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Green practice: On your bike

Every Issue

Cite as: October 2009 83(10) LIJ, p84

If you've been considering commuting by bike, Ride to Work Day on 14 October is a great day to dust off the pedals and get into gear.

There is a revolution in using bicycles as transport: there are 33 per cent more Victorians riding to work today than five years ago, with a 74 per cent increase in inner Melbourne.1

Ask any bike commuter why they ride, and you'll probably hear one or all of the following:

  • Fitness: the most obvious benefit to getting cycling is personal fitness. Especially for the busy lawyer who cannot always find the time to get to the gym, turning your commute into a workout is a smart option.
  • No dreaded rush hour: one of the best things about riding is avoiding the hassles of congestion - no more worrying about traffic jams, parking or trains being cancelled. On a bike, you know exactly how long it takes from door to door, and you can plan accordingly. For city trips of less than 15km in peak hour, it's generally quicker to cycle than to drive or use public transport.2 And you can always get a seat.
  • No more to pay: no paying for petrol, parking, taxis or public transport tickets. Although firms sometimes pick up the tab, it is easy to rack up big bills while a cab sits in traffic. Going without even the cheapest option of a monthly Zone 1 ticket will save you $109.60 a month.
  • It's green: the transport sector contributes 13.5 per cent of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions.3 For every litre of petrol used in a car, 2.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide is released from the exhaust. Cycling means your commute to work is virtually carbon free.
  • It's energising: starting the day with exercise is a great way to wake up and sharpen up your mind.

The main goal of Ride to Work Day is to motivate first-time riders to give it a go. Roughly 30 per cent each year are first-time riders and of those, close to a third are still riding six months later.4

Although it may seem daunting at first, being a bike commuter isn't hard - it just takes a bit of preparation.

1. Get a bike

You do not need to spend a lot to get started - any bike will do. If it is an older bike, it is a good idea to get it serviced to ensure it is safe and in good working order. Essential accessories include a decent lock and a tool kit including spare tubes.

2. Make yourself safe

Protect yourself on your bike. The legal minimum is a helmet, lights and a bell. Smart riders wear lights and reflective clothing to be seen, day and night.

3. Talk to regular riders

Have a chat to someone you know who cycles to work. Ask around - there will be more of them than you think. Pick their brains for the best routes to ride, where the facilities are at your work, where they purchase their bike gear and for tips and hints for riding in traffic. Many workplaces have bicycle users groups (BUGs) that explain everything you need to know.

If you're nervous about getting on the road, ask someone who lives near you to be your "buddy" and ride with you a few times - you'll get the benefit of their experience and it will help you build confidence.

4. Plan ahead

For those that wear suits to work, planning ahead is essential. Suits and shirts are not comfortable to ride in for anything more than short distances and don't suit a backpack. Regular riders will often leave suits in a locker at work and only carry the smaller items with them on the bike. It quickly becomes a part of the morning routine.

Check what facilities are available at your workplace: bike racks, showers, lockers, etc. It may take a bit of time to find a routine that works for you - but it is possible to ride and still look fabulous once at work.

5. Find a route

Bicycle Victoria has fantastic free maps showing bike paths around inner Melbourne, both on and off road. Bikely is an online resource where riders share their favourite routes and those tagged "commute" might be good options for you.5 It's more enjoyable and safer to use off-road paths where possible. If you really want to be prepared, do a trial ride on the weekend to test out your route.

Ride to Work Day is a perfect day to get back on your bike. You can register online and attend one of the many community breakfasts that will be happening across Melbourne on the day. There will even be RACV Cycle Assist "Angels" on popular cycling routes providing advice, helping with minor repairs and encouraging riders.

If you enjoy it, consider making it a part of your regular routine. Taking it easy at the beginning means you are more likely to stick with it, and you can gradually increase the effort as you get fitter and more confident.

To find our more about Ride to Work Day, see Bicycle Victoria at www.bv.com.au.


EMILY WEBSTER is a planning and environment lawyer at Corrs Chambers Westgarth. This column is coordinated by the YLS. For more information on the YLS, see www.liv.asn.au/members/sections/younglawyers.

1. Minister for Roads and Ports, "Victorians get on their bikes for ride to work day", see http://tinyurl.com/mqycmq.

2. Bicycle Victoria, "Everything you wanted to know about riding to work . . . but were afraid to ask!", see http://tinyurl.com/mm8ude.

3. See www.environment.gov.au/settlements/transport/fuelguide/environment.html.

4. See www.bv.com.au/change-the-world/41231/.

5. See www.bikely.com.au.

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