Buses, bikes and hire cars

Yes, yes – it’s a second transport post so soon after the first. I know, I know… but now I have a home and a commute and a routine, I have more to say!

The three modes in the title sum up the way I’ve been getting around lately. My commute is a bus or a bike, and my aim is to cycle more often than I don’t. The journey time is much of a muchness – about 25 minutes, but I need and appreciate the exercise, and if I go via the wonderful swimming pool at Milson’s Point then the bike is definitely quicker. It’s quite different from my London commute though, and not only because it’s not much more than half the distance.

Half the journey – crossing the Harbour Bridge – is utterly glorious, once I’ve hauled my bike up the steps onto the cycleway. I hadn’t realised until I moved north of the bridge that you can only walk over the East side (the glamorous view side), and the West side is a dedicated bike path. After leaving the path on the southern side, I can roll along a quiet street in The Rocks and down a hair-raisingly steep but thankfully short street and I’m at the office. Winner. The northern end is less amazing – not awful, but mostly a road with a fair few cars, not all of whose drivers are all that considerate. I recently discovered a cut-through which chops some of it off on the way down, which helps, but the ride will never fill me with deep joy, especially on the way home when I can’t do the cut-through because of a 100m one way stretch, and it’s uphill all the way. I’m glad though that I work at the north of the CBD and travel north to get home, avoiding the need to ride through the long-and-thin city centre very often.

What I realised while wheeling over the bridge to work one day last week is that I’ve hardly overtaken anyone on my bike since arriving. Now, there is no doubt I am woefully out of shape right now, but my conclusion to both this and the tragic underuse of work’s amazing bike facility is that cycling just isn’t seen as a mode of transport. I’ve seen a fair few Lycra-clad blokes on road bikes, but not many work clothes-wearing folk using their hybrid to get to to the office. As those who I’m friends with on Facebook will have seen, I posted a photo last Friday of the cycle storage room at 8.30am that day. There were a single figure number of bikes in an office of 3,000 people. Maybe a quarter of the number there would be on a typical day at my London employer, where the office held 200. It’s certainly a combination of factors, but I reckon a joined-up strategy to improve the very mixed infrastructure and improve awareness would be money well spent. That said, it appears there are some great off-road bike paths around the edges of the city – in Centennial Park and around the north shore – so I need to check those out at a weekend.

On days when I’m not on the bike, I commute by bus. My nearest station is in North Sydney, 20 minutes’ walk away, so by the time I got there I could be most of the way to the office, so it’s only worth it if I need to do or buy something there on the way/way home. There’s a bus stop within 30 metres of my front door, but turns out that buses don’t run through to the city from there in the high morning peak, so I need to stroll about 8 minutes north, over the freeway to Cammeray, from where buses run extremely frequently and get straight onto the freeway. It isn’t free-flowing, but buses rarely come to a halt, and I’m still in the novelty period when I enjoy going over the harbour bridge and looking at the view. I love the orderly queues at bus stops, and in Cammeray there are two queues on opposite sides of the pavement – one for the city and another for North Sydney. Some days I’ve had to wait for a couple of buses to go by, and on other days it’s been empty at the stop and on the bus – I can’t work it out! But the post-late-night-in-the-office journey home in a taxi last Tuesday night made me realise how long it “should” take to get home from the CBD – not much more than five minutes!

The other way I’ve got around a little bit is in a “Goget”, the Australian equivalent of zipcar. I’ve been seriously impressed with this operation – heaps of cars (three cars and a van within five minutes’ walk of my place), a choice of membership packages, and real ease of use – book on an app, scan your card on a reader on the windscreen to open the car and off you go. I hired one for a few hours the day I moved house, and again to pick up a Facebook marketplace purchase two days later, and for a third time this Saturday as I needed to be in a slightly obscure bit of the Central Coast by 9am to go kayaking, and thought I’d do an all-day booking so I could hit the homewares shops on my way home. It feels like a big marginal cost per use, but at under $10 an hour or $80 per day (plus a per-mile cost, which doesn’t apply under 150km on an all-day booking, tolls and $12/month membership), it’s a damn sight cheaper and less hassle than owning a car Incidentally, Patonga is lovely and the kayaking was great!

All in all, I miss London cycle infrastructure, but can’t say I miss the crowded 07:57 from Tulse Hill to Blackfriars! My bus commute is a lot cheaper too…

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