On your bike

SO HOW good was your trip to work today? Were you crammed into a train, stuck in stop-start traffic in your car? There is another way. Tomorrow more than 60,000 people around Australia are expected to choose pedal power for the 14th annual Ride to Work Day.

Published October 16, 2007 by The Age 

For one day at least, the car is not king of the road. Michelle Hamer learns how the switch from four wheels to two can be done.

AU–SO HOW good was your trip to work today? Were you crammed into a train, stuck in stop-start traffic in your car? There is another way. Tomorrow more than 60,000 people around Australia are expected to choose pedal power for the 14th annual Ride to Work Day.

In Melbourne, Bicycle Victoria predicts about 6000 riders will join the event, which is national for the first time this year. The cyclists lobby group says the event is becoming more popular each year and

proudly points to a jump of about 30 per cent in the number of people taking part in Ride to Work Day from last year. So far about 1300 workplaces are registered to ride on Wednesday, compared to 1000 last year, and about 1200 individuals are registered up from 8000 last year.

Riding to work offers clear environmental benefits. Replacing a 10 kilometre drive to work with a cycle saves 1.3 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year.

Heidi Marfurt, the National Ride to Work Day director, says workplaces from Hobart to Darwin were registered for the event, which also attracted participants from Antarctic bases and Kakadu.

"Cycling is a great way to reduce carbons and the cost of daily living, plus it makes you feel healthier and happier," Marfurt says.

She believes that riding to work is becoming more popular because it is an easy way for people to fit exercise into their day. "Regular cycling not only makes you look and feel great, it reduces the likelihood of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers," Marfurt says.

Metro talks to a few people who have made the switch to two wheels:

ALICE BADCOCK

Alice Badcock will borrow a bike and helmet to take part in her first ride-to-work day. "I haven't ridden a bike for six years," Badcock admits. "The guy at the bike shop just laughed at me when I took my bike in for a service; it was rusted beyond repair."

Badcock practised the six-kilometre ride between her home and Federation Square with a friend on the weekend.

"I'm very nervous, but also really keen to take part," she says. As internal communications manager for the EPA, Badcock says she felt a sense of duty to give riding to work a try.

"The EPA is a very environmentally conscious organisation and we have a lot to do with Ride to Work Day so I felt like the least I could do was to have a go – even if it is just for the one day. It's a way that I can contribute personally."

Badcock hopes riding to work will become an enjoyable habit. "I have a fairly big car and parking is expensive so this could be a way of doing something small for the environment – and who knows, it could be the start of a whole new me.

"Believe me, I am the last person to jump on a bike and ride to work, and I am doing this with a great deal of trepidation, but I'm also hoping that I will love it. If I can do this, anyone can."

HELEN MATTERS

At 43 Helen Matters hadn't ridden a bike regularly since she was a child. But watching the cyclists stream past her on last year's Ride to Work Day made her wonder if maybe she could hop back on a bike to improve her daily commute.

The senior policy adviser with the Department of Human Services was also frustrated with public transport. "What really gave me a kick-start to try riding was when one day I just physically couldn't get on the train at Clifton Hill station because it was so crowded. I just thought there had to be a better way," she says.

A year later she rides the six kilometres to work every day, she and her husband have sold their second car, and cycling has become a regular part of her routine.

"At first I was very nervous about riding to work but a colleague came with me on my first few rides to show me a safe riding trail and talked to me about the sort of gear I would need.

"Initially I planned to ride to work two days a week but I very quickly realised that I wanted to do it every day. I just love the freedom it gives me; no one can ever cancel your bike the way they can cancel your train."

Matters says she has noticed a marked increase in her fitness thanks to 35 minutes' cycling each morning and night.

"I put my corporate clothes, make-up and shampoos in my pannier bags and have a shower and get dressed at work. And I've found that the shower room is where all important business decisions are made – it's a great place for networking."

ADRIAN BURRAGE

Adrian Burrage has been hopping on his bike to ride the 22 kilometres to his work several times a week for the past two years.

The manager of student housing services at Melbourne University says that although he is not an obsessive cyclist he finds real joy in riding to and from work.

"It's a great way to wind down; I find it very relaxing," he says.

His ride usually takes about 50 minutes; a commute time he can't better either in the car or on public transport.

"Even with an express train I can't get to work any quicker," he says "And driving takes about an hour-and-a-half."

Burrage says the regular riding has been a bonus for his fitness and he has pushed himself further, taking part in the Around the Bay in a Day event a few times.

"I did more kilometres on my bike than in my car last year," he says "I think it's important to try to use the car less and less."

However, he has some safety concerns about riding in busy areas. "I think there is still an "us and them" mentality between drivers and cyclists, and cyclists are very vulnerable. When you ride in areas such as St Kilda Road you really have to be on the ball. I've come off the bike on wet tram tracks and it just reminds you how careful you need to be."

THE TAPP FAMILY

Oliver Tapp, 9, reckons going to school in the car is "boring". For the past three years, since he started prep, he has ridden to school at Wales Street Primary School in Thornbury with his mum, Ely. This year his sister Amy, 5, joined in for the daily ride to her kindergarten.

Three days a week Ely Tapp rides with her two children to school and kinder before continuing on into work at Museum Victoria where she is the manager of collection information systems.

Her husband, Nick, also rides the 12 kilometres to his work "rain, hail or shine".

Tapp says the logistics of managing the kids, their school bags, Oliver's violin and the bikes can sometimes be tricky.

"I usually end up being the pack horse," she says. "If there is too much stuff to carry I sometimes walk my bike or leave it at home and walk back to get it after I've dropped the kids off."

Tapp has helped co-ordinate the Ride to School Day at Wales Street Primary which will run in conjunction with Ride to Work Day tomorrow. "We ran a Ride to School Day in March this year and had about 68 per cent of the students ride their bikes. They overran the bike sheds so we had to build more," Tapp says.

The school will provide apples to students who ride to school tomorrow, and coffee and muffins to staff who have agreed to set a positive example by joining in the event.

"It's all about finding healthier ways for kids to get to school, whether that's by walking or riding, and encouraging them to fit exercise into their day," Tapp says.

LINK

www.ride2work.com.au