I get on my bike as often as I can. This can be tricky with three kids but my older two are competent cyclists and my youngest is very easy to put into either of my three options – front seat, back seat or trailer.
Having a bike trailer is a game changer for a mum – probably for anyone, but it makes a family so much more portable on bikes, increasing crucial lugging capacity, and, I have found, is well worth the investment!
So, we cycle around town as much as we can.
This is one benefit of living in the inner-north that I would not want to give up in order to settle out in one of Canberra’s sprawling suburbs. Being able to cycle to events, the pool, the library, the supermarket and friend’s houses enhances our lives is worth the sacrifice of extra space for a large garden. We are satisfied with our small one (which is jam-packed with veges) and more than satisfied with being able to walk and ride to close-at-hand amenities and luxuries, rather than guzzle up fossil fuel (and extra time) to get there.
So my cycling around town is an urban planning matter. It is closely linked to how we build our cities, how we are building Canberra.
Canberra is about as good as it gets for commuter cyclists in Australia. This is unfortunate because Canberra could be better. Fortunately, from what I can gather, ACT’s current government does seem to be pro cycling and active travel, pro medium to high density in parts (personally I am more in favour of medium density over high density in this city) and, I am hoping, also in favour of creating human scale, hospitable, fun and friendly public spaces. These things are all key to creating equitable, friendly cities where people do not have to rely on a car to get around.
In my cycle from Dickson, through O’Connor, into Civic and on into the Parliamentary Triangle and back again I encountered a range of cycling conditions. From my house I have to cross a busy intersection. This can be a little frightening with a 7 year old dare devil who loves to scream down the hill, “check your brakes!” I often call to him, not that it makes any difference. Then it is a squishy ride down a narrow but fairly quiet path to the main riding throughfare which runs from Dickson College right into The Australian National University, and on to Lake Burley Griffin, where offshoots can take you into various southern suburbs along idyllic rides by the lake. This path took me just a few block from the city centre where, after navigating a couple of less than desirable paths (caused by tree roots, so I won’t complain, I’d rather have the trees) I easily parked and did some grocery shopping.
This leg, my friends, was a journey easier than a car trip in peak hour and having to find and pay for parking in some of the storied car parks attached to the shopping centre. It included the added bonus of feeling the wind in my hair and a particular feeling that I was truly alive! If there is any feeling closer to flying than actually flying do tell because riding on a hotmixed Canberra bike path on a bike feels as much like it as I’d care to know!
After this we went on to the triangle where I made sure to take the Eastern bike path along Commonwealth Avenue bridge so that I could slide off onto the bike path taking me (along with twenty-odd mums with prams and various joggers and people in business attire) right to the back end of the National Gallery where I parked my bike and took my bonny daughter in to their excellent play space.
Truly, being a mum of a little one in Canberra does feel positively utopian at times!
The journey back home again was equally straightforward, except for finding a new, quieter, route home through Reid, which is yet another joy of cycling – adaptability and adventure.
There is certainly room for improvement in Canberra, living location is certainly one important factor to being able to make this choice. My point is that it is definitely, in my eyes, a choice worth choosing. I prefer this mode of travel above all else!