Monday, 28 January 2008

Bum rush

More photos of the bums that I have to look at on my way into work. It's not often that I see a female bum - I believe this is the first that I have ever photographed. That's not because I have an aversion to photographing them - it's more that they are very scarce. I did a few informal counts last year and found that men on bikes outnumber women 20:1. I think the number of female bike commuters is on the increase, but there is an enormous disparity to make up - especially as more men appear to be hitting the pedals.

I've posted this series of photos to show what it's like heading into town at around 7:30am. When I started cycling, other riders were few and far between. It's now starting to turn into a madhouse. The bloody cycleway is going to be as congested as the roadway if things keep on going like this.

Most pedestrians are sensible and keep well to the left (like these two), but some seem to become mentally confused as soon as they start walking. They wander back and forth all over the road like half-stoned hippies. Overtaking whacked out pedestrians can be a bit exciting some mornings. As far as I am concerned, there is no debate about what to do if one of them takes up the entire path (ie, leaves you nowhere to go as you overtake). If it is a choice between hitting a rather rigid steel pole and a rather fat hippy, I am taking out the hippy.

Whoops. There are some things that I will stop for. And no, I am not talking about the rather burly fireman. He's not my type.

The thing is, even if you build an excellent bit of cycle infrastructure, it takes time to grow traffic on it to levels that make it seem like a good decision. People are terrible creatures of habit, and it takes ages for them to decide, "Ah, fuck it" and to pull the bike out of the garage, pump up the tyres and give it a go.

Before I started commuting by bike, I spent 3 months getting my fitness up to an acceptable level by driving to Centennial Park and then doing laps around the park on my bike. It took 3 months until I thought that I had the wind to go fast enough to not get skittled by the traffic. So when you open a new bike route into town, you shouldn't think that on day one all these people are going to abandon the bus or the Corolla for a saddle and a set of pedals. They'll um and ah about it, do a few test runs on the weekend, decide they are too unfit, commit to some weekend training and maybe actually not get started for 6 months or so.

There is also the work angle to sort out. ie, where do I park my bike, where do I have a shower and what do I do with this wet towel that is starting to get a bit manky? Amazingly enough, it can take months to work all this out. Security guards will deny that bike parking exists in the basement, even as a cyclist shoots down the ramp to the garage behind them. Office managers will deny that the building has showers, even as he trots out the door for a spot of lunchtime touch football in the park.

Most bike routes are terribly badly signposted. After a while, you kind of gain a sixth sense as to where the new route that you are trying out might be about to go. The same thing happens with new office buildings - I have worked in about 15 different office buildings in the Sydney CBD, and I now have a nose for sussing out who to talk to about parking the bike, gaining access to the car park, finding out where the showers are etc etc etc.

I still haven't worked out how to get a locker, but that has never been a problem for me.

So if you think it's painful and difficult to start riding into work, you're right. It is. The thing that made it easier for me is that I used to live 5.5km from work, and I walked both ways most days. I only started riding when I moved further out. If you want to make a start of it, and you live a fair way out, try this.

Catch the train (or bus) to a spot about 4km from your office. If you are coming from say the North Shore, get off at Milsons Point. Walk the rest. Then shower and change and do all that sort of thing at the office. Once you are comfortable with that, give riding a go.

Or if you don't want to, just stick with the walking thing. It's also very enjoyable.

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