Why cycle to work?
- Riding to work benefits the individual, the business, the environment and all road users. More and more people are rediscovering the convenience of commuting by bicycle to work, shops, school or university. Cycling offers a great alternative to using a car for short trips, or for longer trips the combination with a bus or a train keeps transport cheap, healthy and green.
- Commuting by bike is a great way to maintain a healthy lifestyle, save money, deal with stress and in many instances save time as well. The average speed of a bicycle is between 15km to 20kmhr, which means it only takes around 30 minutes to ride 10kms, most likely faster than travelling by car in peak hour traffic.
- There is evidence that people who ride to work have less time off sick and are more productive throughout the day. An increasing number of workplaces encourage staff to ride to work and provide high quality end of trip facilities such as bicycle parking, showers, hair dryers and other incentives.
- Why not encourage your employer to consider offering incentives to staff for riding to work? Such as allowances for cycling mileage, membership of cycling organisations, subsidies for biking equipment and subsidies for cycling event participation?
Choosing the correct equipment-
To ride to work you don't need an expensive bicycle, but it needs to be roadworthy and ideally include a rack to carry your gear, mirrors to monitor the traffic, and lights if you ride at night or in low visibility.
- Research different styles – There is a huge variety of bike styles on the market, for commuting you want to consider how far you will be traveling, for a short trip any roadworthy bike will do, but if you will be doing longer and more regular riding then comfort will become important. If you choose a bike that fits you correctly and is designed for the riding you will be doing then more than likely you will have a much more enjoyable experience.
- Borrow a bike and try it out – if you know someone that has a bike you think would suit you or maybe a bicycle shop that offers demo rides, organise to take a variety out for a test ride, you will soon know after about 15mins if a certain bike style is what you want.
- Resist the temptation to go cheap - With bikes, like most purchases you get what you pay for. Chances are you won’t be happy over the long run with a cheapie bike from a big box discounter, even if it was a deal. They are heavy, poorly assembled and the components won’t last like they would on a quality model. Ultimately, you’ll be frustrated and end up spending money to get that better bike you should have bought in the first place.
- Spend some time at your local bike shop - The people who run your LBS are your best resource on bike buying. These folks are knowledgeable, and can offer tips, advice and service that you can never get over the internet.
- Consider buying used - The best way to get a decent bike without forking out a whole bunch of money, particularly if you’re wondering if you’ll stick with it, is to buy a used bike. Sources abound, from websites like Bike On’s to classified ads in the newspaper to a swap board carried by your local bike shop on its website.
Always check your bike before you get on it –
Basic check - tyre pressure and brake check. It is good to know how to change a tyre and carry a small tool kit with spare tube, tyre levers, puncture repair kit and pump. See our Bicycle Maintenance Workshops for further info on how to do a basic safety check.
What clothing is appropriate?
- Wear plain bright colours that are easily visible, avoid dark colours.
- Cycle specific clothing has reflective piping or strips which make it even easier to see. It’s also specifically designed for comfort while cycling.
- In the cold – layer your clothing so you can strip off as you get warmer.
- Windproof/waterproof cycling jacket – try to get one that opens down the front and has cooling vents (armpits and back). As you warm up during the ride you can open the front of the jacket and the cooling vents.
- If you ride a short distance or if you take it easy on the bike, your regular clothes will be fine. If you want to work up a sweat, or for longer journeys you may want to wear cycling shorts and a jersey to increase comfort. They also dry easier so you have dry gear to ride home in.
- Experiment with using lycra arm or leg warmers. These can be pulled down (and even right off) while you’re riding.
- Wear gloves – important for protection during a fall or for warmth. Choose a pair that have the right balance between temperature and dexterity.
- Head protection – Wearing a correctly fitted helmet is the law and makes good sense. Fleecy headbands will keep your head, ears and parts of your face toastie warm on the frosty mornings. Choose a material that will keep the cold air off, but will not make you too hot, or make your head too big for your helmet.
- Invest in a set of mudguards to prevent water splashing up from your front and rear tyres. Nothing is more uncomfortable than a wet, muddy stripe up your back after riding along wet roads.
- Waterproof pants and booties are also available to keep your legs and feet dry.
- A water bottle is also a good idea for longer trips and hot days.
- Most work places now have shower facilities available.
- If no showers – have a set of spare clothes and some bathroom accessories already at work.
- Allow yourself time and be organised.
- Keep a spare pair of clothes and shoes at work for unforseen weather conditions.
- Plan your week, you may only want to ride a couple of times a week, so you could already have your work clothing ironed and ready at work the day before.
- · Seek assistance from your workplace.
When commuting by bicycle, selection of a route is one of the most important things to improve your enjoyment, safety and comfort.
Selecting a route depends on your level of cycling experience, personal preference, road network, levels of traffic and availability of infrastructure or alternatives.
Before heading off it is a good idea to plan your route by finding roads that have less traffic flow, offer bike lanes/sealed road shoulders or off road paths to get to your destination. Sometimes an alternative route is a bit longer but will be more enjoyable and safer. Take your time; you may not want to head straight into the traffic so firstly choose quiet streets or bike paths. You can also get off and walk those sections you may feel uncomfortable with.
Talk to other staff at your workplace who cycle to work and ask them for tips on great routes to get to your workplace. Many road authorities or other government programs such as travel smart provide cycling maps, which help you to plan your route.
If we want respect we need to know our road rules and follow them
Bicycle riders are legitimate road users and are as entitled to use the road as any other vehicle. Under the Australian Road Rules a bicycle is a vehicle and the riders of bicycles must comply with the road rules.
- The full Australian Road Rules are available Australian Road Rules
- The section relating specifically to cyclists is Road Rules for Cyclists
- For links to specific state road rules relating to cycling click here
A cyclist can be charged with a traffic offense in the same way the driver of a motor vehicle can be.
Tips for riding to work-
- Start cycling one or two days a week when the weather is good, then ride more regularly once your confidence and fitness improves and you become more familiar with your route.
- Try to ride the route beforehand to check out the journey and get an estimate of the time it will take you to ride.
- Riding in traffic requires you to be alert at all times.
- Be confident when cycling on the road and ride out from the kerb to avoid debris in the gutter and to be more visible for motorists.
- Watch for people in parked cars who might open a door in your path of travel.
- Cycle at your own pace, cycling to work should be enjoyable.
- Riding two abreast no more than 1.5 metres apart is legal and can improve your safety and visibility.
- Using a bicycle to get to work is one thing but also being able to enjoy the journey, stay safe and interacts with the world makes the experience even more important. Staying safe whilst riding requires certain skills very much the same as those of a car driver.
- Be confident and clear about what you are doing, use hand signals, positive verbal communication and eye contact.
- Riders are legitimate road users. Know your rights and look like you know what you're doing, be confident and position yourself correctly.
- There are times when the safest way to deal with car traffic is to take control of the lane to give yourself room to avoid drains and gutters safely and to avoid swerving around obstacles. Remember to ride defensively - but not aggressively and know your rights and obligations as road user.
Riding safely in traffic involves more than just obeying the traffic laws. Following these five rules to stay safe when riding a bike:
- Obey the Road Rules.
- Keep alert at all times.
- Be visible day and night.
- Take the least traveled way.
- Keep the bike in good repair.
Bicycle operating skills-
Mistakes often made by new cyclists include-
- Seat too low – set the seat height correctly it will make for a much less physical ride.
- Feet placed incorrectly on the pedals – if you use clip less pedals you have no choice but to position you feet correctly. Correctly positioned feet make it easier to pedal and give you a stronger rotation. The front ball of the foot should take up most of the pedal.
- Choosing the wrong gear – if using a geared bike, get to know how to use them correctly, you may need a quick gear shift to get out of sticky situation.
- Bike not mechanically sound – Do a quick safety check on your bike at least once a week. Tyre pressure, chain lube, brakes working, like cars our bikes need regular servicing.
- Not stopping for a stop sign – know your road rule and obey them.
- Riding in the wrong lane – you wouldn’t drive in the wrong lane so always obey the road rules.
- Not using lights at night – always use lights and wear reflective gear.
- Not listening – Don’t ride with ipods, you need to be able to hear what is going on around you.
- Defensive cycling strategies – practice riding defensively in a controlled situation before heading into the traffic.
Traffic awareness, traps and tips
It is important to be alert and confident when riding in traffic. Keeping your eyes and ears open will mean that you will limit surprises. That means looking ahead, knowing exactly what everyone is up to and taking action to avoid accidents, because some road users have no bicycle awareness and have their minds on other things. The more you ride in traffic the more confident you will become.
- Car doors - Ride a metre out from parked cars and ring your bell to let car door openers know you're there.
- Bike lanes - You've still got every right to be there, so move right and claim your space before you get cut off by cars coming up from behind you. When you're entering a roundabout, ride in the middle of the lane so that cars won't squeeze past.
- Pedestrians – You may feel tempted to scare them but its best just to give them a polite wake up call by a ring on the bell or an urgent 'look out!’
- Ride a metre out from the kerb or parked cars - You're more visible than if you're hugging the kerb, and you avoid the broken glass and debris that's swept to the edge of the road. Riding a metre out from parked cars means you avoid one of the most common cycling accidents: getting hit by a car door. Always stay clear of the 'door zone' - and don't weave in and out of parked cars.
- Ride consistently - Road users who behave inconsistently make other road users nervous. Ride consistently (and within the rules) and you're more likely to be respected.
- Make your intentions clear - Signal your intentions. Use eye contact to negotiate with other road users to check they've seen you and to check they'll give way.
- Claim your space - Bikes are vehicles and have a legal right to be on the road. If you ride consistently and make your intentions clear, you're more likely to be treated like a vehicle. Make it clear that you plan to use your portion of the road - whether it's your metre from the kerb, or an entire lane (e.g. on a roundabout). Sometimes it's safer to claim an entire lane to stop another vehicle from squeezing past in a space that is really too narrow.
- Be aware of your surrounds - Know what's going on ahead of, beside and behind you. Read the traffic - try to anticipate what's likely to happen - and scan behind regularly. Watch for signs of cars pulling out or looking for a park (which means they probably aren't looking for you).
- Intersections – Position yourself just ahead of the traffic where you are clearly visible, away from exhaust fumes, and cars can't squeeze past and cut you off. Avoid standing in front of left-turning traffic in a left-turn-only lane or one with a green arrow (unless you're turning left). Instead, stand to the left of the middle/right lane. There may not always be room to get to the front. Experienced riders sometimes ride between lanes of stationary traffic (if there's space); otherwise, the only option is to wait further back (or get off and walk).
- Traffic lights - Move off confidently to avoid holding up traffic. The key to accelerating quickly is to change to a low gear before you stop. Merge left as you ride through the intersection, so you move back to the one-metre-out position on the other side. But don't move so far left that motorists invade your space; if parked cars on the other side mean you need to stay in the middle of the lane, claim that space until it's safe to let motorists go past.
- Turning – Position yourself correctly remember you are a legal vehicle on the road and always signal correctly so other users no exactly where you are going.
Bicycle security and parking
Does your company provide bike parking at work? Lots of businesses now do. Building regulations now require all new buildings, as well as all significant refits, to have bike parking and possibly showers and lockers depending on the size of the building.
Ask your workplace to provide a secure place to store your precious bike or somewhere visible to lock it up. Buy the best lock you can afford, in line with the value of the bicycle. D-locks are best, and cables are useful for securing wheels, saddles and helmets. Always lock it to something solid!
Bottom of Form
Summary of skills needed to ride to work.
- Have the right equipment.
- Be visible – wear appropriate clothing, have lights and reflectors on your bike.
- Be organised and plan your route.
- Get to know your route, pick the safest – may not necessarily be the most direct or quickest.
- Be organised at work with your clothing and allow yourself enough time.
- Know your road rules relevant to cyclist.
- Fast start off - Get away quickly at lights.
- Do an effective emergency brake.
- Look over the right shoulder without changing the direction taken.
- Ride through a narrow lane.
- Signal with one hand off the bars.
- Look ahead and scan for dangerous situations and objects.
- Know where on the road you can ride according to the conditions.
- Take the space you are allowed when on the road.
- Acknowledge the right behaviour.
- Listen and be aware of your environment.
- Secure and store your bike correctly.
- Keep your bike mechanically maintained.