Make bikes count – fill in your census form!

Mar 05, 2018
Make bikes count – fill in your census form!


If you’re reading this after census day – you still have until the end of March to complete your census. Everything you need to know is here, or you can call the helpline on 0800 CENSUS (0800 236 787) to speak to one of the team.

Every five years, we all stand up to be counted for the national census, and the results help plan investment and policy for the next five years. It’s basically a ‘What Do People Do All Day’ that really, really matters.

The 2018 Census takes place on Tuesday 6 March – and if you want bikes to count, you should be sure to add your voice.

Why this year’s census matters so much for people on bikes!

Kids’ trips count too!

The 2018 Census is now twice as powerful for counting bikes. Here’s how:

  • Firstly, the travel-to-work question is now phrased as: ‘What is the one main way you usually travel to work?’ This is huge! The question used to only ask about census day itself – so bike representation could literally be rained out of the picture by bad weather on the day. Adding ‘usually’ gets around the rainy-day issue, and allows you to record your usual choices. (If you don’t have a ‘main’ way you can select your most recent way.)
  • Secondly, there’s now an identical question about travel to school or study. This is massive! It means we’re now also counting children’s journeys to school, and trips to tech, university, or other kinds of study. This fills a huge gap in the data.

So, even if on March 6th you happen to drive or helicopter or parachute to work or school – if your usual way of getting there is by bike, go ahead and tick the big BICYCLE box in complete good faith.


Good eh? Potentially, this changes everything!! But only if you actually fill in the forms! So jump to it!

  • You should have received a Census access code in the mail, which lets you fill in the census online.
  • If you prefer pen and paper, contact 0800 CENSUS (0800 236 787) once your household access code has arrived to request paper forms. These will be posted to you.
  • By the way, you’re legally required to fill in the census – 97.6% of us did so last time. Let’s go for 100%!


Don’t panic if you haven’t got your form yet

Fill in your census form, and the law’s on your side, says Sergeant Murphy.

Missing your form, or got questions? Start here, with the Census FAQ. And above all, don’t panic. Yes, Tuesday 6 March is the big day – but you still have some time to get things sorted, says Statistics NZ:

“We expect to have delivered codes to everyone by census day (6 March). Anyone who wants to take part by paper, but who got their access code later than other parts of New Zealand, will still be able to respond after census day.”

After 6 March, reminders will be sent and then field teams will follow up with households that have not responded.

So what does census data have to do with cycling investment?

Data is crucial for investment decisions!

Census data is one of the major tools for tracking a rise in the numbers of people biking. There are trip-counters on many bike paths and cycleways – but obviously these don’t catch alternative routes, or more local paths, so your answers to the census question provide a broader picture.

With the new question about trips to school, we can now see which neighborhoods are perceived by families as ‘bikeable’, and which don’t measure up.

We can also discover which cities have ‘bike-friendly’ learning quarters, and which need to raise their game to give students real options for cheap, convenient travel.

Also: with one of the goals of AT’s ten-year investment programme to raise cycling across Auckland to 4% of daily trips, the census data provides a citywide baseline, and some indication of where investment might best be locally prioritised.

For example, inner-city burbs like Grey Lynn and Pt Chev are already knocking on 4% mode share – they’re already there. But elsewhere, it can be as low as 1%. On the one hand, it’s reasonable to double-down and aim for double-figures in the parts of town that ‘get’ cycling and are getting cycleways. On the other hand, we’ll also want to see the whole city lifted over time. Not just to raise the city average, but because it’s only fair.

The data about travel choices also plays into decisions about health needs and outcomes. For example, you could compare walk and bike commutes (to work and school) with health in a given geographical area. Which are New Zealand’s most active cities or neighborhoods, where people are meeting their daily exercise minimum just by hoofing it or pedaling to their daily destinations?

The data is just the beginning – what we do with it is up to us.

Explore the current census data

Curious about the current data? Check out this Census Auckland site that puts the info from last time into easily visualized form.

Select census area unit view, and then have a bit of a play. To see the mode share for bike-to-work, for example:

  1. Choose ‘Travel to Work’ from the tabs at the top of the page (it’s on the right)
  2. Choose ‘Bicycle’ in the menu on the left
  3. In the middle panel, you can choose to see either the raw numbers or the % mode share.
  4. Then, either hover over the part of town you’re interested in, OR you can select an area (or a bunch of areas to compare) from the panel on the right.
The Census Auckland website displays results from the last census, in 2012. You can search by census area unit, and data topic.

Unsurprisingly, the most concentrated bike travel is in the inner city suburbs to the west and east of the city, and the Devonport isthmus. There’s also an impressive hot spot in Hobsonville/ Whenuapai (airfare bases encourage bike travel). And Waiheke and Great Barrier also stand out.

Elsewhere, yellow bike deserts testify starkly to a lack of safe infrastructure, crying out for investment.

So which areas will be bike hotspots in this year’s census?

Only one way to find out – fill in the census, and remind your friends and neighbours and workmates to fill it in. Then sit back and watch the data-vis roll in!


Images from Richard Scarry’s census-inspired non-fiction masterpiece, ‘What Do People Do All Day.’ 

Join us

Bike Auckland is the non-profit organisation working to improve things for people on bikes. We’re a people-powered movement for a better city. We speak up for you – and the more of us there are, the stronger our voice!

Suggest a new ride