Commuting from interstate

16 Mar 23 | By pp-admin

Leela Ross and her wife Ulrike started commuting by bike in 2020 when their car was damaged in the January hailstorm. They got their bikes out of the shed, cleaned them up and started to ride to work. Even when the bush fire smoke suffocated the air and COVID hit, they kept up their cycling.

“Ulrike has been riding her trikes for 2 decades now!” Says Leela “I did ride as a child and into my teen years, but I was in Sydney and was unable to keep doing it because it was just unsafe”.

Now the couple commutes each day from Queanbeyan to Civic. It’s about 20 km one way and takes them a bit over an hour, but they really enjoy it.

“It’s wonderful being outside, present in the world and getting our daily exercise without needing to spend money on petrol or parking.” Explains Leela “We save so much money and time on the bikes that we like to avoid driving!”

“I have also acquired a bit of road trauma over the years and cycling frees me from that, driving makes me very anxious in a way I don’t get with cycling. Rain, Hail, or shine, it’s just good to be outside”.

Leela and Ulrike still own an old car which they mostly use once a fortnight to go to Woden to donate blood. They choose to drive there because there’s no good public transport for their journey and it is quite far from where they live. But they admit they would probably try riding if there was good infrastructure from Fyshwick to Woden.

Poor infrastructure, as well as cars, are some of Leela and Ulrike’s main frustrations when riding.

“The cars block us and make the commute dangerous. The infrastructure forces us to interact with the cars in an unsafe way.” Says Leela “The C2 bike path we use a lot is not maintained well, there are roots lifting the path unsafe crossings and areas where the path vanishes in Beard, Fyshwick and Kingston. At these points we feel very unsafe.

“Queanbeyan itself has practically nothing. The roads are difficult to traverse and some encourage close passing by cars by design”.

Leela met with Pedal Power staff and volunteers at our recent ANU O-week stall and was pleased to hear about the organisation’s advocacy effort as well as our new focus on expanding the demographic of Canberra riders and a commitment to work on the Canberra region more broadly, not just Canberra itself. She decided to join the organisation and the advocacy team.

“In the past, Pedal Power didn’t seem to appeal to me as a NSW resident and a utility cyclist” says Leela. “The insurance is good, but I think the big thing is people need to see themselves represented. There’s likely a lot of people from Queanbeyan and parts of NSW riding into the ACT every day who have felt left out.”

Leela also points out that when advocating for new infrastructure it is important to take into account all the different types of bikes out there, like recumbent trike and cargo bikes. They all have different footprints and different abilities, but they are not less capable.

“My wife Ulrike rides a recumbent trike because she feels comfortable and stable on it, it’s not slow and it’s pretty comfortable, but in terms of infrastructure, what’s good for a normal bike may not work for others. If we want more cyclists out there reducing our car reliance we need to consider the users on non-conventional bikes, as well as accessibility devices”.

As well as her daily commutes, Leela also enjoys the occasional leisurely ride “Sometimes I ride just for the sake of it, I’ll set myself a challenge, like riding to Gungahlin and just do it. This way I can visit shops I don’t see very often and just burn some energy. There’s nothing like a downhill ride with panniers full of food!”

Leela and Ulrike’s bikes are also set up for touring and the couple is planning to take advantage of that feature in the future.