The dangerous pedestrian

13 Jan

So I’ll state the obvious, I am a cyclist. But sometimes I am a pedestrian, a car driver and a train/tram/bus taker. However, for the point of this post, I am a cyclist.

There are many articles that have been written over and over again repeating the facts about how dangerous it is to ride a bike as a truck or car will take you out. Then there’s the articles on how cyclists are a danger to themselves, riding two or more abreast (although it is legal to ride two abreast just in case you didn’t know), running red lights, weaving in and out of traffic, taking a whole lane (although it is legal for cyclists to do that too). However, there’s not many out there about the pedestrian.

I ride along the docklands hwy/footscray rd shared path to and from work. It’s a pretty good path, however a shared path does bring about its problems. Apart from the lycra wearing stereotypical cyclist who has to smash this certain strava segment so they can brag to their colleagues or cycling mates, there’s the ignorant and rude pedestrian that believe footpaths are for them, and them only. There’s different types of pedestrians on a shared path. There’s the serious runner/walker who has their earphones in and have not a care in the world. They have no idea if you ring your bell or not before you pass, and then some of them have the nerve to tell you to ring your bell, even though you did. I once slowed down and replied to one of these runners that if they took their earphones out they might have heard the bell that I rung. They looked at me weirdly as I was talking, then took their earphones out (I could hear the music) and asked “what did you say?”. Point made…

Then there’s the pedestrian who believes every cyclist, even though it is 5pm on a weekday with cyclist after cyclist riding past, that EVERY cyclist must ring their bell as they are passing them. Isn’t the first one enough? Just keep left people, we aren’t going to run you over! There is also the pedestrian who for some reason thinks walking on the right of the path, even though the lanes clearly mark which side you should ride on, is the polite thing to do? To be perfectly honest it just confuses the hell out of us and the cyclist becomes unpredictable due to the unpredictable behaviour of the pedestrian.

However, pedestrians also cross roads that cyclists are entitled to ride on, and nothing frustrates me more than working my way up to a stop light in a bike lane towards the bike box at the front of the lights when a pedestrian decides to take a shortcut and walk across the bike box. Is it so hard to walk between the pedestrian lines?! Saving two steps by cutting through the bike box isn’t going to get your destination a lot faster. I have nearly hit a pedestrian doing this as I was coming down a hill at a reasonable speed.

However, I recently started cycling down part of swanston street as part of my commute and have decided pedestrians waiting for trams will overtake the bike box pedestrians for me soon. There’s no tram, so why are you waiting in the clearly signed “keep clear” area? The area for cyclists? And why on earth do pedestrians cross Swanston street looking for trams, but forgetting about cyclists and nearly get run over by us. I had to brake suddenly a few weeks ago in Swanston Street as a pedestrian crossed the road without looking for cyclists, only trams. I braked hard, and fell off the bike. Luckily I was already travelling at a slow speed.

However, there’s another category of pedestrian. There’s the one that goes about their business, stopping at pedestrian lights, keeping to the left of footpath and thanking the cyclists for acknowledging in advance they are passing and also smile with a “good morning” as you pass. So unlike every other journalist or wannabe journalist, I know not to stereotype EVERY pedestrian into one of these whinging categories. The majority of pedestrians stick to the rules, there’s just a few who are idiots.

This blog post was only written after reading ‘Beware the lone wolf in Lycra‘ today. Just like there are idiot cyclists, there are also idiot pedestrians out there. So everyone needs to grow up, acknowledge there are idiot cyclists, pedestrians, motorcyclists, car drivers, truck drivers and bus drivers and not categorise every *insert mode of transport here* person as an idiot just because a few are. 

One year anniversary

16 Oct

So it is that time of year again – Ride to Work day. I am very disappointed this year as my uni exam is on the same day so I won’t be riding to work. However, I’ll ride to the Footscray ride to work breakfast, ride home again, study and then ride to the exam…actually maybe I won’t as I kind of stuffed up my commuter bike trying to fix some issues tonight. Might have to get on the MTB (mountain bike) instead.

So what a year it has been. Looking back it has been very eventful. I’ve gained and lost a lot and the rest of this post will look back on the year that was.

The magic number is 8. I’ve lost 8 kilos, 8cm around my thighs, 8cm around my waist and 8cm around my hips. Riding to work in conjunction with eating a bit better (not a lot) and getting to the stage in the last month where I can ride to work and go to the gym on the same day has resulted in these huge loses. Sticking at it will result in more I am sure.

I’ve also gained a lot in the last year. Firstly, I’ve become addicted. Not only did I purchase my first n + 1 (rule #12), but I also purchased another n + 1 :) A road bike and a mountain bike sit proudly next to my commuter in the garage. In the next few weeks the road bike will turn into my commuter as the commuter is driving me nuts (will explain later on).

One thing I’ve also gained is a better well being, both mentally and physically. When I arrive to work and I have ridden my bike in, I am a lot happier. When I ride home from work, I tend to be less stressed as the ride home has enabled me to leave my work stress at work where it belongs. My physical health is a lot better, as long as I remember to not use the front brake coming down a hill…

I’ve also gained many friends. By joining the tenax ride, I’ve met a lot of people who have helped me become a better cyclist, so thanks to you all for the support and answering those stupid n00b questions I ask (and am still asking). The Bicycle Network forums have also been a great help. Most users are friendly and are again willing to answer any questions I have, and they are there to vent to when others on the roads are not playing nice. They understand too and have been in the same situations you find yourself in.

I’ve also had to replace a helmet. I didn’t post this up here when it happened, I think because my pride took a huge blow, but I’m ready to admit it now. I was travelling quite fast, down a slight hill in Melbourne CBD, about 300m from work, when I decided I was going to signal left (even though I am not legally required to) and brake at the same time. Over the handlebars I go and head first onto the road (10 out of 10 for the somersault, negative score for the landing unless it is on funniest home videos). Luckily it was quiet and no cars were around. Five people stopped to assist and the nice taxi driver parked behind me in the left lane and put his indicators on until I had recovered enough to move to the footpath. Had a headache brewing, went to the doc and was diagnosed with mild concussion and likely whiplash (although my neck wasn’t hurting at the same). A nice dint in the helmet too. On the train to Mum’s I go as someone needed to look after me due to the concussion and late that afternoon the doctor’s diagnosis was proven correct – the neck starting hurting a lot. Physio the next day and 4 weeks later no more headaches from the whiplash. Only 2 days off work for the concussion. Lesson learned – never use just your front brake coming down a hill. Including the accident with the van I have posted about earlier, 2 accidents for a total n00b in their first year of commuting ain’t too bad. Considering both could have been preventable if I was not stupid or had ridden more defensively, cycling is not as dangerous as many think. My grade two teacher gave me the nickname WD (Walking Disaster) and my mum has renamed that to RD (Riding Disaster). I’m just one of those people who is prone to doing stupid things…

I’ve also gained an appreciation for a good bike mechanic. I’ve had horrible experiences with bike mechanics, and have still only found one that I am happy with. This has encouraged me to learn more about my bike and I will be attending the November session of Bicycle Training Australia’s basic maintenance course. Then hopefully on to the more advanced courses. I am forking out too much money on bike mechanics :)

My commuter has treated me well the last year, however due to my increase in commute and frequency since I first started, it is sad that I am going to have to retire it as my commuter over the coming weeks. The last few months has seen too many problems with it (repeated back wheel punctures, weird creaking sounds just to name a few) and it was also sold to me a size too big. My MTB and road bike are a smaller frame size and I feel a lot more comfortable riding them. I’m going to replace the wheels on the road bike with 28c and change the pedals to reversible no cleats on one side/MTB cleats on the other. I’m still a bit shaky with the cleats, so will continue to ride without them for my commute until the confidence increases.

I’ve done it. I’ve become a regular commuter by bike to work. Didn’t think I could do it, but I did. If you’re a first time commuter this year, welcome to the party. Continue commuting on the bike and you will definitely gain a lot as the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. My husband and I only have one car and we are now only driving 600km a month. A huge saving considering we were driving over 25,000km a year while living in Lara. Buying in inner Melbourne, close to public transport has been a complete lifestyle change for us and we are enjoying it immensely. To top it off, the hubby is starting to ride to work too :)

I’m sure in 20 years from now I’ll be looking fondly back on my first year of commuting wondering what all the fuss was about! Next step is to lobby all levels of government for better and safer cycling facilities to ensure more people are able to enjoy this new passion of mine :)

If you’re new to commuting and have any questions, feel free to ask. I’m more than happy to answer, and if I don’t know the answer, I’m more than happy to use my growing network of cycling friends to ask for you.

Happy cycling :)

Riding to work is not as easy as it seems…

19 Jul

There’s many articles/blog posts/comments out there praising the great aspects of commuting to work on a bike, however it is not as all plain sailing as you would hope. Below I will outline 5 of my pet peeves about riding (there are always workarounds), but just to put it into perspective, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives by a long shot!

  1. Initial outlay of cash – Buying a bike, bag, helmet, waterproof/windproof jacket, cycling shoes, cleats, pedals, wings for the cleats so you can walk around comfortably, drink bottle holder, pannier, pannier bags, mud guards, gloves, leg/arm warmers, cycling cap, windproof glasses (I’m still drooling over some), servicing, tubes, puncture kit, bike pump, bike lock, saddle bag, helmet cam etc. I’m sure I’ve missed some. Not all are necessary, but if you become a regular commuter you start to realise that small things can make your commute a lot more comfortable.
  2. You never have a good enough bike. Once you catch the bug, you seem to always want a better bike! I’ve done pretty well, have kept the same bike I have had since I first started riding to work in October 2011. However, I see other bikes pass me on the way to work and start wishing I had that feature/component on my bike. I have satisfied this by purchasing a road bike and mountain bike since, but I would love a better commuter :) The n+1 bug is a post on its own…
  3. Rain. I don’t care what people say, I am turning into a fair weather cyclist. Riding in the rain is horrible, especially when your commuting clothes haven’t dried during the day for the ride home. Cold, winter, windy rain is the worst. I rode to work many times over summer in the rain and it was an ok experience. If you want to become a commuter who rides to work in the rain, you will need to fork out more cash for appropriate clothing. It can be done I have been told…
  4. The sauna once I shower at work. During Summer (and sometimes in Winter), the steam from all the other showers at work ensure I never actually feel clean from the shower! Unfortunately at work I have to walk through a public hallway and locker area (both male and female access) to get to the female change rooms. This means I have to dress in the shower cubicle. Apart from it being small, trying to make sure my clothes don’t get wet, the steam from the other showers makes the shower room feel like a sauna! In Summer my clothes stuck to me until I got out of there! This is also a pain if you don’t want to wash your hair because your hair turns into a frizz ball too. Anyone with unruly curly hair would understand what I mean :)
  5. Motorists/cyclists/pedestrians. They all annoy me. Cars who pass too close, move into bike lanes in heavy traffic and are arrogant idiots. Some cyclists get flustered a lot by this, but I just vent to my husband when I get home. You’re not going to change people’s attitudes unless they want to change them, so there’s no point wasting your energy. It is not only motorists who annoy me, cyclists who are rude, disobey road rules annoy me just as much. I’ve witnessed two close calls of cyclists running red lights on the Footscray Rd path. One was very nearly cleaned up by a very big truck. Pedestrians also have a lot to answer for. They will jog on shared paths with their headphones in, you call out or ring bell that you are passing, pass them, then they abuse you for not ringing your bell. Ahhh…if you weren’t listening to Justin Bieber, you would have heard it! Another pet peeve is pedestrians who cut through the bike box at the front of intersections to save 3 metres! I know it is small, but I have nearly ran into a few coming up through a bike lane…

There are some more, but the pros of exercise, losing weight, enjoying the great outdoors, meeting other cyclists, being in control of your own transport and not relying on metro definitely outweigh the cons :)

Image

The view from the strand in Williamstown

8 May

The view from the strand in Williamstown

A brilliant morning for my last commute on the bike into work from Williamstown. Just a pity about the headwind…

Review: Ortlieb Roller Classic Bicycle Touring Panniers

29 Apr

What: Ortlieb Roller Classic Bicycle Touring Panniers
Colour: Orange
Use: Pack all my crap in for commute to work and hang on my pannier
Why: Was recommended by many people including those riding on the punt, BV forums, wiggle and Twitter

Rating: 4.9/5

One of my first memories of riding to work for the first time was a sweaty back from carrying my backpack. I hate sweaty backs. So I started investigating pannier bags as I had a pannier on my bike.

During my research I kept coming back to the Ortlieb Roller Classic Bicycle Touring Panniers, but as a new cyclist I was hesitant to spend $139 on anything related to cycling (it was supposed to be saving me money). However, after reading the wiggle reviews I decided to bite the bullet and just buy them.

Best. Investment. Ever

First of all they are waterproof. So if you are taking your clothes, or anything with you on the commute, it keeps everything in the bag dry. I can attest to this claim. I rode home in a horrible summer storm. Everything was soaked, including me. Except everything in the bag was dry. No drop of water at all.

I can also claim that the inside is waterproof too. I spilt my lunch in the bag on a commute once (forgot to put it in a plastic bag) and had to clean out a stinky curry smell from it. I just emptied the whole bag, blasted it with water, wiped it all down inside and put it out in the sun. All dry and clean!

I think the best thing about the bags are the ease of use. They clip on and off really easily as the quick lock hooks open automatically by pulling up the handles.

The only gripe I have with them is that there isn’t an easy outside pocket to access my security card, keys and mobile phone from. But that’s what sandwich bag/cling wrap is for isn’t it? Wrap anything you want easily accessible in cling wrap or put it in a sandwich bag and then put it in your pocket. Handy hints I am learning from other cyclists :-)

Another great memory was riding to work the first day with them hooked on to my bike. A group of older male cyclists passed me on Nelson Place, then slowed down and asked if I was doing the great victorian bike ride the next week. I had no idea what they were talking about at the time (you will be proud to know that I do now). But I did learn that just like when you buy new basketball shoes, people can tell if you have brand new cycling gear! Must make them look worn in before taking out in public. Cycling n00b at my best that morning :-)

I originally bought them from wiggle for $130, however they are no longer available to Australians on wiggle.

They are available from http://www.cellbikes.com.au/Roller-Classic-Waterproof-Bicycle-Touring-Panniers for $169.

I’ve never used cellbikes, but others highly recommend them.

Wiggle Platinum

29 Apr

So…between my husband and I, we have become Platinum members on Wiggle. We haven’t even bought a bike through them.

Sad…sad…sad! :-)

Thanks family for the wiggle “money” you gave me for my birthday!

Another service

29 Apr

Had the commuter bike serviced again today. Let’s just say I had some more horrible experiences with LBS (Local Bike Shop). This one was a new one too. They quoted me way above what they should have for the whole brake system (back and right) replacement. Luckily I have learnt to ask for a second opinion, and a very wise man told me I was being ripped off (thanks Alex).

So once again I got No Limit Cycles out to repair my bike (yes I named them this time, but I didn’t receive any discounts etc…I just think he deserves a great customer recommendation from me as his service is the best). For a considerable cheaper price than I had been quoted from the LBS I had both front and back brakes replaced. They had rusted to oblivion, as I have been keeping the commuter outside during rain and had also commuted in rain a fair bit (I am becoming a true commuter!). I also got him to take the steel mudguards off as they had become a bit bent due to the accident.

Will be testing it out tomorrow, so will let you know how it all  goes! Apparently I will be doing a few skids getting used to brakes that actually work properly!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.