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

It’s been clear that bikes are hard to come by from the quickest of glances into the retail outlets across Australia and it’s not just down to COVID-19 pandemic induced supply shortages. A report from WeRide point to an increase in bike sales of 46 per cent, making it the biggest driver of the nation’s cycling economy during 2020.

The EY report, commissioned by the industry-backed advocacy group, found the total direct output from cycling was $6.3 billion Australian dollars (£3.41 billion) in 2020 – with bicycle purchases accounting for A$1.57 billion – and the total economic impact climbed to A$16.8 billion when indirect output was also added in.

“The WeRide Australia EY report confirms what we instinctively know, which is that the cycling industry is a major driver of economic activity and employment across Australia,” said the nation's treasurer Josh Frydenberg as he launched the report in the halls of Parliament House. 

“It’s not just an important recreational activity but it is also very important in terms of helping people get to and from work and the numbers in this report are indeed very impressive – more than A$6.3 billion in direct industry output, more than A$3.4 billion in direct value add and more than 34,000 direct jobs being driven by the cycling industry.”

The first Australian Cycling Economy report covered the year of 2020. 

It was a year in which the COVID-19 pandemic severely restricted both international and domestic travel, saw some parts of the nation shift into lockdown – with the longest in Melbourne extending beyond 100 days – and led to a severe curtailment of events due to gathering restrictions of varying levels across the nation. 

This undoubtedly had an impact on bicycle related tourism and services, which still came in as the second biggest direct output at A$1.2 billion. On the other hand, lockdowns filled bike paths as people strived to get out of their house, with exercise being one of the few allowable reasons to leave. Money that may have otherwise have been spent on travel appears to have been invested in sporting equipment that could be used close to home.

There was a big jump in bike sales to 1.7 million in 2020 with children's bikes the biggest purchase category, closely followed by road and mountain bikes. Additionally, the report found that close to one in three adults in Australia spent money on cycling last year.

“The key thing behind every dollar spent on a bike is that there is a person engaging with our sport which is really important for us,” AusCycling CEO Marne Fechner said. 

“They could be buying a BMX bike for their kids, they could be booking an eco-tourism holiday on a mountain bike or just getting their fifth road bike, so the number of Australians touched by cycling is huge. This report demonstrates that, and the benefits that provides, not only for the economy but to our physical and mental health, is equally as big.”

Even though the sport is sometimes characterised as a bastion of middle-aged men in lycra, the report also found that 47 per cent of those spending money on cycling identified as female. 

Of the 4.62 million Australians riding a bike in a typical week and 10.19 million riding in the last year, the report found that the majority were recreational road cyclists, at 69 per cent.

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Production editor

Simone joined the team as Production Editor based in Australia at the start of the 2021 season, having previously worked as Australian Editor at Ella CyclingTips and as a correspondent for Reuters and Bloomberg.