What makes cycling to work easier, and what things do not really make a difference. Here is an overview of things to consider.
Things that make it easy
If you want to commute to work there are a number of factors that will make it easy to start.
It is easiest to start riding with fair weather and the sun shining. A beautiful day is an invitation to ride. Canberra has plenty of these.
Warm in the mornings
On a cold winter morning the lakes are truly beautiful. For photographers, it is the golden hour! The rising sun and fog across the lakes, the sun sparkling in the frost, your glowing breath are invigorating… once you get started. Getting out of bed and out the door – like leaving early for work – does not happen without a lot of will power.
Avaliability of bike paths
Surveys all around the world come up repeatedly with the same message. There is nothing that encourages people to ride more than dedicated cycling infrastructure. Remember, behaviour follows infrastructure! The humble bike path is cheap and easy to build and does not take a great deal of space. All the more we should wonder why we do not have more of them.
Starting any new physical activity is made easier with a moderate level of fitness. Anybody who has been injured and off their feet for a few months will have experienced that it takes time to rebuild fitness. If we lead an active lifestyle, cycling is a cinch.
Low cost of buying a bike
The ABS census tells us that most people in Canberra that ride to work own a car. Most people that begin commuting to work use the car less.
Buying a bike will cost little (compared to buying a car). Good bikes can be purchased second hand. Cycling is addictive. An old joke tells us that cyclists are always window shopping for the next and even better bike. 🙂 It is far cheaper to bike a good bike than to fix it up afterwards. This is not a buying guide and buying a bike when you have never ridden much is not easy. Shop around, as the range of bikes across the bike shops in Canberra vary greatly.
Above a certain price the bike does not get much faster or more reliable. Nevertheless, a bike of reasonable quality will start around $700, due to the economics of the industry. You will not need to spend a fortune.
Change rooms at work
It depends on your job, but in general, the clothes, hair and makeup may need some work. Some will want to shower if the ride was a longer one. Over shorter distances most will not. Normalising cycling means that we wear for commuting the clothes that we work in. We may need to wear extra layers on top for warmth and protection, but in summer that is unlikely to be required. We would like somewhere to put all that stuff and change rooms may have lockers. The ACT Government requires change rooms to be built in all new office building but, unfortunately, does not have a minimum standard. The result is predictable. All to often the change rooms are tiny, inaccessible, hidden and poorly equipped. We need better change rooms and more lockers. Especially contractors often don’t get a locker.
Bike parking at work
We would like to park our bike where it is convenient and secure. All too often bike parking is neither of these things. At the office, you may have to take a back entrance to get in or carry the bike down steps. Things are improving slowly. Cycling parking facilities are mandatory at bus stops now, for example.
Options for making riding easier
Going from not riding at all to riding every day, twice a day can be a shock to the system. We can make it easier for ourselves. Many people employ a few tricks to make the start easier.
Not riding every day
Start off just riding one day a week, then every alternate day, to give yourself time for recovery. As you get into the swing of things it is easy to increase the frequency until you are cycling every day.
Park and ride
The ACT Government have provided places where you can park your car for free for the whole day that are within easy reach by bike to Civic. Cycling is a great way to cover the last few kilometres and the ride along Lake Burley Griffin is picturesque.
Bus and ride
There are a number of options here for combining cycling with public transport, particularly the bus. One is to ride to the bus stop and park the bike there for the day. As bus stops are upgraded they will all get parking facilities. The distance to the nearest express bus stop can be quite short.
Another option is to carry the bike on the bus. Most buses in the ACT have bike racks on the front. The racks are easy to use and taking the bike on the bus with you is free. This makes life easier as it is possible to use the bus if the conditions are particularly unfavourable, the bike needs work, or you just would like to take it easy. The bus takes the pressure out of cycling.
Electric bike sales are booming worldwide. They make such a difference. Generally, once we have ridden on an electric bike we never look back. The prices are coming down, and the technology is improving year for year. There is not much that we can do wrong here, but take your time to get to know your ebike.
This one may seem odd, but basic fitness makes a difference riding a bike. The best way to develop it, is to ride the bike on the weekend. After a few weeks and after getting used to the bike, we can venture to commuting to work.
Fallacies: What does not make a difference
Whether it is hilly
Studies in the UK have shown that Dutch people cycle a tenfold more than those living in the UK. It has nothing to do with Holland being flat. With moderate gradients on the bike paths, the only effect of the hills is to moderately increase the energy you burn. For every hill you go up in the morning, you will coast down in the afternoon.
Men or women
In the Netherlands about 40% of the commuting trips are on a bike and just as many women cycle as men. Older women are more likely to cycle than men. In low cycling countries such as the UK, USA and Australia, men cycle more than women. In Canberra twice as many men cycle than women. Why? People are not any different in the Netherlands than Australia, but our cycling infrastructure certainly is.
Cyclists come in many shades of forms. Tiny kids on their kick bikes or in a bike trailer behind another bike, independent kids cycling to school, commuting, recreational cycling, shopping with a basket, old people walking beside their bike that carries their shopping bags. Cycling is a lifestyle.
Sporting cyclists are often slim and trim, but weight is not an issue for starting your cycling adventure. Statistically, we all should exercise more than we do on average. Burning fat is good. Cycling is a good way to do this. Cycling makes us look younger than we have looked in years.
Cycling to work is a great way to improve the quality of life. You get to work with lots of oxygen and dopamine in your brain. Many cyclists smile at each other. Some even give a friendly wave. What a great way to start the day!