Commuting by bike
Cycle commuting is the way to go. It is cost effective, good for the environment and improves your health, fitness, finances and vitality at work.
The sort of bike to use
You do not have to buy a new bike to commute. The old 'clunker' collecting dust and spider webs under the house could make an excellent commuter machine if you take it to a bike shop and have it checked and reconditioned. It will be a good bike to get you started. Later, when you are more aware of your specific cycling needs, you might wish to upgrade. The buying a bike and helmet section of this website has some useful information to help decide which sort of bike to purchase.
It is worth planning your route carefully. Making use of bike lanes, bike paths and relatively quiet streets in the route will make your ride safer and more pleasant. Sometimes a road parallel to a major road provides lower traffic volumes and better cycling.
Some local councils have bike network maps that can help with route planning. You could ask someone who already commutes to offer recommendations. Most importantly, do a test ride before you start commuting.
The time it will take
Travel by bike can be faster than travel by motor vehicle where traffic is often congested in central business districts and near other commuter nodes.
Do a test ride before your first commute to get an idea of the time it will take. Add 20% onto your first day to allow for traffic and unforeseen events.
Some people take their bikes by car part of the way and cycle the remainder to give both exercise and more affordable (or free) parking. Some people drive where motor traffic is faster and cycle where bike traffic is faster. Some gradually increase the distance cycled as they increase in fitness and confidence.
Some people cycle to a railway station. Bicycle lockers, if available, provide safe storage for bikes and other gear. Other people cycle to the local bus or ferry stop and lock the bike securely nearby. The deck hand or captain might allow you to carry your bike onto the ferry if the boat is not crowded.
Keeping your work clothes (and yourself) looking good after the ride
In most cases it is best to change at work. You can keep your clothes tidy by:
- rolling the clothes rather than folding and shaking out when you arrive
- taking the next day's clothes today and leaving the clothes on a hanger overnight
- ironing your clothes at work (many work places have irons or you could buy an iron with your first fortnight's fare savings)
- commuting by public transport or car once a week and bringing a week's worth of clothes
- using uncrushable fabrics.
Showering at your destination is convenient if your work place has showers. Universities and colleges often have showers associated with a gym or a physical education department. Check with your employer, other cyclists, joggers and other companies in your building as there might be showers you are unaware of. You might even be able to arrange to use a shower in a local gym.
If there are no showers you can do a surprisingly respectable job with a hand basin using soap, a face washer, a towel and deodorant. A shower might not be needed if you ride slowly and avoid working up a sweat.
Storing your bike
It is important to keep your bike locked and in a secure place (see locking your bike). Your workplace might already have bike storage or an unused store room that you can use. Ask your employer, security staff or other cyclists where your bike can be stored.
Do not leave your bike in a fire escape or stairwell without checking that this is safe to do so as it might cause obstruction in an evacuation and contravene fire regulations.
Most cyclists carry a change of clothes and other items such as books, work equipment and lunch. A bike rack and panniers (saddlebags made for bicycles) increase your carrying capacity, keep the load stable and keep the sweat off your back. Talk to your local bike shop if a bike rack and panniers are needed. A standard backpack is suitable for lighter loads.
What happens if it rains?
You will get wet if it rains. Dry yourself and change your clothes at your destination. Protect items you are carrying by placing in (multiple) plastic bags (there is more information in the cycling in the wet section of this website).
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Workplace bike pools
A bike pool is a healthy and economic complement to a motor pool. Bikes are a great way to travel across town to meetings and functions as they:
- can be parked easily and conveniently at destinations, making trips faster
- give employees the opportunity to get some fresh air and exercise and arrive at their destination alert and energized
- demonstrate your organisation cares about the local area
- are affordable and easy to run and maintain.
A bike pool will pay for itself after only a few hundred kilometres cycled.
How to set up a bike pool
You will need to purchase:
- bikes – at least two of different sizes
- helmets – three to four of various sizes
- locks – a good quality U-lock is best
- a bell – a legal requirement
- lights – a legal requirement for cycling at night
- a cycle computer – to keep a record of mileage
- racks and panniers on the bike – for carrying things comfortably
- trouser clips
- a pump
- a patchkit.
Make sure your workplace is set up for bikes. A secure place to store bikes is essential, as well as showers and lockers for staff. Assess the end-of-trip facilities and consider whether any need upgrading.
Using the bikes
Develop guidelines on how to use the bike pool. Include information on how to carry items while riding and how to lock the bikes securely at destinations. It is a good idea to consult with workplace health and safety officers when developing guidelines.
Advice on how to use the bikes safely and the road rules for bicycles can be found in the safety and road rules pages. Check the maps web page or speak to your local bicycle user group for route advice.
Employees can use bikes in conjunction with trains to cover longer distances. The bikes and public transport section of the website has more information on taking bikes on trains.
Maintenance costs are low but bikes need to be kept in good working order. Make sure someone is responsible for maintenance and recording the use of the bikes. It is a good idea to keep a maintenance checklist near the bikes to remind users to be aware of maintenance issues.
A good place to buy spare parts and accessories and for maintenance is the shop where the bikes were bought. Using the same bike shop can establish a service history.
WorkCover may cover employees for injuries sustained in the course of their duties and when travelling to and from work. Check your organisations' WorkCover arrangements when you set up your bike pool. Ensure employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities.
Log if the bikes are being used for recreational or personal purposes as any injuries sustained are unlikely to be covered. Membership of Bicycle Queensland* can protect users if they are injured in these circumstances. The insurance section of this website has more information.
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Bicycle friendly workplaces
Encouraging your employees to ride to work can reap benefits. Employees who are fit and healthy have a higher level of job satisfaction, perform better at work and have better health. Cycling to work saves on car parking spaces and fuel.
Providing end-of-trip facilities is the main thing employers can do to encourage employees to cycle. These can include:
- a safe, well-lit, secure place to store bicycles
- showers and change rooms
- lockers to store towels, work clothes and riding clothes
- an iron, ironing board and hair dryer
- basic bicycle tools such as a floor pump and tyre repair kit.
Many employers might not be able to provide all of these, but could:
- negotiate access to nearby facilities in gyms or clubs. This could include negotiating non-peak rates or concessional membership if available
- provide facilities in cooperation with other nearby business
- reimburse employees who incur costs such as gym fees, bike storage fees or bicycle maintenance.
Other initiatives to encourage cycling are:
- allowances such as mileage to employees using bicycles for work purposes
- salary packaging that could include cost of bikes, accessories, clothing or membership of a club where the employee showers
- a special deal with a bike shop for discounts
- membership of cycling organisations that provide access to insurance cover and other support to people who cycle
- a 'buddy' system to encourage inexperienced cyclists
- a work bike pool to encourage use of bikes for work purposes
- a tool library for employees maintaining their own bikes
- a flexible hours scheme so employees can avoid cycling in peak traffic.
The exact needs of employees can vary according to the type of business and the location of the workplace. Employers could encourage a workplace bicycle user group, which can provide feedback on the needs of employees who ride.
Bicycle friendly businesses
There are many benefits of catering for people on bikes if you run a business. Most people on bikes shop in their local area, tend to buy less but shop more often because of their limited carrying capacity. Cyclists can be drawn to businesses by good parking or other facilities because it is easy to stop and park a bicycle. Cyclists can spend more on shopping as they spend less on cars and petrol.
People on bikes can form a significant part of a business's customer base. Retail businesses can attract bike riders by providing:
- convenient and secure bike parking
- a delivery service for bulky items or big orders
- a drinking fountain or other access to cold water
- restroom facilities.
Retailers can work together with the local council to ensure good facilities are provided for people who ride and to enable a safe route to shops.
Many people enjoy strong coffee, plenty of water and energy foods such as pastries at cafes after a bike ride. Cafes can also become regular meeting places for cycling groups who can be encouraged with discounts and other incentives. Bike parking near the cafe will save clutter around the tables.
Cycle tourists can contribute significantly to local economies as they tend to stay in an area for a relatively long period. Cycle tourists carry less and buy many of their day to day needs locally. Some camp, some stay in overnight vans, motels, local pubs or bed and breakfasts.
Local accommodation providers can encourage cyclists by ensuring:
- Showers facilities are of a good condition.
- Bike parking is secure.
- Access is given to equipment that a cycle tourist might not carry (foot pump, work stand, chain tool, chain lubricant, spoke key, cone spanners, hand cleaning solution). Accommodation providers can supply or source equipment through a local bike shop.
- Maps of the local area showing bike friendly routes and local attractions are supplied.
- Signage to the accommodation is provided.
- Information in the languages of frequent overseas cycle tourists (Japanese, Dutch, French, German) is provided.
Advertisements for cycle tourist accommodation can be effective if placed in local tourist maps, specialist cycling magazines and on the internet.
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