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A commuter cyclist’s guide to winter riding


Whether you started cycling to work for your health, the environment, or just for fun, the habit doesn’t have to stop when the wet weather starts.

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According to City of Adelaide Deputy Lord Mayor, Megan Hender, the benefits of cycling in the city are plenty.

“It’s certainly the quickest way to get around town, and that’s because you can tie up your bike right out the front of wherever you want to go,” she says.

“I think Adelaide is a perfect cycling city. Firstly, it’s got flat roads, it’s got fabulous weather – I was cycling today, it’s winter, and it’s just gorgeous, so unlike cities like Melbourne or Sydney, where it rains all the time, it’s often dry, so perfect cycling conditions.”

Convenience aside, cycling has environmental benefits, and it is the aim of the City of Adelaide and State Government to double the number of cycling trips in the city by 2020, and increase the number of commercial buildings with secure bicycle parking and end of trip facilities to at least 100 by 2020 to help commuters get on their bikes, as part of their joint Carbon Neutral Adelaide Action Plan 2016-2021.

Winter has rolled in though, and with it comes wet weather that can put off newly recruited commuter cyclists, just starting to find confidence on the road.

This need not be the case, Hender says.

“We have free bike parking in all of our UParks so that people can park undercover if they want to. We’ve got bike pumps, there’s one at 25 Pirie Street, which is right next door to Town Hall,” she says.

In addition, there are bike maintenance stations available, such as the one located at 59 Regent Street South at the beginning of the Frome Bikeway. The amenity includes a pump, Allen keys, screwdrivers, a chain breaker, wrench and shifter spanner.

“You’d be surprised how rarely rain impacts on riding. There’s probably been three days this year where I’ve thought ‘I can’t take my bike today.’

“I’ve got a good light raincoat that I take with me if I really need to, if I think there’s going to be a light rain, and I carry a scarf with me in my handbag so that I can wipe down my bike seat, and generally I just get back on my bike.

It’s not just rain that can deter cyclists; winter is also the beginning of puncture season, and for commuters who are unfamiliar with bike mechanics, maintenance can appear daunting.

To help bridge the divide between bike and rider, every Wednesday from 5pm to 8pm the Adelaide Bike Kitchen gathers people who have technical knowledge together with those who want to learn.

“We’re for behaviour change and empowering people to ride their bikes more, starting with the basic mechanical knowledge to not leave the bike at home if it does have a flat tire,” Joey Fagan, co-founder of the Adelaide Bike Kitchen, says.

“We run little campaigns every year about coming along to winter-proof your bike – so choosing tyres with a bit more grip, and you know, put mudguards on, and those sorts of things.”

Once a rider acquires the skills they need, they’re invited to also make use of the facilities at the Adelaide Bike Kitchen on Thursdays from 6pm to 8pm and Saturdays from 1pm to 4pm.

As for the rain, “gloves and a light jacket and you’ll be fine 360 days of the year,” Fagan says.

“If it ever was too uncomfortable [to ride in the rain], there are alternative options such as getting a lift, catching a taxi or getting a cuppa while the rain subsides. Adelaide really is a great place for biking.”

As the number of cyclists commuting grows, so too does the infrastructure supporting them, but we do have a way to go, Chief Executive Officer of BikeSA, Christian Haag, says.

“It’s not just Adelaide that has this issue, but we are poorly served by secure, separated bicycle infrastructure in Australia as a whole, and we know from much research that not only cyclists but motorists as well would prefer that cyclists have that separation on those major arterial networks,” he says.

“About 60 per cent of Australians say they’d ride more if they felt it was safe to do so… There’s a community need, and that community need is not being adequately met at this stage.”

Attitudes are changing though, Haag admits.

“I’ve been at BikeSA now for about 12 years, and I have to say there’s been a sizeable shift in certainly governments in both local and state appreciating the fact that getting more people riding is good,” he says.

“It’s good for health outcomes of the community, it’s good for congestion, greenhouse emissions, and it’s good because it’s what people want to do.”

There has been a more considered approach between outer ring council areas and the City of Adelaide, leading to a “seamless integrated network” of bikeways into the city.

“Norwood has their Beulah Boulevard, they’ve invested in that; Prospect has Braund Road, there’s still a little bit of work to do with some of the other ring councils; Unley has had 40 kilometre an hour speed limits for over a decade now and are focussing on some of those quieter streets like Porter Street, and has key interconnectors through their council area into the CBD.”

For commuter cyclists plotting their trip for the first time, Haag suggests not defaulting to the route you would take in a car, and instead checking with the Department of Planning Transport and Infrastructure’s Cycle Instead Journey Planner.

“You can actually plug in where you are and where you want to go, and it will provide you with a range of off-road options, so shared paths, on-road options, speed variations,” Haag says.

“And a lot of those are on quieter backstreets, which of course are far safer and a far more pleasant riding experience.”

If you have a long distance to travel, Haag also suggests considering the first mile and last mile approach; riding to the nearest public transport interchange and catching a bus, train, or tram, for the remainder of the journey.

“The opportunity there is to ride for only five or ten minutes to a transport interchange, jump on public transport, dip into town and back again. So first mile, last mile really does rely on good integration with transit, and the ability to park your bike safely and securely at that transport interchange,” Haag says.

If you have caught the biking bug, you know there is more to cycling than just the health and environmental benefits, and as long as you are prepared, even winter’s wilder moments shouldn’t deter you.

If you’re considering becoming a cycling commuter and haven’t yet made the leap, check out the State Government’s cycling page for tips, head along to a Back on the Bike workshop, or join in on one of the Adelaide Bike Kitchen or EcoCaddy’s social rides.

“The thing about my bike is that it makes me happy every day when I get on it,” Hender says.

“I know it’s childish, but there’s something delightful about being on a pushbike… Every time I get on my bike and cycle away from my house, I’m smiling.”

Solstice Media has partnered with the South Australian Government to provide information about the transition to a low-carbon economy. Read more stories like this here.

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