Survival guide to cycling in the city

Moving Well | Clare Barry | Posted on 22 December 2020

Thinking of commuting by bicycle? Here are some tips for cycling in the CBD.

If you’re feeling inspired 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. But there are some things to bear in mind for surviving the city end of your commute.

Melbourne Bike Rider

‘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.

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 so everyone can see your intention. Flicking your hand out 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. Safety aside, it helps to be seen to be doing the right thing. Which brings 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 13 (or have a medical exemption). So think of the pedestrians and just don’t do it. But feel free to jump off the bike and walk it around a tricky intersection.

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.

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 cycling 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.