Thinking green, by Caitlin

Thoughts and ideas on environmental topics from Caitlin Howlett, editor of Green Lifestyle.

Riding to work with confidence

bike to work

My aim is to ride to work at least twice a week (weather permitting) and gradually build up from there.

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After a 20 minute wait at the bus stop, yet another bus flies past without stopping - the third bus so far too full to stop. I finally cram onto the following bus, but I'm squashed in so tight, face pressed up against the back of a fellow commuter, that I'm not sure how I'll get out at my stop. By the time I get to work I can't help but think that I could have walked, run or biked there faster, more comfortably, and avoided burning fossil fuels on the way.

So, with Ride to Work Day rolling around this Wednesday 13 October I've decided to give cycling to work a go. And I'm starting from scratch...

STEP 1 - Find a bike

I jumped at the opportunity when a friend offered me a free bike, however once I saw it I changed my tune. While it's a short ride, I couldn't see myself riding to work or even ducking off to the shops on a little BMX stunt bike with a rock hard seat, so last weekend I bought a lovely purple second-hand bike with a soft seat, a bell (compulsory on roads), and I've attached a basket. (I did also consider streamers off the handlebars...)

STEP 2 - Check my skills

I needed to go back over my basic skills so signed up to a free City of Sydney course Cycling in the City, which is open to anyone, so long as you have a bike and know how to ride it. The aim of this course was to learn how to ride safely on busy city roads.
It took me back over basic skills such as mounting and dismounting, changing gears, looking behind me and riding straight, emergency breaking, and signalling/indicating turns. I also learnt that it's a good idea to get in the good habits early, such as covering your breaks at all times.
I learnt how to be aware of my surroundings (by looking behind me), where to cycle to be seen by cars, crossing intersections, and importantly, where to position my bike on the road for my own safety (ie, get out of the door zone!).
Overall, one of the best things I took away from the course was a lovely phrase 'cycle graciously', which means being pleasant to drivers, other riders and pedestrians, and generally being a courteous rider. After all, we all want to have a positive experience riding our bikes, and if the riders make it look like so much fun, then maybe more people will start riding!

STEP 3 - Pick my route

I really wanted to ensure I took the back roads and suburban streets wherever possible on my new journey to work so I did a practice run on Walk to Work Day last week, walking the route that I planned on riding later so I could work out where any problems could be. I identified lots of spots where I'll be choosing the middle of the lane instead of being in the door zone. Overall, by taking the back roads, I'll be cycling along quiet suburban streets - a much more pleasant start to the day than the noisy main streets.

STEP 4 - Freshen up

It's only a short ride to work for me, so for now i won't need to worry about a change of clothes, but we do have showers in my workplace, which should come in handy when summer kicks in. I've asked Emma, the editor of G, to be honest with me though!

STEP 6 - Ride!

My aim is to ride to work at least twice a week (weather permitting) and gradually build up from there.

The Australian National Cycling Strategy 2011 - 2016, released last month, aims to double the number of cyclists in the next five years, saying that a five per cent shift of car trips to bicycles could reduce carbon emissions by up to eight per cent. The report also says that cycling is a great way to save money, with the cost of operating and maintaining a bicycle at only five per cent the cost for a car.

I'll be riding my bike for Ride to Work Day this Wednesday, and I'm really looking forward to it! If you're planning to start or are already riding to work, let us know by leaving a comment here, or send us an email at editorial@gmagazine.com.au.

Happy riding!

For more tips on safe cycling, see our feature Cycling in the safe lane.