How to choose the best bike route for your commute

Cyclists next to the Yarra River


Posted August 18, 2023

Considering riding to work for the first time? Here’s how to plan your journey by bike in Melbourne and regional Victoria.

It may be for fitness, saving money or just the pleasure of a morning and afternoon ride. As we move into the spring and summer months, riding to work is a great way to get back into the fun and healthy habit of bike riding.

Biketober, a fun, free, and friendly biking challenge presented by Love to Ride and RACV, is the ideal excuse to get back on your bike on the way to work. The Biketober program is free for workplaces in the City of Melbourne and available at a 50 per cent discount for businesses located in other local government areas.

If you're looking to start riding, here are our top 10 tips to planning your ride into work in Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Man holding iPhone with picture of arevo app on it

Plan out your cycling route with arevo, a free journey planning app. Image: Supplied.

10 tips to choosing a safe and enjoyable cycling route in Melbourne and regional Victoria

Think safety first

Make sure you are also brushed up on rules for bike riding, such as helmet wearing, lighting, and when you can and cannot ride on a footpath. 

Before hopping on a bike, you want to make sure you have the right bike for your commute, taking into account the type of terrain you will be travelling on, distance, skill level and type of commute. Make sure you have a certified, well-fitting helmet, required by law in Victoria, and safety equipment such as a working bell, brakes, and light for the evening ride. 

Plot out your route to work

Use an app like arevo to plot your route from home to work. Its dedicated bike map allows users to search for routes specifically for bike riders, and uses a colour coding system to indicate the type of path and safety features.

Blue indicates an off-road shared path, green a protected lane on a road with physical barriers separating bikes from cars, gold an extra-wide buffered bike lane, and orange a painted green or white on-road lane about a metre wide.

Once you’ve narrowed down potential routes, do some additional research to find the route that works best for your needs. 

Ask other cyclists that ride to work for advice and company

Plenty of your fellow cyclists have been commuting for years, so take a shortcut and ask them where they prefer to ride and why. Get them to give you a bit of info on basic cycling etiquette, and if interested, the best places to ride along with a friend. 

They may have tips for your cycling journey, like where it’s safest to ride, where they feel most comfortable riding, and times and places to avoid getting on your bike. 

Prioritise the safest bike route

The shortest route is not always the safest, and following the route you usually take in a car is unlikely to be ideal for bike riders, particularly when riding into the Melbourne CBD. 

Plan a route with as much separation as possible between cyclists and motorists as possible - shared paths with no vehicles are the safest. On road, look for bike lanes separated from cars by concrete or plastic kerbs, or wider ‘buffered’ lanes.

Popular routes are also best. There’s strength in numbers, so they will make you feel safer. There’s greater visibility for motorists, and the other cyclists are there for a reason, they’ve already worked out it’s a good way to go.

Get on your bike and ride

If you are contemplating a bike commute for the first time, consider getting a little match fit first. Narrow down some potential routes and give them a try.

Try riding around on the weekends just in your area on paths and streets where you feel comfortable, or heading down to some of the city's best bike trails.

Most people will realise how much fun it is and see the benefits. And with a little fitness, they can plan a longer, safer, and possibly more scenic ride to work.

Keep in mind that bike and car volumes will differ from weekends to weekdays. A shared path beside the river might be packed with pedestrians on a Sunday afternoon, but smooth sailing come Monday morning.

The best way to lock your bike | RACV

Take into account your fitness

The route you choose to work will depend on your fitness, confidence and personal preferences. Choosing the safest possible route is a no-brainer, but beyond that the variables are endless.

You might prefer short, sharp hills to get your heart rate up, or a road with long gradual slopes. You might like to take the scenic route on a creek-side path, or ride via the shops on your way home. And it’s always good to mix up your ride to work to keep things interesting.

Be flexible with your routes if possible

One tricky intersection can ruin an otherwise perfect run to work, so try to find a workaround or factor in the time to hop off your bike and walk through it. Be prepared to be flexible – road and building works can turn a smooth run into a dicey prospect for months on end.

Just remember that what spoils a route one way might not be a problem in the other direction.

Ease your way into a full commute on a bike

You don’t have to ride every day or all the way to your destination. You could ride to a train station or tram stop to begin with, then lock up your bike at the other end.

For longer commutes, you could alternate between riding and public transport – ride to work in the morning and catch a train home, train in the next day then ride home in the evening. 

Consider an e-bike for work commuting

If work is further than you’re able or prepared to ride, why not try an e-bike? It can save time and money in the long run, and avoids you arriving at your destination in a sweat! Here's our guide on getting your first e-bike for beginners. 

Consider things to do after your commute

Think about what you’ll do at the work end of your commute. A dedicated mobility hub with showers, lockers and a safe place to leave your bike is the ideal.

If not, consider giving yourself extra time for a more leisurely pace, or a change of clothes to arrive feeling fresh to start your day. 

Register for Biketober.
Discover more →