Saturday 1 August 2020

Melbourne Bike Grid Map

Summary: Google Maps bicycling layer is a useful cycling infrastructure tool but it's hard to find complete routes and its directions are always sub-optimal. Actual cycling experience is needed to identify the preferred complete routes, links and cycling-specific destinations. Hence, I've created a Melbourne Bike Grid Map to collate these insights. I continually update the key routes, destinations and info of most relevance to Melbourne cyclists. This post will explain how to use the custom map and provide answers to common queries.

Saturday 22 July 2017

The best value commuter and utility bicycles available in Australia

Summary: The buying a bike and gear category on this blog contains several posts with guidance on choosing the most useful, reliable, low-maintenance and value-for-money bike and accessories to suit your circumstances.

However, I often just get asked to recommend some worthwhile bikes for commuting or getting around that are currently available in Australia, especially Melbourne - as that's where I live.

In this post, I will collate a list of the best value-for-money bikes available in Australia that I would consider for commuting or utility cycling. I include all of the bikes I own (Fuji Declaration single speed; Cell Otway 2.0 road bike, XDS Adult Street 5 speed internal gear hub bike), as well as ones I would consider buying if I had to replace one of my current bikes.

Some higher-end bikes become value-for-money when temporarily able to be had at steep discounts which is why I suggest starting with a search on - Bikes - New - Between $190-$700. Higher-end bikes more purpose-built for utility cycling (e.g. Specialized Globe Work models) can occasionally be had for up to 50% less than their normal price, thus making them worthwhile.

As of July 2017, the best value-for-money bikes available most of the time are: Pedal Messenger ($199 on sale), SE Bikes Tripel ($350 on sale for a 3 speed), XDS Adult Street 5 speed (~$400 on sale), 2nd hand Cell Messenger or Fuji Declaration (~$180), Breezer Uptown (~$400 on sale), Polygon Path 1 ($399), Fuji Absolute (~$350), Progear FB-100 ($249), Progear RD-140 ($269), Polygon Strattos (~$580) or 2nd hand Cell Otway (~$300).

Wednesday 21 June 2017

How to get the most out of dockless bike share networks in Australia

Summary: Dock-based ("Kiosk") bike share has had very low usage rates so far in Australia, with Melbourne Bike Share having too few stations, too small a coverage area, and only minimum public funding to keep it in operation. There's been no exemption from mandatory helmet laws, though helmets are now often available with bikes. And, within the city centre, the retrograde introduction of free tram travel has become another obstacle.

Meanwhile, China has seen an explosion of privately-funded dockless bike share networks which have become extremely popular as the cheapest and quickest way to make short trips around cities.

Given the constraint of Australia's mandatory helmet laws, it's likely the only bike share networks that will be able to offer the low-cost coverage and convenience necessary to be even moderately successful, will be of the dockless variety. As of June 2017, the first of these private networks - oBike - has launched in Melbourne.

In this post, I'll collate feedback, tips and suggestions on how to make dockless bike share successful in cities like Melbourne - for users, companies and cities (e.g. as a complement to transit).

It's vital to be aware that Australian cities, and interested users within them, can't rely on the same drivers of success as China: Most Australians who would consider getting around by bike will buy one and have efficient access to it; Australia does not have a longstanding transport cycling culture, and its cities typically have less safe cycling conditions for occasional cyclists, including less safety in numbers. Those who want it to work in Australia long-term, will need to find and unlock the specific niches that are most useful here while not overinvesting. They'll also need to be creative about unlocking other revenue sources.

Note: This blog post is a work-in-progress which will be updated with further analysis and recommendations as I review the experience in Melbourne over time.

Wednesday 10 May 2017

The best value-for-money bike parts, equipment and consumables and where to buy them

Summary: If you asked a long-time utility cyclist for tips on which bike parts and equipment to buy you'd get plenty of hard-earned insights. Performance, reliability, durability, cost and ease of DIY maintenance or replacement vary considerably. Price or the most well-known brand names are often not useful guides. Bike shop salespeople are also biased to selling what they stock, has high margins or requires bike shop servicing.

In this post, I will collate my own current conclusions and decisions for reference. Note that as you gain more experience with more product types or alternatives you will continually refine your preferences, so this post will be updated indefinitely.

The best equipment is typically more expensive so actually being able to obtain it at the lowest price (including delivery) turns out to be a big factor in value-for-money decisions. For example, your local bike shop might sell Schwalbe Durano Plus tyres for $80 each which might force you to accept a lower puncture-resistant brand. But if you could get them for $40 online this changes the equation. Consequently, a key part of the aim of this post is to find the cheapest places to acquire each item.

Flickr - Nicolai Bangsgaard

Thursday 17 November 2016

Are internal gear hub bikes the secret to low maintenance commuting?

Summary: In Australia, derailleur bikes with 20-27 external gears are so ubiquitous that most people don't even know there is a type of bike with internal gears hidden in the rear wheel and only 2-11 gears. Yet, in countries like the Netherlands, where everyone bikes for transport, internal gears are standard and it's mostly sports cyclists who use derailleurs.

One could conclude that derailleurs still dominate in Australia because cycling is still mostly a sport or recreation. Utility bikes are breaking through but, presently, the ones with internal gears tend to be heavy, slow Dutch bikes or too expensive to take the leap of faith.

But if hills, winds or a disinterest in unnecessary exertion put you off a single speed for getting around, I've long considered internal gear hub (IGH) bikes with 3 to 8 speeds to be - at least in theory - the next best alternative. Especially, if you want to minimise bike maintenance and service costs, leave your bike exposed to the elements all year round, and don't use most of the gear combinations on a 20+ speed bike.

A recent clearance price ($399) on a commuter bike with a 5 speed Sturmey-Archer IGH has led me to finally having the opportunity to use a common IGH bike and in this post I will provide guidance on suitability, finding the best option, saving money, and will also update the long-term results (maintenance required, mileage I get out of the IGH). Because of the wider steps between IGH gears, my Sturmey Archer 5 speed (wide range model) is delivering ~80% of the effective range of my 20 speed road bike.

XDS Adult Street with 5 speed Sturmey-Archer internal gear hub

Sunday 13 November 2016

Carrying kids on bikes - starting age, methods, safety and practicalities

Summary: If you and your partner have a bike-based lifestyle and then have a child, there's a lot to figure out regarding how to get around by bike until the kid is old enough to ride the trip themselves.

Our daughter Luka is now 10 months old and we are keen to start making bike trips with her. Until she is riding all types of trips herself (~5 years old), I'll be keeping this post updated with our decisions and answers to all of the common issues that arise including:

- What age is safe and practical to carry a child using a bike for common methods (centre versus rear kid seats, box bikes, rear trailers, etc)?

- What carrier methods are safest, most practical, and most affordable?

- Whether helmets are necessary for all ages and methods? And, if using a helmet, how to do so safely for infants? Are there alternatives to helmets for infants under 1 year?

- How to best deal with practicalities like the child needing to rest their head or nap?

- How to create genuinely safer routes including using off-road paths and footpaths in the safest way?

- How to ride with your partner and child so that the trip is as safe, stress-free and enjoyable as possible?

- The relevant laws and regulations that apply in Australia (starting age, helmets, footpath use, recommended minimum ages from manufacturers, etc)

Our Situation: Our daughter Luka has been in a Croozer Kid for 2 bike trailer and on a WeeRide centre-mounted bike seat since 10.5 months of age (she's much happier in the trailer). The WeeRide is too upright and the harness isn't great so I recommend a second-hand Yepp or Thule bike seat instead. She wears a Lazer Bob 46-52cm bike helmet in the bike seat but not in the trailer as she is happier with it off, the trailer is safer, and I ride very safely. (She'll start wearing a helmet in the trailer for some trips involving more on-road and high speed travel at around 2-3 years age). We use the bike seat only for very short trips when the trailer is too unsuited due to its size. The trailer is used for most trips (especially longer trips), when she'll need to nap in it or have weather protection, or when we need it as a stroller or for storage. At around 3 years, for the bike seat trips, she will switch to a rear seat as speeds will be higher and it's safer to brake with significant weight at the back rather than front.

The Guardian

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Tips on using bikes with V/Line regional trains in Victoria

Summary: V/Line provides regional public transport in Victoria by train and bus. Taking bikes on trains to and from regional destinations is becoming more desirable for both commuters to Melbourne and for cyclists pursuing recreation in regional areas - especially given Victoria's fantastic rail trails.

Unfortunately, V/Line currently provides very limited and low priority services for those seeking to take bicycles on regional trains. Present regional train services accommodate only a handful of bikes at the best of times and the decision on whether to allow bikes at each station is solely up to the conductor. Official advice is to avoid taking bikes in the peak hour direction during weekdays from 7-9:30am and 4-7pm and any other busy times.

Nevertheless, there are various tips to maximise your chances of being able to take bikes on V/Line trains. I've collated them in this post. Experienced V/Line bike travellers have figured out how to make it work most of the time because there are few people committed enough to persist.

Monday 26 October 2015

How can cycling best contribute to personal wellbeing and a better life?

Summary: Liveable city rankings are obviously flawed because quality of life varies considerably for residents based on where they live and their access to well-paid jobs and amenities. But the more damaging implications are that individual wellbeing is primarily at the mercy of politics, economics and planning, and that individuals should focus on maximising the suggested indicators (e.g. income, home ownership, private schools). A more useful exercise is to compile a list of the proven factors that significantly influence personal wellbeing, quality of life and happiness. And then to consider how you might optimise your housing, work, transport and lifestyle decisions to maximise the benefits. This post isolates many of these personal wellbeing factors and suggests how cycling can best contribute to leveraging them.

The Australian Unity Wellbeing Index

Friday 23 October 2015

The dirty secret of Yuppie urbanist's parking waivers: car ownership on the public teat

Summary: Among other things, New Urbanism principles favour policies that reduce the ownership and use of cars in order to improve liveability for all residents. In practice, Yuppie Urbanism uses the cover of progressive urban reform to primarily pursue the narrow interests of professional elites. Broad Shoup-style parking reforms are typically thrown in the too hard basket, and so obtaining waivers (special exemptions) from off-street parking minimums is a common element of new urbanism projects where commensurate car ownership and parking demand can be reduced. An egalitarian, scalable interest in policies that actually reduced private car ownership would seek unavoidable tradeoffs (no cheating) that were open to all developers and residents. The dirty secret of campaigns for parking waivers on specific projects is that some of these urban elites are cheating - escaping the cost of contributing to car parking supply while still owning private vehicles they park in free or highly-subsidised public space (e.g. on-street). In this post, I look at a specific example in Melbourne and discuss how it could be resolved fairly for genuine, scalable community benefit.

Nightingale proposed development in Brunswick

Tuesday 30 June 2015

How to escape the tyranny of others' thoughtless car-centrism

Summary: I’ve already fully escaped from car-dependence and the accompanying costs, hassles, stress, health impacts and wasted time. I don’t use a car at all unless absolutely necessary for trips out of town, such as camping. If the trip is genuinely worthwhile, I’ll make the effort to organise a car through the best car share option I can find (currently Car Next Door). Unfortunately, sometimes family, friends or acquaintances arrange plans that presume we all own or use cars, and don’t mind hours of pointless driving or taking very expensive taxi rides. I've now quit accommodating these thoughtless demands. Rather than have to explain my justification in depth to each person, I wrote this post so I could just send it to those most aggrieved. Feel free to use it yourself; the case is watertight!

Flickr CCby2.0 - Sakeeb Sabakka

Friday 13 March 2015

What infrastructure and legal changes are needed to prevent dooring deaths in Melbourne?

Summary: In Feb 2015, Alberto Paulon was killed after being doored and pushed under the wheels of a truck driving alongside. This entirely preventable death occurred on Sydney Rd which has long been notorious for its high risk of dooring. This is exactly the same way James Cross died in another popular Melbourne street in 2010. However, a video of Alberto's incident has led to more media, political and community attention than normal, and there has been much debate on how to prevent future dooring deaths on this road and similar ones. Unfortunately, most of the mainstream discussion is ignorant of the key facts and real infrastructure and legal changes required to prevent these deaths. I'll use this post to concisely discuss them.

Friday 16 January 2015

The Better By Bicycle Android app

Summary: If you have an Android phone you can now download the free Better By Bicycle app, which is intended to provide useful smartphone-targeted content for transport cyclists. It is only available for Android as the app maker I used (Andromo) is Android-only. This post will be updated with details of what I've currently incorporated into the mobile app and any ideas for new features. Please also use the comments to suggest any content for the app, such as links to the most outstanding articles, websites, videos, books, apps and Facebook Groups/Pages.

Sunday 4 January 2015

The green illusions and false promises of the electric car (including Tesla)

Summary: Naive environmentalists have been fooled into thinking that private electric cars are green, sustainable and a necessary, key part of our transport future. In reality, electric cars are about sustainability only for the automotive industry and status quo financial and industrial systems. Thankfully, new sceptics like Ozzie Zehner, author of Green Illusions, have broken into the mainstream media with arguments dispelling the myths and greenwash around electric cars. I'll use this post to collate evidence that demonstrates why private electric cars will simply perpetuate our real problems (private cars, a commuting culture, a consumption and growth based economy). Bikes are the real solution for local trips, with public transport for longer journeys and car share and carpooling where required. And the focus of genuine environmentalists should be on transformative improvements to how we live, work, get around, and build a healthier, fairer society.

Friday 2 January 2015

My calculated benefits of cycling for transport

Summary: In 2014, I cycled for 99% of my local trips in Melbourne between 2km and 20km (4000km). So this annual calculation exercise will demonstrate with hard facts whether cycling really can be cheaper, quicker, easier, safer, healthier and more enjoyable than the alternatives for getting around cities like Melbourne. For each criteria, I compare cycling with using a car or public transport.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Greg Raisman

Wednesday 31 December 2014

The complete guide to electric bikes

Summary: Electric bikes (e-bikes, pedelecs) can make it feasible for more people in more types of circumstances to achieve many benefits of cycling for transport - specifically where distance, hills, winds, loads or fitness are barriers. However, it's important to consider: if e-bikes are really the best solution, if so, what type of e-bike to choose, and how to best use it to maximise cycling's advantages while not unnecessarily eliminating some benefits (e.g. free exercise, improving fitness/health) or introducing new barriers (risk of theft, ongoing costs). As I don't own or use e-bikes, this post will primarily collate links to the most helpful guides and resources.

Superpedestrian Copenhagen Wheel

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Why Mr Money Mustache's biggest secret of financial freedom is to ride a bike

Summary: Most people can benefit greatly from simple, candid and accurate guidance on how to really achieve financial freedom and put earning, spending and saving money into perspective with regard to what's really important in life. Mr Money Mustache (MMM) is one of the most popular personal finance bloggers in the world for doing just that. The connection with cycling and transport is simple - MMM advises that if he had to strip down his financial advice and philosophy to just one tip it would be to ride a bike. I agree and have a few insights that help clarify that it's not primarily about the money savings, it's about cycling's potential to transform your life for the better. This post will collate MMM's most salient posts and arguments about cycling vs driving in one place. This is especially important as many devotees of MMM or similar blogs struggle to fully understand how riding a bike can be so critical to a better life and financial freedom. Hence, they don't fully implement this element and I think they're really missing out. Also, if struggling to overcome the barriers to cycling, note that MMM doesn't write a transport cycling blog and his biking advice has some shortcomings that I've corrected in this post.

Mr Money Mustache

Monday 22 December 2014

Working less and more flexibly is desirable and a key to going car-free

Summary: Rethinking the purpose and desirability of conventional jobs is the key to eliminating car-dependent or miserable work commutes. Indeed, if you subtract the work commute, many more households could reduce or eliminate their car ownership. Logically then, there is a pathway for many households to follow, whereby reducing the number of work commutes and inflexible work constraints (e.g. being at work each day by a set time) enables alternatives to driving and car ownership to become feasible. This post will provide examples of how working less or more flexibly provides significant opportunities to reduce car ownership/use or make cycling and walking feasible options.

Flickr CC by 2.0 - Robert Couse-Baker

Friday 19 December 2014

Why you should campaign and vote to kill bad infrastructure projects

Summary: Big, expensive, city-changing infrastructure projects that are likely to fail, blowout in cost/time, cause major adverse impacts or simply miss the opportunity to radically improve the city, need to be killed as early as possible. You can't trust most politicians, bureaucrats, project-connected experts and especially private corporations to deliver the best social outcomes. Citizens need to inform themselves early enough to get directly involved in forcing the best decisions to be made. Urban cyclists often have the most to lose from bad projects as they shred funds that could be spent on cycling infrastructure as well as embed massive obstacles that entrench car-centric urban design. In this post, I'll collate salient articles and examples of these projects and the battles to kill or reshape them.

Flickr CC by 2.0 - WSDOT

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Opportunities, benefits and tips for mixed mode commuting

Summary: Mixed mode commuting simply involves combining more than one mode of transport in completing a trip - public transport, cycling, walking and driving. Many people that could gain some benefits from mixed mode commuting don't consider it carefully enough and stick to their existing mode (primarily driving or public transport only). Others struggle with the challenges of mixed mode commuting (connections, parking, flexible bike access). This post will collate opportunities, benefits and tips for getting the most out of mixed mode commuting with cycling as a key element.

Flickr CC by 2.0 - EURIST e.V.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

How to best improve cycling infrastructure through voting and political involvement

Summary: In modern democracies, the conventional way of achieving political change (laws, policy, public projects/initiatives) is through maximising the vote of the parties or candidates most sympathetic to your views. And also by influencing the policies and promises of these parties and candidates, and holding them accountable for commitments if elected. Most people are familiar with the many conventional ways of engaging in mainstream, conventional politics and so I won’t discuss them here. Instead, I’ll concentrate only on highlighting specific issues and opportunities in Melbourne that are not well known but may be worth