Life is like riding a bicycle – in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.  ~Albert Einstein

Do you ride with the two-fingered salute?

Credit: Philippines Critical Mass Ride

I signal when I’m riding my bike. No one wants to add unnecessary confusion when riding a bike where cars and traffic is concerned. I know I’ll come off second best in a bingle with anything bigger than another bike rider. If in doubt, ring, signal and/or nod so that you and other drivers know what to expect. But should you always signal?

Credit: Philippines Critical Mass Ride
The SMH’s resident cycling blogger @MichaelOReily ponders the question in his latest ‘On Your Bike’ blog post.

He rightly says that “As vulnerable road users, cyclists should always try to alert other vehicles of their intentions. But indicating while riding a bicycle is a lot more complicated than it is in a car, where the driver just has to flick a lever and then let the solenoid do its job.”

To signal or not to signal, that is the question he considers and he reckons that you’ve got to take into consideration a few points such as driver behaviour, injury risk, loss of braking and loss of control when weighing up whether to take your hands off the handlebars.

Do you signal? Is it a two-finger salute when someone’s come a bit too close, a friendly wave or a serious turning hand? I guess as bike riders we’ve got to use some or all of these signals depending on the circumstances, eh?

Why I was wrong about balance bikes for kids

First Bike

I have two boys – five and almost three. I recently bought Mr 3 her first balance bike, the aptly named First Bike. My husband and I are avid bike riders and we did a lot of research on balance bikes for him because we wanted to get it right. In short, we’re pretty happy with this little bike. It is perfect for the job of a first bike to get little riders on their feet and going without the dreaded training wheels. It’s so light and easy for the little ones to manoeuvre.

One of the bonuses is that the seat easily moves from low for the little ones to much higher for the bigger ones still learning to ride. The reason this is so important to us is because our five-year-old son can’t really ride a bike. It’s one of the reasons we knew we had to get a balance bike for the younger one and get him learning to balance and steer early on. We kinda feel like we’ve failed a bit at getting our older one riding because we got him a traditional kids bike with training wheels and he basically couldn’t and wouldn’t ride it. It was so heavy and the training wheels gave him no room to move the bike from side to side and so he’d often feel like he would just topple over.

We realised that these cheaper bikes are made from steel, which costs less but makes the bike way too heavy for little riders. So the balance bike was sort of for both of them because Mr 5 has taken to it easily and will be ready for his first real bike very soon. For him, we’re going to get him a Byk bike – but more on that in a later post.

I know there are lots of different balance bikes on the market and I’m sure most of them do a good job. We were prepared to spend a bit more money for the First Bike because it will do the two boys, especially Mr 3, for a few years to come and it can be fitted with a brake so they learn that important part of cycling too.

I have to be honest and say I was quite skeptical about the concept of a balance when I started seeing them around a few years ago. I though they looked like another excuse to get middle class parents to part with their money for a cute, concept bike for kids who were too young to ride a bike. Well, how wrong you can be. I think they’re the best way for them to learn and to actually enjoying riding while they’re learning and before they can even pedal.

Mr 3 is still kind of walking the bike but he’s getting the hang of it and always wants to ride it and isn’t whinging about it being heavy or hard. A winner in mum and dad’s book!

Looking for a cycling club?

The Start Local bicycling clubs in Australia page has links to bicycling clubs around the country.

There are pages for the areas within each state and territory around Australia.

If you’re a local looking to meet up with other cyclists, it could be a good first place to start. On the other hand, if you’re a visitor to Australia who happens to be a keen cyclist, you might want to find a cycling club for a ride or to meet others if you’re travelling in the country for a while and want to enjoy some bike rides with locals.

There’s an updated list of new bike clubs added as well as the link pages.

If you try this page and find it useful, I’d love to know in the comments.

Map it, ride it with Ride The City

Cycle map from Ride the City.

Sydney now has a free bike routing application called Ride the City. Find a safe way to get from one point to another by bicycle. Ride the City is based on Open Street Map, the volunteer effort to map the world and to create a publicly owned map.

Ride the City is available in 40 cities and here are a few of the application’s highlights:

  • Click and drag start/stop icons to the map for easy routing (or enter a start/end address)
  • Choose bike routes that maximize bikeways, includes some bikeways, or choose the most direct route
  • Get turn by turn directions that show you which streets have bike lanes or bike paths
  • Login (for free) and you can save and share routes
  • Find nearby bike shops and rentals easily
  • Send your bike route turn by turn directions to your cell phone by SMS
  • Submit feedback to help improve routing, or just edit Open Street Map yourself
  • Download the Ride the City iPhone app or Android app for easy, on-the-go routing.

To learn more about Ride the City features, check out their image-filled frequently asked questions: FAQs.

Aside from the Ride the City bike routing application, Ride the City has a simple to use, no frills bicycle job board called Biking Jobs for anyone who wants to post or find a bike-related position.

The uncertain future of the Cooks River GreenWay

I recently wrote an e-letter to the NSW Minister for Transport regarding the GreenWay and I’ve written about it before. Briefly it’s a cycling and pedestrian green corridor that will create an important cycle/commuting link between the Inner-West and the city and city-west areas.

I’ve received a response so I thought I’d publish it here on the blog. The Greenway isn’t dead yet, but it also hasn’t been funded. I’m happy the light rail is going ahead but I hope that the GreenWay will be approved too. The fear is that because the light rail has gone ahead it’ll be too costly go then go back and create the GreenWay after the light rain has been done. I’ll be waiting for the Active Transport plan to see if it includes funding and a time for the GreenWay.

What do you think? Poly double-speak or some small sign it might happen?

The NSW Government has allocated $141 million in the 2012−2013 State Budget towards the development of light rail, including continued work on the Inner West Light Rail Extension, as well as the development of a Light Rail Strategic Plan. The Plan will examine the feasibility of extending light rail through the CBD, to the University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney.

While I acknowledge your views on the GreenWay, the NSW Government’s decision to defer the GreenWay project was based on significant design issues that would have delayed construction of the Inner West Light Rail Extension.

The NSW Government’s decision will simplify the negotiations and contractual arrangements required to build the light rail extension and will reduce the risk of further delays. It will also ensure the Government can integrate the possible future construction of the GreenWay into a wider active transport network as part of an integrated transport master plan.

In the meantime, the Light Rail Project Team will continue working to deliver the Inner West Light Rail Extension as quickly as possible.

Cyclists’ delight: Velo-city cycle planning conference

Two bikes and a city street.

I am still signing up for cycling news services to keep up with what’s happening in the world of cycling. A lot, so I don’t know how well I’ll be able to monitor the cycle media.  I just got this through and thought I’d share it on the blog.

Velo-city is a cycling planning conference that aims to push the need for bicycle infrastructure in urban environments. It’s on at the moment in Vancouver and brings together experts, representatives of associations, institutions, policy-makers and social agents, universities and companies.

I hope your cycle planners from state government and our Sydney city council are attending as we need more support to keep building our city’s cycleways and not let the car/roads lobby stop the momentum. There always seems to be more money for more roads, but cycleways are still seen as a boutique thing that’s expensive, inconvenient for drivers and under-utilised. I think building the ‘business case’ for cycling infrastructure is a powerful tool  to counter this.

Here’s a bit of a blurb about it:

  • Discover the strategies and policies that have dramatically increased levels of cycling in communities around the world
  • Learn how other cities have overcome the challenges encountered when improving cycling facilities
  • Develop the knowledge to ensure the cost effective implementation of cycling infrastructure and programs
  • Review the latest research that helps build the business case for cycling and guides policy development
  • Benefits of professional and academic recognition along with awareness of the latest research
  • See and learn the techniques for cycling growth that supports sustainable communities by city representatives attending the conference

Want to know more? Here’s the link to the Velo-city conference website.

Why I’m in the Safer Cycling Study

3 Feet Please

Anytime I’m near a road on my bike I wish there was a giant impermeable, unbreakable wall separating me and my bike and helmet and my no other protection from the cars and trucks and buses and their wheels, engines, heavy bodies and sometimes cyclist-hating drivers. It’s a fact that cycling, particularly in urban areas, is dangerous. The degree of danger varies depending on where you ride and the type of facilities that cyclists have available to them.

On my commute to work I’m luck enough to travel on a shared pedestrian/cycle path the entire way except for two road crossing so it’s pretty safe and pedestrians and cyclists seem to co-exist very well for the most part. My only real gripe is speeding cyclists who seem to think it’s a section of the Tour de France not a shared path for commuting as well as recreational riding and walking. More on this in another post.

One of the road crossings now has lights but the other is a bit scary as it’s near a roundabout and cars are going downhill so it’s easy for them to pick up speed towards where the cycleway meets the road. On the weekend, my husband and I cycle on this path as it goes out towards the beach or in towards the inner-city where it meets the new separated cycleways that are being built in Sydney city.

I have been part of the University of New South Wales Safer Cycling Study. It aims to  learn about when, where and why people cycle, and the risks, hazards, near misses and crashes that people experience while cycling. They reckon that there’s just not enough information about cyclists and these issues in NSW.

Each couple of months I fill out a cycling diary detailing where I’ve ridden with distances and times along with details of any crashes or near misses I’ve been a part of. I’m happy to say I haven’t had to report any crashes, just a few near misses. Hopefully the study will be used to find out the safest places to ride and be used to lobby state governments and local council to put money into better riding facilities.

Follow this link if you want to find out a bit more about it: Safer Cycling Study.

If you’re interested in safe cycling, here are some links to websites with helpful info.

Safe Cycling Australia grassroots campaign and lobby group.

The Times has a Cities Fit for Cycling campaign promoting safe riding in London.

Bicycle Safe has tips on staying safe.

Citizens for Safe Cycling is a good example of community organisation promoting bike safety.

3 Feet Please is a campaign to promote a rule for safe cycling distances.

Get on ya bike and Ride2Work

Ride2Work Day celebrates cycle commuting

Do you ride to work? It’s one of the most useful aspects of being a bike rider. Commuting by bike saves money, is healthy and helps reduce congestion.

In Australia we have a Ride2Work Day, an annual event in October that encourages people to try bike commuting and focuses on the benefits of commuting by bike. It’s supported by the Bicycle Network.

I’m our workplace coordinator so it’s my job to encourage my colleagues to be part of it. It’s a good option for those who live close to our offices as we’re located right next to a cycle way that links to the east and the west, and we do have a number of bike riders who regularly commute.

I’ll write more in future posts about how our workplace has supported us as bike commuters with facilities and even bikes.

Here’s a little about the Ride2Work initiative:

The focus is on peoples main, regular transport requirement – commuting to work. 5-10km commutes via bicycle is a viable option for many people – and this number is increased if you include partial commutes (ride->public transport, drive->ride etc). However, shorter commutes, and longer ones are also encouraged, as is any cycling for transport in general.

To find out more about our Australian Ride2Work program, follow this link: Ride2Work Program – Bicycle Network.

Why have a cycling blog?

My cycling blog is called spokesandthecity.wordpress.com. When writing on Spokes and the City I think about my posts in relation to cycling, bike riding, cycling gear, cycling infrastructure lobbying for cycling facilities and lots more, hopefully.

I’m hoping to gather some other cycling enthusiasts as followers to the blog and give them some personal, anecdotal story on blogging, something informative and something interesting on the many, many topics related to cycling and cyclists.

I started blogging at the beginning of 2012. I made a little start last year but didn’t get back to it until this year. I’d been thinking about it for a while and thinking about what I wanted to blog and why I wanted to blog. I didn’t really have answers for all these questions when I started but I decided it was better to just start and work it out as I go.

I see my blogs as a work in progress as I learn the best way to write to catch people’s interest and what to share that is of interest to others. I love blogging so much more than I thought I would and have discovered it’s different to what I thought. It’s much more than just being personal – it’s sharing something that you might not get in the mainstream media or add something to your life or your interests to make it of interest to others. It’s definitely finding the time to blog and also finding good, legal, images to go with my blog posts.