Survival guide to cycling in the city

People holding their bikes on a road in the city.

Clare Barry

Posted May 26, 2021

Thinking of commuting to work by bicycle? Here are 10 tips for cycling in the CBD.

If you're still tentative about catching public transport to work and don't want to battle the peak hour car commute, it might be time to get on your bike. As well as circumventing stuffy trains and avoiding bumber-to-bumber traffic, choosing to pedal power your commute will allow you to arrive energised, exercise for free and save you money on transport costs. Over distances of several kilometres, cycling is simply the fastest, cheapest and most reliable way to get to work. But if you're new to cycling to work, there are some things to bear in mind for surviving the city end of your commute. 

10 tips for cycling safely in the city

Make it easy for motorists to see you

Motorists need to look out for cyclists, and it’s in your interests to make that easy by being as visible as possible – a bike rider is 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. Add leg or ankle straps for extra visibility after dark.

Take the side streets

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 a little too late.

Stay attentive when riding in bike lanes

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.

Sometimes the busiest route is the safest 

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.

Learn how to hook turn on a bicycle

Familiarise yourself with the bicycle hook turn (below). Everybody’s doing it, it’s legal, and it works a treat.  

Stay off the footpath 

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 your bike and walk it around a tricky intersection.  

Slow down at busy intersections

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.  

Find your nearest end-of-trip facility 

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.

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.   

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