Does the Australian Bureau of Statistics Method of Travel to Work data accurately estimate commuter cycling in Australia?

Jake Olivier, Mahsa Esmaeilikia, Marilyn Johnson, Ben Beck, Raphael Grzebieta

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2 Citations (Scopus)


The Australian Census of Population and Housing includes a responder’s Method of Travel to Work for Persons (MTWP) on Census Day. With some exceptions, responders can select multiple modes of transport. In Australia and overseas, this data has been used to estimate mode share and the proportion of Australians who utilize various active transport modes. This is especially true for cycling as there are scant data sources for Australian cycling exposure. The aims of this paper are to discuss weaknesses of MTWP data and the appropriateness of MTWP data to estimate cycling in Australia, and to assess changes in MTWP data relative to the introduction of bicycle helmet legislation. The use of MTWP data to estimate Australian cycling is limited due to: (1) data collection occurring on single days in winter once every five years, (2) it is not possible to identify a primary mode of transport, and (3) the 1976 data was not a full enumeration. MTWP data estimates about 1.5% of Australians cycle while other data sources are much higher ranging from 10% to 36%. With regard to bicycle helmet legislation, comparisons were made for each state/territory for the census immediately preceding helmet legislation and the following census. Overall, the proportion of cyclists among active transport users is similar from pre-to post-legislation (relative change=+1%, 95% CI:-13%, +18%), although all but two states/territories estimate an increase in cycling. In conclusion, the Australian government should invest in routinely collecting high-quality mobility data for all modes of travel to assist in the decision-making and assessment of road safety policies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-54
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Road Safety
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2020


  • Bicycle helmet law
  • Bicycle travel
  • Census data
  • Cycling exposure
  • Cycling mode share
  • Cycling temporal patterns

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