Bicycle Network: Women's Cycling
One perfect day we'll all be riding to work. City commuter Jo Chapman has plenty of good reasons why we should all give it a go
I find it hard to imagine what my daily routine would be like if I didn't ride my bike to work.
I would be deprived of the sheer joy of hitting snooze a couple of times on my alarm clock and
, enjoying a leisurely breakfast, secure in the knowledge that when I close the gate behind me
Some people remark to me that they couldn't ride to work everyday. 'Too much hassle' they cry. Well, frankly, the thought of walking to the train or tram, or worse still, driving into the city in peak hour, sends a shiver of horror down my spine.
I'm very much in favour of public transport as a concept, but if I had to rely on the train or tram, every morning would see me leaving the house in various states of panic
. 'Oh great, I'm going to miss the 8.03' or 'Bugger, I've missed the 8.12, I'm not going to make my 9 o'clock meeting - Ahhhhhhhh!' as I sprint off down the street in my high heels.
Some of you may then argue, 'Well why don't you leave a bit earlier to make sure you get the 8.03?' Well, the simple answer is that I just can't be bothered!
The beauty of the bike is in the freedom it brings - oh, how I love it!
I can quite easily cram my shoes du jour, some smalls, an outfit, my lunch, purse, mobile and of course spare tube, levers and a gas cylinder (I'm all about efficiency!) into my backpack. At work I've got a few options to wear, more shoes, a towel and toiletries. It all sounds complicated, but I assure you it's not! And by no means am I the only girl in the change room. There are many other women in my building who ride every day. So what's stopping you?
The downside of the daily commute would be the unpredictable nature of traffic. I know that many potential (mostly female) cyclists are put off by the thought of combating the urban peak hour. The short answer to this is vigilance. You have to concentrate on all things around you.
Surprisingly, my biggest daily threat is from pedestrians. When the traffic is backed up for several hundred metres leading up to an intersection, the bike lane is generally clear, however around tram stops and where there is any concentration of people, there is a constant danger that someone will step off the footpath to dart across the road as they perceive that the traffic is at a standstill. On many occasions I've had to brake violently to avoid hitting people (although I have never had an actual collision). Tram stops are the worst for this.
I find that screaming like a banshee when the need arises gets the point across.
The other threat is the ominous car door. My only collision with a vehicle was when the traffic was banked up at the lights and I was struck by a car door opening on the left hand passenger side. Luckily I was fine, and car-door-opening girl was also fine, but it does highlight that there is a general lack of awareness from pedestrians, and car passengers and drivers, about the different types of vehicles to look out for in the city.
Despite these isolated events, which have occurred over a four year period - pretty good odds I reckon, my ride into the city is very enjoyable. In most cases drivers are respectful of your presence on the road and share willingly. The bike lanes into the city are rarely encroached upon by cars, although increasingly motorcycles are using the bike lanes.
My commute is fun, as it changes every day. The week
'No, fella, I'm not slower than you. Just deal with it...'
On occasion, my partner will decide we need to add some miles to our weekly tally and we'll head in to the city via the Kew and Richmond Boulevards and the Yarra trail. (Note: a high concentration of warriors may be encountered once you pass St Kevin's boatsheds towards the city).
From Brunswick this is a 20 km journey with a few serious hills. On our mountain bikes we normally allow one hour for this trip and I highly recommend it. Some beautiful bushland, much less traffic and the serenity one would normally expect from a bushwalk, yet you're only a few minutes from the city. After this ride, rest assured, friends, colleagues and random strangers I may encounter at lunchtime, I always have a shower! I confess to skipping a shower on most occasions on a normal day.
Remember, ladies don't sweat, they 'glow'.
My advice to those considering a switch to the daily bike commute? Get organised. My partner leaves all his suits at work and has his shirts dry cleaned regularly (no ironing!). Even though I am the laziest dresser on earth, I can still manage to arrive at my desk in a respectable state every morning.
An added incentive is the 'sneaky miles'. As an athlete I find that the commute is a simple way to clock up 100 kilometres per week without even noticing! If I add a longer ride a couple of times a week I could add another 60 kilometres.
So don't be afraid to burn that Met ticket, or leave the car at home. The super commute is a great way to go and in a perfect world, we'd all be doing it!
Jo Chapman is a regular bike commuter who loves mountain biking, road cycling, running and triathlon. She lives in Melbourne with her partner, who is reponsible for dragging her into cycling in the first place. Happily, Jo has never looked back, and she would like to see more women of all abilities trying cycling and triathlon/multi sport.