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Data suggests Australians are shunning public transport but turning to bikes and scooters instead of electric cars

Australians turned away from public transport in 2020, turning instead to affordable cars and electric mobility.

2020 has been a challenging year for Australian commuters, and despite environmental issues being front of mind for more than half of respondents in a recent survey, COVID conditions have skewed transport preferences.

The survey, undertaken by Kapsch TrafficCom in March of this year, showed that of the 1000 Australian respondents, 63 per cent were in favour of reducing traffic-related emissions by means of environmentally friendly transport solutions.

The data is at odds with commuter preferences, though, which has seen a turn away from public transport in light of global pandemic conditions. A Transurban report into mobility trends during the pandemic found public transport use was down 37 per cent in both Sydney and Brisbane by the end of July, with 25 per cent of respondents to its survey saying they found public transport ‘much less safe’ than pre-pandemic.

CarsGuide and Autotrader internal data has seen a surge in searches for cars under $20,000 both new and used during the pandemic.

The used-car market has also seen a surge in value of 4x4-capable vehicles used for touring within Australia, as the population looks to travel locally instead of internationally in light of restrictions.

Australians are increasingly looking for affordable vehicle options to avoid public transport. Australians are increasingly looking for affordable vehicle options to avoid public transport.

Kapsch also noted that turning to an electric vehicle was “the exception” and this is backed up by VFACTs data (which doesn't report Tesla sales) showing just 779 all-electric vehicles finding homes in 2020 (up 25 per cent), compared to some 155,832 internal-combustion vehicles.

Instead Kapsch suggests there had been a “sharp increase” in commuters switching to bicycles and e-bikes, backed up by Transurban data which had respondents to its survey in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane indicate that they would cycle more post-pandemic. E-bike manufacturers and retailers have reported between a 60 per cent and 100 per cent rise in demand during COVID-19 lockdowns Australia-wide, despite widespread confusion on whether it is even legal to ride some electric bikes and scooters on Australian roads, cycleways, or walkways.

Both Kapsch and Transurban point to Australian cities being more cycle-friendly post-pandemic, with Kapsch pointing to 40km worth of fast-tracked cycleways in Melbourne as one example of “grasping the opportunity” to reduce CO2 emissions in cities.

Soon to be the cheapest EV on sale in Australia, the $46,990 MG ZS EV is still out of reach for many. Soon to be the cheapest EV on sale in Australia, the $46,990 MG ZS EV is still out of reach for many.

What remains to be seen is if C02 levels will return to pre-pandemic levels with many people also turning to affordable cars rather than electric ones in order to avoid public transport.

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