A guide for first-time cyclists in Melbourne

What gets you around the city, can sometimes be free and is environmentally friendly? Why it’s cycling, of course!

Cycling in Melbourne can be great for those looking to get around a bit more affordably. It also provides the added bonus of providing cyclists with a whole body workout, is beneficial for the environment, helps cyclists bypass stagnant traffic and can be a relatively cost-efficient activity!

With a whole host of benefits, if you’re looking to take up cycling in Melbourne, here’s how you can start!

Getting your own bike

Owning a bike is the first step but we understand if students can’t afford to keep one in their home due to space and clutter or don’t have the funds to get one. There are alternatives which include renting a bike which you can do with the Melbourne bike sharing stations located around Melbourne or using the oBikes around the city too.

Nevertheless, if you wish to own a bicycle yourself, just know that there are three types: city/road, mountain and cyclo-cross. For casual use in metropolitan areas, we recommend the city/road bikes.

Bikes usually cost anywhere between $200 – $400. It may seem expensive but think about it in the long term – if you’re relying on this as your main mode of transportation, you’ll be saving heaps simply by never needing to top-up your myki. Some bike maintenance may be needed to ensure your brakes and tyres are road-safe but this can be easily done on your own or with your local bike shop.

Safety gear and extra equipment to have

So you’ve got your bike – great! But before you can actually put those tyres onto the pavement, you’ll need to have some safety equipment to ensure you don’t get any bumps and bruisers.

Cyclists in Australia MUST have a helmet if they wish to get around anywhere – even if they’re riding on the footpath. Not wearing a helmet whilst cycling may mean having to cop a fine so do ensure that you at least have a helmet on if you’re out on your bicycle.

Other safety gear you might want to consider purchasing include:

  • Bike lights: Front and back lights for your bike will help alert other cyclists and drivers on the road to your location when cycling at night
  • High-vis/reflector vest: A bright high-vis/reflector vest will also help you stand out, especially in the dark
  • Bell: Not all bicycles will come equipped with a bell so having one on yours might be helpful to let people know they may be in the way or that a bicycle is approaching
  • Pads: While not absolutely necessary, if you are concerned about your safety, think about investing in pads for your knees or your elbows. It’ll help absorb damage sustained by your joins if you end up falling off your bike.

Cyclist etiquette

Drivers in Melbourne have a habit of throwing road rage fits towards cyclists. Don’t give cyclists a bad name by maintaining some good cycling etiquette while you’re on the road!

Keep in mind the following:

  • Stay in your designated path: Sometimes, it will be very clear as to where your bike path is (in Melbourne, cycling lanes are often painted in green for example) but other times it may be a bit difficult to tell. In any case, keep your distance and, when in doubt, steer onto the footpath, dismount and walk your bike until you’re sure you’ve found the right bike lane for you.
  • Do not ride side-by-side: Always ride ahead or behind a cyclist and avoid creating congestion! It’s fine to overtake but make sure it’s safe to before doing so!
  • Use hand-signals: There’s nothing worse than a cyclist who doesn’t indicate. Unlike a car which can indicate with its lights, cyclists need to show to cyclists, pedestrians and drivers that they intend to turn left or right by using their hands. Communication is important on the road, just as it is in life!
  • Headchecks: Hand-signals, coupled with headchecks ensure that you’ll be able to safely overtake or turn where you need to. Like you would in a car, make sure you do headchecks as much as possible, especially when you’re turning.

Those new to Melbourne or students wishing to cycle their way around the city may find the experience intimidating at first but like all things, it will get better with time. Sure, you’re often sharing the road with cars and may also find yourself riding in close proximity to parked vehicles and pedestrians as well. But if your patient, alert and ensure that your bike is road-safe, cycling in Melbourne can be a whole lot of fun.

And who knows, maybe you’ll cycle more than just to and from school – you can even start to do more bike trails and explore more of Melbourne’s sights outside of the main city area!

This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch with us via meld@meldmagazine.com.au.

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