Cycling has increased in popularity in Canada as a healthy, cost-effective, and sustainable mode of transportation. It benefits individuals, communities, and the environment by saving money, improving health, and reducing air pollution.

If you are looking to find key statistics about cycling in Canada, keep reading. You can find information on, for example, how many Canadians own a bicycle, how Canadians feel about cycling, and which Canadian cities have the most cycling infrastructures. We have also included information on the benefits of cycling.

Cycling Statistics for Canadians

  • 16% of Canadians cycle at least once a week.
  • Bike ownership in Canada is 36% with people living in cities the least likely to have a bike.
  • The number of people cycling to work almost tripled in Montréal between 1996 and 2016.
  • Almost half of Canadians feel that cycling in their area is too dangerous.
  • On average, there are 74 cycling fatalities per year in Canada.
  • 45% of Canadians feel the cycling infrastructure in their area is excellent.
  • Bicycle sales in Canada are expected to reach 2.5 million in 2023.
  • The average price of bicycles has risen by over C$100 since 2015.
  • The Netherlands has the most bicycles per capita, with 0.99 bikes per person.
  • Building a bike uses 5% less energy than manufacturing a car.

Bicycle Use in Canada

According to an Ipsos survey, cycling in Canada is still not very common despite increased interest over the last few decades. Only 16% of Canadians cycle at least once per week. In comparison, the global average for cycling at least once per week is 35% with India having the highest portion at 67%. In the US, 25% of the population rides at least once a week.

Canadian men are more likely to ride a bike at least once a week at 25% compared to 8% of women. Residents of Quebec have the highest portion of weekly riders at 19% followed by Ontarians at 18%. In the Atlantic region, only 3% of Canadians cycle at least once a week.

In Canada, only 4% of the population uses bicycles to travel distances shorter than 2 km. More than one in ten Canadians, 43%, would drive the distance and 38% would walk. In contrast, in the Netherlands, 45% of the population would choose to cycle.

23% of Canadians said they ride a bike to exercise. This portion was slightly lower than the global average of 28%. Canadian women were less likely to use bicycles for exercise at 17% compared to 29% of men.

Bike Ownership in Canada

The global average of bike ownership is 42%. Canadian bike ownership is slightly lower than that at 36%. Bike ownership is more common in suburbs than in large cities at 44% and 27%, respectively. In rural areas of Canada, 38% of the population owns a bike and in small cities, the portion of people who own a bike is 36%.

Cycling to Work in 1996 Compared to 2016

We can compare the rate of Canadians cycling to work using the results from the 1996 and 2016 censuses. The portion of people cycling to work grew the most in Montréal from 1.3% in 1996 to 3.6% in 2016. Toronto also had a large increase in cycling commuters from 1.1% to 2.7%.

While we also have the 2021 census results and data from May 2022 available on active modes of commuting, comparing the figures from 1996 to 2016 gives us a truer picture of the change. This is because the number of people commuting fell in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19 and was still below the 1996 figure in May 2022. The number of people walking or cycling to work in May 2022 was 941,000, 11.9% below the 1.1 million recorded in the 2016 census.

How do Canadians View Cycling?

Many Canadians have safety concerns regarding cycling. 65% of Canadians say they feel cyclists do not respect traffic rules and regulations and 63% believe cyclists represent an equal danger to pedestrians as cars and other vehicles. In addition, 60% think that cyclists are a danger to drivers.

Safety while cycling is also flagged up by almost half of Canadians when asked about their views on cycling in a 2022 Ipsos survey. 48% said they feel cycling in the area they live in is too dangerous. Canadians aged over 50 were more likely to feel unsafe when cycling at 52%, compared to 41% of Canadians aged 35 or younger.

Cycling Safety

On average, 74 Canadians die in cycling accidents each year. In comparison, there were 1,768 motor vehicle fatalities in 2021. While there are significantly fewer deaths from cycling than from motor vehicle accidents, we need to remember that far fewer Canadians cycle than travel using motor vehicles. Most cycling-related injuries and fatalities occur during the evening rush hour.

How Canadians Feel About Local Cycling Infrastructures

Residents of Quebec rated the cycling infrastructure in their local area the highest, with 61% saying it is excellent. British Columbia, at 51%, was the second most likely province to rate the infrastructure as excellent. Overall, 45% of Canadians thought the cycling infrastructure where they live is excellent. Residents in Prairie provinces had the lowest views, with only 27% rating the infrastructure as excellent.

Despite so many Canadians rating the cycling infrastructure where they live highly, 31% of Canadians say they would ride their bikes more if their local cycling infrastructure was better. In addition, 40% would be encouraged to cycle more if there were physical barriers between cycle lanes and the road.

Cycling Infrastructures in Cities Across Canada

According to the Government of Canada, York, Ontario has the largest cycling infrastructure in place with 2,022 km of total cycling infrastructure. Ottawa comes next with 1,679 km and the third is Montreal with 869 km. It narrowly beats Edmonton, which has 868 km of cycling infrastructure.

However, as the government website points out, only 26 municipalities were included in the data gathering covering 42% of the population. In addition, the data does not include infrastructures put in place since 2018, so many cities are likely to have extended their cycling infrastructures since then.

Almost ⅘ of Canadians Believe Cycling Will Reduce Their Carbon Footprint

A key incentive to get more Canadians to use bicycles as a more regular mode of transport is reducing their carbon footprint. 79% of Canadians believe that cycling more will reduce their carbon footprint. How does this view compare with other countries?

The percentage of Canadians who believe cycling is important in reducing carbon emissions is lower than in China and Peru where 94% say cycling is important for the environment. It is also lower than the global average of 86% but it is slightly higher than Great Britain, the United States, and Norway at 78%.

Canadians are also less likely than average to see cycling as an efficient method to reduce traffic. Only 63% of Canadians think more bicycles would equal fewer cars on the road compared to the global 80% average. However, the percentage was one point higher than in the US where 62% believed cycling can reduce the amount of traffic.

Bicycle Sector Revenue in Canada

According to Statista, the revenue from the bicycle segment in Canada was C$1.226 billion in 2015. It peaked in 2020 when the revenue was C$1.772 billion. In 2023, the revenue is expected to almost equal the 2020 peak with C$1.745 billion. Globally, China, the US, and Germany have the highest revenues within the bicycle sector.

Bicycle Sales in Canada

The most recent sales records available, which are from  2015, show that there were 2.07 million bikes sold in Canada that year. The demand for bikes surged during the COVID-19 pandemic and Canadians bought 2.85 million bikes. The sales were lower in 2021 and 2022, with 2.66 million and 2.42 million sales. In 2023, the number of sales is expected to rise and the projection is that around 2.5 million bikes will be sold in Canada.

The Average Cost of Bicycles in Canada

The prices of bikes have increased in Canada since 2015 according to Statista. In 2015, the average price for a bike was C$600 in Canada. By 2022, the average price had risen to C$680 and it was expected to reach C$705 by the end of 2023.

Which Countries Have the Most Bicycles Per Capita?

While China has the most bicycles in the world, it doesn’t have the most bicycles per capita. In the Netherlands, there are 16.6 million people and 16.5 million bicycles, meaning there are 0.99 bicycles per person. Denmark comes next with 0.81 bicycles per person, followed by Germany with 0.75, Sweden with 0.64, and Norway with 0.61. Finland, Japan, Switzerland, Belgium, and China complete the top ten bicycle-owning countries.

While looking at the per capita figures is an effective way to compare bicycle usage between countries, it still isn’t perfect. It doesn’t account for people who own more than one bike or bikes that are just sitting in the garage. However, it does provide us with a picture of places where cycling is part of the way of life.

Benefits of Cycling

Cycling has many benefits. It is better for the bank balance, better for the environment, and better for your health. While there are initial expenses involved when getting a bike, it soon pays itself off. Using a bike instead of a car can save you around $2 per km, depending on, for example, the price of gas, your car insurance, and the cost of parking.

Every 1.5 km you cycle instead of driving, reduces toxic CO2 greenhouse emissions by over 300 grams. In addition, building a bike uses just 5% of the energy and materials needed to manufacture a car.

As well as causing less pollution, cyclists also inhale less pollution. A study by the Imperial College London, England found that people in cars inhale about 40,000 ultrafine particles that can damage our lungs. Cyclists inhale only 8,000 ultrafine particles, possibly because unlike car passengers and drivers who sit in the line of exhaust smoke, cyclists use the edge of the road and are less likely to sit in the traffic for long periods.

There are several health benefits linked to cycling. When you cycle regularly, you will increase your cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength. It will improve joint mobility, posture, and coordination, strengthen bones, and help maintain a healthy body weight. Cycling can also reduce stress levels as well as anxiety and depression.

Conclusion

While cycling in Canada has increased since the 1996 census, bicycle ownership is still low compared to many other countries. So is the number of Canadians who cycle at least once a week.

Many Canadian cities are investing in cycling infrastructures and several now have hundreds of kilometres of cycling routes. Encouraging Canadians to cycle more will help Canada meet its greener air targets and keep the population healthier.

Frequently Asked Questions

Cycling has become more popular in Canada and bike sales peaked in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. However, fewer Canadians are cycling than, for example, in India, China, and many European countries. Only 16% of Canadians cycle at least once a week compared to the global average of 35%.

China has the most bicycles in the world but it doesn’t have the most bicycles per capita. The Netherlands has the most bicycles per person with 0.99 bikes per person. Denmark is next with 0.81 bikes per person. All the countries in the top ten of bike ownership are European except for Japan and China, which are seventh and tenth.

Cycling has many benefits. It can save you money and it is better for the environment by releasing no pollutants. Cycling is also good for your wellbeing. It can make you happier and reduce stress, help you maintain a healthy weight, and build strength.

Sources