It’s quite a skill to speed through Sydney’s hills, navigating sharp turns, confusing road closures and sometimes less-than-friendly car drivers. And while the City of Sydney has free regular bike safety courses, (which are surprisingly good) nothing beats the advice of a road-hardy warrior who’s seen it all before. We spoke to cyclist Chris Rayment, who runs Secret Cities Scavenger Hunts. He’s spent the best part of eight years cycling to work in the CBD, and once even walked away from a not-so-friendly nudge from a city bus!
1. Choose the right bike. Helmets aside, choosing the right bike is the most important safety decision you can make. While it’s tempting to buy a slick racer or colourful hipster bike, a sturdy bike with flat handle bars is the way to go. You’ll naturally be looking up (not down, like with a racer) and you’ll be automatically more aware of what’s going on around you.
2. Plan your route for safety, not speed. It’s better to plan your trip before you leave the house. Choose to go via parks and back streets, even if they take you little out of your way. In the long run, it’ll be safer and will help you avoid traffic jams and accidents.
3. Use a beatbox, not earphones. Even though it’ll be embarrassing when you’re stopped at the lights and Justin Bieber blares loudly from your speakers, it’s much safer to have your own sound system than to use earphones. You need to be able to react to horns, tire screeches and the sound of those gigantic buses sneaking up behind you.
4. Don’t expect respect from car drivers. We know that as a cyclist, drivers can react to you like you’re the devil’s sporn, or worse, they don’t even see you. The less time you waste being angry about it the better. Once you’ve decided in your mind that drivers generally just won’t respect you, you’ll start cycling more defensively and safely. Do however treat pedestrians with respect – karma’s a bitch.
5. Look out for parked cars. When you’re pedalling at speed along a row of parked cars in the city, one of them will inevitably have a driver inside who’ll open the door without looking. And that can end badly for everyone… but mostly you. So keep an eye out for people who have just parked, and you are able to, move out into the road a little more to give them (and you) space.
6. Ride confidently and at the same speed at the traffic. This one sounds obvious, but riding confidently is the same way as saying, make definite movements, whether that may be to change lanes, turn corners or overtake. It’ll make drivers around you trust that you know what you’re doing, and they’ll cut you more slack (in theory). And the safest speed for a confident driver is at the same speed at the traffic. This can be easier said than done, but in the Sydney CBD the traffic rarely goes that fast.
7. Avoid footpaths. Thanks to Mayor Clover Moore, the city features more and more cycle paths. Some work and are useful, and some don’t and aren’t. Whether you use them or not, avoid cycling on the footpath as it’s technically illegal. And it’s too crowded in the CBD for that anyway.
8. Regularly service your bike for free. A good service is even more important if you are speeding in and out of traffic every day. Always carry a spare tube and pump with you, and check out the free bike servicing run every couple of weeks by Sydney Cycle Ways.
Got any other tips for cycling in Sydney’s CBD? We’d love to hear them