The Canberra Commute: Why It’s So Much Better On A Bike
Canberra already produces some of the world’s best cyclists - Michael Matthews, Chloe Hosking and three time world champion Michael Rogers to name a few. But earlier in the year, the ACT government announced that they plan to do more for the cycling community. The goal is to make Canberra Australia’s best cycling destination with a cycling tourism strategy that’s set to add $400 million to the economy over the next decade.
What will that mean for your daily cycle commute?
According to Pedal Power ACT executive Ian Ross it means “separated paths that keep people on bikes away from cars” and “good quality active travel and cycle infrastructure”. It’s an investment in the “future health and liveability of our city” and one that will “improve the health of our city and our community”.
Sounds great, right?
Reasons why you should cycle to work in Canberra
If you haven’t already started cycling to work each day, it’s time to start considering it. Not only is cycle infrastructure about to get even better than it is already, the benefits of a daily cycle are huge. Reasons to cycle to work include:
Remember that feeling of whizzing to a friend’s house on your bike as a kid? Well biking to work allows you to integrate that feeling of exhilaration into your daily grind. You can listen to the birds, wave to other cyclists and smile knowing that you’re not stuck in traffic.
Cycling is a beautiful sport and can be used as a tool for happiness and quality of life. Cycling improves your capacity of thinking and reduces your level of anxiety, a main factor of stress. Riding a bike everyday to work stimulates the production of chemicals like dopamine and cannabinoids, which contribute to reduced stress and better mood.
Biking to work is good for you. It’s low-impact exercise that provides a great muscle workout. Cycling uses all the major muscle groups as you pedal and the result is increased stamina, strength and aerobic fitness.
Cycling to work can be as casual or as intense as you want it to be. The number of calories you burn will depend on speed, topography and the individual, but it’s safe to say that you’ll burn more calories than sedentary time spent in a car, train or bus.
3. Brain power
Studies repeatedly show that cycling improves mental functions. In one study, participants scored higher on tests of memory, reasoning and planning after 30 minutes of spinning on a stationary bike than they did before they rode. They also completed tests faster after pedaling.
Ride, work, ride, repeat is a scientifically proven system that unleashes huge benefits for overall brainpower. Take Canadian neuroscientist Brian Christie, PhD. After a ride to work his brain is at peak activity for a few hours. When his mental focus stutters later in the day he jump-starts his brain with another quick ride to run errands.
4. Fresh air
When you lead a busy life, it’s easy to forget the importance of being outside. In fact, it’s generally recognised that Australians spend 90% or more of their time indoors.
Fresh air boosts your immune system making you less likely to bring home the office sniffles. It calms you down if you’re feeling stressed or nervous about a big meeting and it cleans your lungs to make breathing easier. Fresh air also gives you energy in a healthier way than coffee and improves heart health.
The transportation sector is the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and has the highest rate of industry growth. If no action is taken, greenhouse gas emissions are projected to climb in a significant way, continuing its harmful effect on the environment. A major source of the problem is cars, responsible for roughly half of all transport emissions.
Let’s say you drive a 16km round trip to work five days a week in your SUV. This uses roughly 650 litres of fuel per year and emits 1.9 tons of CO2 emissions. A bike uses no fuel, takes less energy to manufacture than an SUV and will have less impact on the environment.
When Canstar Blue surveyed 2,000 Australians in 2017 they found that Aussies spend an average $143.54 per month on fuel. Add to that vehicle maintenance, the occasional repair, insurance, and the skyrocketing cost of parking and what you spend on driving to work adds up to a lot. Purchasing a commuter bike will pay for itself in no time at all.
Cyclists don’t get stuck in traffic jams and they don’t have to drive around looking for a park. More often than not they secure their bike right outside the workplace doors. How’s that for convenience?
A study from the University of New South Wales found that biking safety is a virtuous cycle - the more people who ride in the city, the fewer collisions there are. This is not simply because there are fewer cars on the road, it’s the result of a change in driver behaviour. More cyclists make for safer drivers.
How to get started cycling
Now you know the benefits of cycling to work we’re sure you want to give it go. Here’s what you need to do to embrace your cycle commute!
1. Get yourself a bike
If you haven’t got one already, get yourself a great bike. Remember that this is your vessel, your support, your steed and comfort is everything. Choose a bike with a lightweight frame and some gears. If you’re unsure of what to get, talk to the guys at Bike Culture. They’ll sort you out a bike and helmet to suit your needs and budget. Buy a lock too to protect your investment and a basket, pannier or backpack for carrying your laptop and other work-related items.
2. Brush up on bicycle laws
The Road Transport Regulation 2017 applies to all road users in the ACT, including those on bikes. But to avoid common penalties and to ensure that both you and the drivers around you are safe there are other things you should be aware of. Before you go anywhere on your new bike, brush up on Transport Canberra’s road rules for bikes.
3. Plan your journey
If your commute to work is a fair distance, start small by riding to Marketplace Gungahlin on the weekend or to a friend’s house after work. Or why not try committing to riding part-way to work before picking up public transport? If you feel you’re ready to ride all the way, test out your route on a weekend to see how long it takes and if it’s the best way. If you see other cyclists on the way, ask them for advice on the quickest routes. Canberra is packed with bike lanes, bike paths and relatively quiet streets to make your ride to work a pleasant one.
4. Wear the right clothing
Riding to work doesn’t mean you have to wear lycra but you probably don’t want to wear your best suit either. Choose reflective clothes you are comfortable in - sneakers, a t-shirt, leggings, shorts etc and pack a change of clothes in your basket, backpack or pannier. You’ll find a range of reflective clothes at Lowes Australia and a range of backpacks at Big W and Kmart. You can always leave some work shoes at the office to change into if you need to. If you’re lucky your workplace might have a shower you can freshen up in too.
5. Ride safely
When it comes time to ride your bike, do so smartly and safely. Obey the road rules and if using shared paths, allow pedestrians ample space where possible. Ring your bell upon approaching pedestrians, slow down and be prepared to stop or give way. Give hand signals when changing lanes or turning left or right and ride in a predictable manner so other road users don’t have to react suddenly to your movements. For more safety tips, visit Pedal Power ACT.
Got the hang of riding your bike? Keep it going and start riding wherever you go. Use the money you save to treat yourself to coffee and cake at Atlas or Japanese takeaway at Bento Tei. You won’t feel bad about your extra treats because not only are you saving money, you’re burning calories too.