Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Cycling to Work

Since moving to Brunswick East we have had a pretty rough time with our daily commute. Unfortunately, we have not been able to get Ella into a nearby daycare yet, so we are still driving all the way back to Abbotsford for the daycare drop, which takes 20-25 minutes in the morning, and around half an hour in the evening. From there it takes me anywhere from 20-30 minutes to drive to school depending on how early we leave home. The upside is, I am no longer nervous driving on the left side of the road as I drive much more consistently now. The downside is, obviously, a horrendous commute. It is even worse for Andy, his school is more like 30-40 minutes from the daycare. We normally leave between 6:45-7am. Any later and the traffic is terrible, adding at least 20 minutes onto the journey. We usually get home around 5:30pm, resulting in a long day for poor Ella. Needless to say, she is on a few child care waiting lists in Brunswick, but the waiting lists are long for any of the "good" ones. We love her current place, Explorers Early Learning, so when checking out other centres I always feel a bit disappointed. But a big part of what makes Explorers so good are the Educators who work in Ella's room, so when I've taken a tour of another centre one thing I always look at is how happy the people working there are. There are two in Brunswick that I really liked the feel of when I went to check them out, so fingers crossed we get into one of them soon!

Anyway, Andy and I alternate who drives according to who can leave work the earliest in the afternoon. The other person cycles. If I had a choice I would cycle every day, I honestly hate doing the drive. But I'm sure Andy doesn't love it either! 

My cycle route is just under 8km, which takes me about half an hour. I know that is a pretty slow time, but I don't like being in a rush when I'm on my bike. I shower before I leave the house so I don't want to get too sweaty on my bike, at least not on the way to work, and I don't completely trust Melbourne drivers so I tend to be overly cautious. I also bought a "city" bike, with an upright seating position and only seven gears, so it is designed more for leisurely bike riding. I love my bike, it's a Tokyo Bisou, and I get lots of compliments on it. I think the design is very sleek and elegant, a step-through frame without being overly girly. I added mudguards on to mine so I don't get mud splattered up my back when it rains, and also a basket on the front to carry my bag in. 

The first part of my route is down a busy road with a pathetic bike lane, which is sometimes there and sometimes not. Thankfully this is for less than a kilometre and not very busy in the early morning when I usually leave. The road I turn on to is a SUPER busy main road that runs north/south from the northern suburbs into the city. Here there is separated bike path running down the middle traffic island that divides the road in two. There is also a tram line running beside the cycle lane that is separated from cars. This is such a great example of prioritising cycling/pedestrians and public transport over adding in an extra lane for cars. It is a great feeling being able to ride down a main road feeling totally safe. I'm sure the drivers are also happy they don't have to look out for cyclists on the road, so this type of city planning is surely a win win?

Separated cycle lane St. Georges Road
At the south end of the path you can join up with the Merri Creek trail and the Capital City Trail which leads into the city, which I wrote about here. I head east instead, towards Ivanhoe where my school is located. At this point I could take a very direct route to work but along busier roads, which would save me 4-5 minutes of riding time. Instead I opt to use a very quiet route that follows the Hurstbridge train line, which is the train I used to get to school from our old house. I've since found out that this is a designated "shimmy route" by Darebin council. A shimmy route is a a route that wiggles through quiet back streets, avoiding busy main roads. I don't usually see a lot of other cyclists on it, but I do tend to ride pretty early in the morning, and I am also going the opposite way to most people, heading away from the city instead of towards it. I found the map below on the City of Darebin website, the blue line is the route that I use. (For reference, we live near Ceres Environment Park which is on the left hand side of the map). 

http://www.darebin.vic.gov.au/Darebin-Living/Parking-and-Transport/Transport#Cycling
If you follow that blue line east you can see that it stops at a big green park. This is Darebin Parklands and my favourite part of the ride. The bike path passes a pond with lots of wildlife (including very cute ducklings at the moment) and then weaves its way through the parkland following Darebin Creek. The early mornings here are so peaceful and lately I have been stopping at the pond to meditate for 10 minutes before work. It is a beautiful start to the day. In a previous life I would have thought I didn't have time to stop for 10 minutes. I would have been wanting to get to work as soon as possible. But I have realised that taking the time to stop and focus at the start of my day makes me much more productive and calm then arriving 10 minutes earlier at work would. 

My lovely Tokyo Bisou, stopping for a rest in Darebin Parklands

Mama duck and her ducklings

Sunny summer mornings

Bike path, Darebin Parklands

Bike path under horrible, busy Hurstbridge Road
Once I ride through the parklands I am pretty much at work, just a few side streets to navigate. Uphill mind you, so that is often the hardest part of my ride. But at least it is downhill on the way home!

My other alternative to get to work via public transport isn't so straightforward. It would take me about 40-45 minutes and I would have to time it right with a bus timetable. Not a very attractive option. That has forced me to cycle every day that I am not driving, whereas before I might have found excuses as to why I should take public transport instead of cycling more often. The weather is pretty good at the moment and we have long daylight hours so this hasn't been a problem, but talk to me in the winter and I might be totally over the cycling and wishing for better public transport options! 

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