On Bikes

Due to our awesome new location and being a less than fifteen-minute cycle to my work, I’ve been biking more lately. Cycling, on a push bike as they’re called here (bikes= motorcycles, motorcycles= motorbikes) is easy, breezy, cheap and carbon-free. Good for your glutes AND your wallet! I can’t say that about many other activities that I do…

I am constantly impressed by the well-planned network of bike paths, bike lanes and bikeways. Yes, bikeways. Like a highway, but for bikes. I’ve mentioned this to many other cyclists, most of whom scoff and say “Really? You find it good cycling HERE? You should check out _____ *insert European country here*). Apparently in Germany there are entire parking decks built solely for bikes. That’s what they tell me, anyway. 

Peter assembling our first-ever bikes, in our first-ever apartment. These bikes really sucked.

I guess Brisbane isn’t a poster city for cycling, but it definitely has more than its fair share of cyclists, and the city as a whole has done much to foster this. The multi-million dollar bikeways are planned so that most suburbs have some access into the city through a safe route, and they’re maintained and clean. Once in the city, the cycle pathways along the river are incredible, with little lane markers to keep everyone in their place.

There’s even the CityCycle program, where for a monthly subscription fee, residents have access to bike stations all over the city as pickup and drop off points for rented bikes. (It looks like Charlotte has recently started its own similar program, I’ll be curious to see how well received it is.)

Compared to a place like Charlotte, Brisbane is a cyclist’s paradise. I’m not sure what the tipping point is for an activity like cycling to work to become a regular, accepted thing, but it’s definitely happened here. People are not as attached to their cars, if they happen to have one. 

On a daily basis, I see hundreds of cyclists riding in and out of the city and surrounding suburbs. Weekdays, weekends, it doesn’t matter. I see people cycling to work, to the gym, from the grocery store or markets. I see people cycling with kids in little seats mounted on the handlebars, or towing infants behind them in little covered trailers.

Biking/cycling/pushbiking/whatever is not radical. It’s not out there or hardcore or extreme. Cycling doesn’t make you a hippie or green freak. It doesn’t make you granola.

It takes quite a bit more effort than driving, even for a short distance. But for many city and near-city dwellers, cycling just makes sense. It is the answer to so many current, pressing issues. More than that, it’s just a logical daily choice. 

I can bike to work faster than I can drive there during rush hour. It’s much faster than taking the bus. It costs nothing and I burn a few calories. As much as I care about the environment, I don’t wake up wondering how I can reduce my carbon footprint before 9am. I bike because it’s the cheapest, fastest way for me to get to point B. The fitness and environmental benefits are just really good perks. And even if that’s all there were, I still think it would be the right choice. I’m also lucky enough to live in a city where officials have deemed bikeways a worthy investment, meaning I can pedal safely on my merry way.

I’m not trying to get all preachy- okay, maybe I am a little bit-  but I’m just really passionate about this, although normally a bit more quietly so. 

Some numbers: In Amsterdam, the most bike-friendly city in the world, 40% of citizens commute to work by bike. By contrast, Portland, the most bike-friendly city in the U.S., can only offer 3.9%. 

I think it’s time to leave the car at home. It’s not always easy, but it’s becoming more so. It takes my enormous camping backpack to fit everything I need in a given day, so off I go to work, wearing an awful combination of silk blouse and New Balance shoes and REI pack. But it’s getting easier.

It’s a daily choice, but I increasingly think it’s the right one to make. 

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