If you have been out walking or cycling around your suburb over the last couple of weeks, you can’t have missed how different Canberra is under lockdown. Paths are overflowing with families, the air quality is incredible, and our streets have never been so free of cars!
World Car Free Day, held in September every year, was established to provide an opportunity to see how amazing our towns and cities can be when more people get around without using their car.
Right now in Canberra, nobody needs to do much more than a walk out their front door to experience this. Families can walk along pretty much any residential street in Canberra without the swoosh and roar of cars going by. When you do need to drive, every trip feels like a Sunday cruise, with no traffic jams or queues.
So what do we need to do to hold onto all of this after lockdown? The answer is simple: if everyone who can, swaps out just a couple of car trips a week for a cycle, walk, scoot, tram or bus, we all get to maintain our quiet streets.
Many of the trips we make in cars could be made by bike. Canberra is a great city for cycling, and we have seen a boom in recreational cycling over the past 12 months. More people than ever are riding on our paths, roads and mountain trails. It’s an exhilarating way to fit in some exercise while making your way around our city.
Every day you take the bike and leave the car at home, you’ll get fitter and healthier, you’ll save money on fuel and parking, you’ll make a real difference to our city’s air quality – you reduce your carbon footprint by around 8 kg every day you don’t drive.
Is it really that simple? Logistics can be a barrier for some people, particularly when traveling to work or study. What do I need to take? How do I get to my destination? What’s the safest route for me to take? What if I sweat? What about helmet hair? Will my bike be stolen? What if I get a flat tyre? Can I ride at night?
Pedal Power is here to help:
1. What to take
You’ll need to wear a helmet, and have bike in good working condition with a bell affixed. If your bike has a basket, you can carry a change of clothes or any other items you need for the day. If not, you can take these items to work with you on a day you drive in, so they’re ready for you when you arrive.
2. Route planning
You can download a walking and cycling map here: https://www.transport.act.gov.au/about-us/active-travel/active-travel-in-the-community/cycling-and-walking-maps These maps highlight the principal cycling routes, as well as more direct on-road routes if that is your preference.
3. Personal hygiene
Find out if your building has end-of-trip facilities. If not, ask why not! Electric bikes are a great option if you want to keep that post-ride ‘glow’ to a minimum, or if you don’t have an e-bike, allow some extra time and ride slowly enough that you don’t work up a sweat.
4. Helmet hair
Short hair, long hair, it all gets flattened under a helmet. Fortunately, a spritz of dry shampoo will fix this instantly.
5. Lock it or lose it
Once you arrive, you’ll need to lock your bike with a quality U or D lock. These are available at most bike shops and, unlike other locks, can’t be cut or removed.
6. Flat tyres
You’ll need to carry a spare tube with you. Have a look on YouTube for videos demonstrating how to fix a flat tyre. Not for you? Have a Plan B for the unlikely event that you get a flat. That might be securing your bike and catching public transport, or phoning a friend.
7. Riding at night
Riding at night has many charms, provided you have front and rear lights on your bike. Just remember to take these with you when you secure your bike during the day. If you expect to be riding at night, keep this in mind when planning which route will be best for you.
For those feeling a bit uncertain about cycling, now is a good time to get out and give it a go when our streets are a bit quieter.
Next time you are reaching for your car keys, consider whether you can go by bike instead. Happy riding.