Although I haven’t lived in many of the worlds cities, I can’t imagine many are better than Melbourne for cycling. There are designated cycle paths along many main roads and so many pathways which are shared by pedestrians and peddlers.
Although the news seems to try to create a cycle/pedestrian/vehicle war by regularly broadcasting that there is hatred between the three, I generally find that the vast majority of road and path users are very considerate of each other. Yes sometimes vehicle owners open a door without looking, a cyclist doesn’t signal, or a pedestrian runs across the road without looking, but on the whole every one gets along.
Having cycled the 9km to work every day for 6 months, into the city every weekend and around the Melbourne trails and coastline for a year now, here are my city cycling top tips.
Slow Down in Busy Areas
It’s fun to race a Melbourne tram down the street and it’s fun to overtake a Ferrari in heavy traffic, but in busy areas, especially high streets, it’s not worth the pain. When drivers a parking quickly they also tend to hop out speedily and don’t take the second to look for cyclists. If you’re going too fast to stop quickly you will plough into the car door, the driver, or swerve into oncoming traffic.
Also, when its busy padestrians are looking for trams and cars, not cyclists, slow down and be ready to slam on the brakes. I’ve seen so many fellow cyclists whizzing down busy high streets, and even seen one splayed in the road just after overtaking me.
Consider the Weather
For some reason people go a little do-lally in extreme weather. If it’s raining heavily or blisteringly sunny, drivers and pedestrians are more likely to pay less attention to what they’re doing. I never understand why car drivers seem to go faster when it’s raining as they’re not the ones getting wet.
It’s also worth noting that stopping times will dramatically increase, so give any crazy drivers a very wide berth.
Give Yourself Enough Time
I believe cycling is generally the most reliable form of transport where timing is essential. When commuting, I can pretty much guarantee I will arrive in 28 minutes, give or take 90 seconds each way. The only factors to really effect this time is the weather and the traffic lights. Taking out the possibility of getting stuck in traffic or the bus being late means I am never late for work.
Of course there’s always the chance or getting a puncture, or having a crash, but these are the same risks for other modes of transport too.
Consider your Bike
If you’ve just grabbed a new ride then it’s always a good idea to get used to it a little before hitting heavy traffic areas. Test the breaks and learn how quickly you will stop at different speeds.
In wet weather especially, think about the type of tyres you have and if they will help you to stop, or just skid along if you have to break suddenly. Heavy bikes will stop quicker than lighter bikes, and slicker tires are more prone to skidding.
**To be safe on Melbourne roads, always wear a quality helmet and a good set of lights after dark, not only will it keep you from a splitting headache, it will also save you some hefty fines.**