Bendigo wants to walk13 Oct 2015
A massive survey of people in Bendigo has emphasised the importance of walking to a regional city.
The Active Living Census was focused on sport and recreation facilities and completed by a remarkable 17,437 people - a huge response rate for a city of about 110,000.
Walking for exercise was easily the most popular physical recreation, with 32% of people actively walking, compared to swimming in second place at 17.5%, while bushwalking was 5th with 9%.
About 70% of people used off-road walking and cycling tracks, almost all of them for 'health and recreation' and more than half for 'me time/ getting back to nature.' Off-road paths were also used to access destinations like shops and recreational facilities by about a third of path users.
The survey results highlight the importance of walking and cycling paths to help children and young people get around their community. About a third of children who were using off-road paths were commuting to school and the rate was even higher (45%) for teenage boys. Interestingly, children and youth use off-road paths to get to other places even more than they do to get to school. For young children (age 3-11) 37% of girls and 39% of boys who used off-road paths used them to get to shops, recreational facilities and other places. For teenagers (12-17) it was 36% of girls and 48% of boys.
The survey showed the value of having off-road paths close to home - 71% of path users had walked on paths in their home suburb over the last year.
Most people who completed the survey did not identify any improvements that would encourage more regular use of open spaces. However of those that did, easily the highest number (823) nominated walking tracks/paths, followed by toilets (546), bicycle tracks (482) and playgrounds (458).
City Chief Executive Officer, Craig Niemann, said the findings are both rare and compelling.
“We now know where people are most active and where they are not, and the types of activities they like to do. This will help staff and Council to make decisions about where and what to invest in, so as to continue to encourage participation and hopefully get people active who otherwise weren’t before."