Cycling to work: commuter guide

Bicycle commuter

Commuting by bicycle feels great, makes you fit and is good for the planet.

Credit: Ildar Sagdejev

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STEP 3 - Pick your route

You'd be surprised how far and how quickly you can go on a bike. A 15 km commute will quickly become a breeze.

Don't bother riding your normal drive to work on traffic-choked roads or high-speed freeways. The back-street route is the way to go! Use a street directory, ready-made bike guide, or bike map to find the quiet streets, cycleways or short cuts. Look for back streets that cross main roads at traffic lights and/or have a street closure, plus off-road paths or laneways. Try checking out a new route early on a Sunday morning along with an experienced cyclist. You can also combine the trip with public transport to extend your distance or avoid bad weather.

The Internet has sites where you can see routes that others use and plot your own (www.bikely.com, www.mapmyride.com and www.guttermonkey.org). You can even link up with other riders.

Both the RTA in NSW and VicRoads in Victoria have downloadable or interactive bike maps. For Western Australia google Perth Bike Maps, for South Australia BikeDirect and for Tasmania Cycling Hobart. For the nation's capital look for the Canberra Cycleways Map and for sunny Queensland there is Brisbane City Council's Bikeway Maps.

STEP 4 - Freshen up

You don't need special clothes to cycle. If you have taken heed of the tip on taking it easy, you'll arrive at work fresh and relaxed - no sweat, so no shower needed!

If your office has the luxury of lockers and showers, then it's no drama to keep a towel and a stash of toiletries in your desk drawer. And unflattering 'helmet hair' is less of an issue if you let it dry before donning your noggin protector.

Many people look crisp by commuting by car or public transport once a week with a load of clean, ironed shirts. Another option is to keep your clothes neat by rolling them up in your daily broadsheet, then putting this Aussie bike commuters 'swag' snugly into your backpack or pannier. That way you have something to read at lunchtime too.

For lots, lots more pedalling goodies see www.cyclingpromotion.com.au

The rules

Cyclists in Australia do not require a licence and bikes do not need to be registered. You must wear a helmet, and you must have a working bell and brake, and lights at night-time.

In the eyes of the law, bicycles are legal vehicles and thus cyclists enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as other road users, for example, a cyclist has a right to a lane of traffic and must stop at red lights. In addition, bike riders are allowed to overtake a vehicle on the left, and ride two abreast (but no more than 1.5m apart). In most states, you can ride on the footpath if you are under 12 years of age or supervising someone who is, or on a footpath marked as a shared route.

For all the details, search for the web site of the road authority in your state.

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