With spring around the corner, it’s time to consider a viable alternative to congestion. The bicycle has proved to be the fastest (and most preferred) method of commuting in Australia’s capital CBDs. Don’t worry, lycra is optional.
As winter draws to a close, you reflect on your trips along the Number 19 ‘influenza express’ to North Coburg. You were packed in a literal tin can between a portly man with B.O.. and a petrie dish of bacteria. Or, you drove to work those days and it cost you three times as much time and money trying to find early bird parking. Cycle commuting is a much more logical and beneficial way to travel, and you’re completely free to go at your own pace. It’s the cheapest, quickest, healthiest and funnest way to get around. And you’re not alone – it’s a huge community – Melbourne alone has 12,000+ daily cycle commuters.
Is it safe?
Australia’s state governments continue to invest in developing our capital cities into some of the world’s most cycle friendly. It’s fairly easy to travel to most places by bicycle while avoiding busy roads, instead riding through scenic parks and reserves. For those who prefer a more direct route, pick one using Google maps while adding the bicycle legend to your map query – the thick green lines tell you if there’s a dedicated bicycle lane.
Don’t worry about bike thieves – it would take an exceptionally brazen thief to pull that off during the day. But for peace of mind there are well-marketed products that every common thief knows are impossible to break – just make sure to lock your frame and your wheels – even I struggle to ride a unicycle.
Your best asset is your safety gear. There are legal requirements (and common sense) that dictate using flashing front and rear lights and a helmet, as well as optional hi-vis jackets and light-up gear. There is a moderate initial cost outlay, but it will pay for itself (more on that later).
Is it expensive?
Depending on your taste, new or used bicycles can be pricy. As with most things, you will get what you pay for. Safety and wet weather gear add up, but you are investing in your own safety! Invest now and this venture will save you thousands per year in public transport, petrol, parking – you name it!
Maintenance can cost you around $100 every 6 months or so, but those handy with a basic tool kit can do most repairs and maintenance themselves. There are several community co-op ‘bike sheds’ around – where you can borrow tools, learn from and work with amazing volunteers. They’ll even fix you up a pre-loved bike for next to nothing to get you on the road.
But I’ll be sweaty and gross before work!
Go at your own pace. You can avoid the B.O. if you cycle at a leisurely rather than competitive pace. There are also a growing number of ‘end of trip’ facilities for those who cycle in or hit the gym before work. These are gaining popularity – and are nicer and better stocked than my bathroom at home!
So you’re convinced. That’s awesome. What first?
Consider buying a cheap second hand bike and basic safety gear. Helmet and lights are legally required, but pay a bit more here if you can afford it. Ride only on nice days. If commuting at night puts you off, give it a go during daylight savings first. Doing a ‘dry run’ on a Sunday arvo to scout out your route gives you a bit more confidence and one less thing to think about on your first ride. And of course, just take it easy. Enjoy the experience – the feeling of coasting down a hill after a preceding climb is something you won’t tire of.
Give it a one month trial and see if it’s right for you. At the very least, you’ll have experienced something different and saved yourself $150 in public transport fares. That should easily cover your costs should you decide it’s not for you.
If you do enjoy it (spoiler alert: you will), then upgrade! Only 3 months of bicycle commuting has now saved you enough to by a brand new, decent commuting bicycle. Your savings will easily cover your bicycle expenses, as well as locker hire, end of trip facilities, dry cleaning – you name it!
If you are interested in cycling to work, I know a guy who can give you a great deal on skin tight, fluorescent lycra!