Bicycle Commuting in a regional town – Obstacles and Advantages

I do not drive a car and I live in what you would generally define as a municipality.  This means my predominate form of transport is the bike.  While we do have a public bus system, it has only 5 routes and operates half hourly to hourly between 7am and 6pm weekdays.  Having to swap buses is, apparently, mostly unheard of so the connection times often leave you waiting for the best part of an hour.  Not always practicable to use.  The town is fairly flat with 15km being the absolute longest journey from one side of the town to the other.  Apart from the recent floods, it doesn’t rain a lot with an average of 60 rainy days per year.  Perfect for the bike!

Road Width

Most roads, around here anyway, are incredibly wide.  Sometimes, wide enough for rear in 45° angle parking plus two lanes each way.  This is fantastic.  So much room to move and plenty of room for parking, cyclist and motorists.  On the downside, they aren’t maintained very well and where you would like to cycle is sometimes full of potholes and uneven surface.

Low Traffic

Peak hour 15mins is pretty much a non-event.  Even at the busiest times, traffic flows so there isn’t that frustration built up with stop start traffic.  This creates a much more obliging atmosphere where motorist and cyclists a like seem to get along.

Driver Behaviour

Both a blessing and a curse.  People seem more accepting to just wait their turn as you trundle along but this does lead to a lack of general awareness.  Most people aren’t malicious, even on the busiest streets and the main highway, and I rarely get beeped or squeezed off the road, deliberately.  But, I find constant vigilance is required when driving anywhere with a lot of parking for the inevitable no-look door opening.  Ditto for suburban streets and the no-look reverse the car out of the driveway on to the road.  A frequent problem I also encounter is cars underestimating the speed you are travelling.  We have a 40km/h zones around schools and in the main mall.  Drivers often “race” me in these circumstance to an intersection or press their luck with the “Give Way” requirements of a roundabout.

Road Works / Construction

Little thought, if any, is given to bicycle access during road works or building construction projects that impede cycle thorough fares.  The best example of this is on my daily commute.  The safest way for me to cross the river is via a bridge that has a separated pedestrian path.  It is wide and convenient to get on and off.  But on the city side, right at the exit, is a building construction project.  The safety barriers have taken over the road and the footpath leaving a small sliver of path and garden in which to traverse.  This leaves you with options that include riding on a signed no bicycling foot path or a gutter bunny hop.  To add to the bunny hop woes, cars from the construction site and those who are parking for near by shops often block the best entry/exit to this area.  Not cool.

Other Cyclists

A mixed bag.  Most days, I see a few other cyclists out and about.  There is a broad spectrum of those who cycle from all walks of life – school kids, commuters, leisure riders, fitness and sport riders.  I think this visibility and variability really helps.  Cycling seems to be popular and a few current and ex Olympians around the traps probably helps. Unfortunately, there are always those who do the wrong thing and it is popular to ride on the wrong side of the road which makes me cringe.

No/Limited Cycle Infrastructure

There is next to no cycle lanes in my town and no cycle only infrastructure.  Most shopping centres, major attractions, major places for life transactions have no bike parking.  So, you are often left locking up against a pole, tree, railing or pipe which just looks untidy or inconsiderate.  Those places that do have a rack, often have the front wheel only style that skinny tyred bikes just fall over in.  It also doesn’t offer much security for those who have quick release wheels.  Those that actually have a decent rack are situated outside in the elements.

Glass

It is everywhere.  Absolutely everywhere.  On the road, on the bridges, on the bike lanes, on the foot paths.  It is a near miracle that I haven’t had more punctures.   I think a lot can be said for South Australia’s refund program.

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