I have just recently moved to Naremburn on Sydney’s Lower North Shore. The move was brought on by the immediate need to find a bigger place where we have some room for a new arrival currently known as “Critter”
As one of the many New Year’s resolution in trying to keep the fitness up and looking at ways to reduce my own personal environmental impact I have decided to try cycling to work and take advantage of the many cycle paths around Sydney. I thought I would share with you my experience of my first three days of cycling to work.
Helmet, Bright Vest, Bike, Change of Clothes, all set to go. I leave at 7:30am and head down Willoughby Road. In no time I am travelling much faster than the 272 bus which crawls along the freeway. My happiness lasts only about 1km when I come to my first hurdle. I need to cross two lanes of traffic on the on ramp to the freeway leading to the bridge. Do the cars really care and stop and let you though? No chance. So I wait nervously as a few other cyclists pass and weave in and out of the slow moving traffic. So after a while, I take a deep breath and slowly move out and take my opening. Made it! I cycle up to West St which leads towards North Sydney on the narrow cycle path.
Cars overtake me as I look out for the bus behind me and every cyclist’s nightmare the opening car door from a parked car. I make it to North Sydney where I find that the cycle lane just stops. I wonder how many roads that are built in this country that just end without any warning?
Seeing as it is peak hour traffic and I am pretty nervous I get off and go up on to the curb and walk across the crossing with all the pedestrians. I navigate through North Sydney on foot and then I follow what looks like and experienced cyclist down the back streets towards the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Why does he look experienced? Well I can tell that he doesn’t have my white knuckles, look of panic and he has those clip on shoes and fancy cycling shirt.
I finally breathe a sigh of relief when I get to the bridge as it is a cycle lane all the way. This is the most pleasant part of the journey. No traffic, parked cars or pedestrians to look out for just cyclists coming the other way. It is really a great way to get across the bridge and I try and catch the eye of those commuters stuck on the bridge in their cars or crammed onto the train. Yes this is a great way to get to work.
My joy is unfortunately very short lived once I get over the bridge. The cycle path once again just ends and I find myself amongst peak hour traffic. I follow other more experienced cyclists down through Kent St and manage to hold my nerve as a bus pulls up behind me. The city is a much different place when on a bike. I follow my nose down Sussex and realise that I need to get across to Hyde Park. It’s all one way traffic, congested and confusing. I decide to get off and walk up four blocks to Hyde Park.
Once in Hyde Park I get that same relief feeling when I first got on to the bridge. There’s a wide pathway and only pedestrians to avoid. It takes me another five minutes to get to my office in Surry Hills. All up it took me 55 minutes. I think I can cut that down to at least 40 if I go the right way, keep my nerve and stay on the road.
My lesson of the day: Follow other cyclists and be prepared to hold your lane even when a bus is behind you.
Ok I’m determined to do this. Much easier trip, more confident. Only alarm was seeing a another cyclist having a close call with a car door. If the lady opened her door a second earlier she would have collected The cyclist. Totally oblivious to the shouting of the F word she puts her hand bag down on the ground and gets out the car. That was very close.
Time 52 minutes
I am getting the hang of this. I have added a flashing red light to the bike seat so hopefully there can be no excuse for not seeing me. I now stick out my arm, look for a gap in the traffic and hold my lane as I navigate through the various traffic lights. Still got to watch out for the motorists that don’t see you but all up it is a great way to get to work.
Time 45 minutes
In summary I will keep on riding to work as much as possible and I do think it is worth a go. I know the city of Sydney is adding more cycle lanes which will only make my commute easier. Given that it takes me about 45 minutes door to door when taking the bus, cycling time is about the same. I do however have to add time at work taking a shower but as I don’t shower in the morning at home this really does not add time to my commute, just changes the order I do things! I also keep 2 wardrobes which can take a bit of planning.
So, if you are thinking of ridding to work, give it time, after a while you’ll get your confidence up and it does not feel too much like Russian Roulette. If for whatever reason it gets bad you should hopefully be able to get off and walk. Also the City of Sydney
is running a number of courses to help you. Check them out here.
You may also find some useful informaiton for your city from local councils etc.
I would be interested to find out how others have gone and if you are thinking of cycling to work what’s stopping you?