Survival guide to cycling in the city

RoyalAuto magazine

Thinking of pedal-powering your commute? Read our guide to cycling in the city.

Story: Clare Barry
October 2018

The longer, warmer days are with us, and if that inspires you to jump in the saddle and pedal-power your commute, it’s a smart move. Exercise for free, arrive energised, and save money. Over distances of several kilometres cycling is simply the fastest, cheapest, most reliable way to get to work. Read our tips for surviving the city end of your commute.

‘But I didn’t see you!’: Motorists need to look out for us, and it’s in our interests to make that easy by being as visible as possible. We’re always going to come off second best in a tangle. It’s not compulsory to wear hi-vis gear, but it will do wonders for your life expectancy, and the visibility factor of silver reflective gear for night riding is awesome.

RACV Bike Assist can help if there’s a problem with you or your bike. Only a phone call away. Limitations and exclusions apply.

On the side:
Melbourne’s secret side streets invite and reward a diversion down quieter thoroughfares. Check out a CBD map for more tranquil alternatives to the main streets. As always, look out for pedestrians and delivery trucks that might not be expecting you, and mind your exit back on to a main street.

Ring your bell: You have to have a bell on your bike, so use it. It’s not impolite to ding before passing a slower rider, who can move to the left to help you pass safely in a narrow bike lane. Some riders will whisper “passing” in your ear as they whizz past on the right, which is too little too late.

Get hooked: Familiarise yourself with the bicycle hook turn. Everybody’s doing it, it’s legal, and it works a treat.

About turn:
Want to indicate a turn? Then stick your arm right out from your body at a 90-degree angle so everyone can see your intention. The current mode of raising a hand two inches from the side of the body at hip height might look nonchalant, but no one can see it.

The in crowd: If you’re not sure which route to take, follow other cyclists. There’s safety in numbers – you’re more visible, and motorists expect to encounter riders on cycle-friendly streets.

Just follow the rules: It’s hard for motorists to look out for us when we pull unpredictable and illegal manoeuvres. As cyclists we have something of a PR battle on our hands and, safety aside, it helps to be seen to be doing the right thing. Which bring us to…

Footpaths are for feet: The only time an adult can ride legally on a footpath is when they’re accompanying and supervising a child aged under 12 (or have a medical exemption). So think of the pedestrians and our collective reputation and just don’t do it. But feel free to jump off the bike and walk it around a tricky intersection.

Melbourne Bike Share, operated by RACV, helps everyone get around. Visitors and workers alike can enjoy this service. It's cheap, easy and environmentally friendly.

Play nice:
A little road courtesy goes a long way out there. If someone gives way to you, say thanks or give a thumbs up. We’re all in it together.

Fast lane: The green streak of a bicycle lane is not the invitation to carefree riding that you might like it to be. Other vehicles can legally drive or park in bicycle lanes for a number of reasons, and many others swoop in illegally, as do plugged-in pedestrians.   

Locked up: If your workplace doesn’t have a secure place to leave your bike and get changed, lobby for one. Your future workmates will thank you for it.

Eye contact: One of the diciest situations for a cyclist is whizzing alongside banked-up traffic at an intersection, and encountering a car turning right from the other direction. You might have a lovely free run ahead, but slow down enough to make eye contact with drivers who might not have seen you.

Rear view: Think about those in your wake. If you ride in leggings, be aware that they can wear thin alarmingly quickly and riders behind you might be seeing more than you realise. Same with low-riding pants.

Be a mentor: Ride2Work Day is on 17 October. Why not offer to mentor a workmate who lives close by on their first ride into the city?

As a proud sponsor of Ride2Work Day, RACV is here to help all our members make sustainable transport decisions. We’re also helping you get ready for Ride2Work Day with a training ride this Friday, 12 October. In partnership with Rapha Cycling Club, the ride will leave at 6am from RACV, 485 Bourke Street, finishing by 7.45am in the city for complimentary coffee and pastries. Find out more and register here

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