From commuting

Living the life

We had just finished a long meeting when the chairperson David invited us all to lunch. The seven of us went to a pub, ordered some drinks and got to know each other.

‘How’s inner city life?’ David asked.

‘Really good,’ I said. ‘I’m really enjoying being able to ride the Melbourne Bikes to work.’ I explained to the others on the table, ‘We moved into our new flat a few months ago.’

‘Does your husband ride to work as well?’ Theo asked.

‘Yes. He has his own bike and goes in the opposite direction.’

Theo held his hand up to stop me. ‘Do either of you have a car?’

‘No. No, we don’t have a car.’ I said.

‘Wait, wait… You don’t have a car? You walk and ride everywhere?’

‘Yes…’ I wasn’t sure where he was going. Theo looked a bit shocked.

‘You’re doing it!’ Theo said. ‘You’re doing that thing we all talk about but don’t actually believe! Living the life! Not having a car. Working near home!’

‘I don’t have a car either,’ Andrew piped in. ‘We sold it last month. I ride to work from Northcote. It’s faster than the car and public transport.’

Theo looked at us both in awe.

Slow cyclist

I had a great time on Ride to Work day. It was really easy to get a blue Melbourne bike — in fact, it turned out to be free on Ride to Work day. As I was riding, people along Bourke Street called out to me.

‘Hello cyclist! Do you want free breakfast?’ They pointed to a neat pile of brown paper bags in front of their cafe.

‘Hello! No thank you. I’m going to my company’s free breakfast,’ I said as I slowly wheeled by (it’s uphill coming up to Parliament House).

Free breakfast is one of the rewards of Ride to Work Day.

Now I’ve signed up for a one year subscription. It’s $50 and I get to ride the bikes for free for the first 45 minutes of each trip, which is longer than the standard 30 minutes. I have a blue stick that I put in the bike stand, then I can get whatever bike I want.

I rode to work today. The trickiest bit is Swanston Street. I had thought that Swanston Street would be the easiest — it has lots of cyclists and is closed to private cars during the day. However, this morning I found myself trying to squeeze between a parked truck, a street sweeper and a tram. The other cyclists seemed to be able to do it but I was too scared. Luckily, whenever I feel unsure about something, I can just hop off and wheel my bike on the wide pavements of Melbourne.

Here I am with the official Melbourne bike helmet. There were a whole row of bikes with helments attached so I took one of them.

Preparing to ride to work

Preparing to ride to work

As you can see, I don’t need to wear any special riding gear, just my work clothes. My commute takes 15-20 minutes for around three kilometres. I am a very slow cyclist. Every bike overtakes me. But that’s okay. I am obviously a baby bikist, with my clunky public blue bike, upright sitting position and impractical clothing. I don’t feel embarrassed about slowing the cycle lane down.

And look what I spotted! This is the second time that I’ve seen this mysterious yellow bike. I wonder why it’s yellow?

Mystery yellow Melbourne bike

Mystery yellow Melbourne bike

Stair Climber: Update

Two years ago, I wrote about being a stair climber.

I believe I’m still a stair climber of escalators in the Underground. However, I can’t provide the evidence. I now walk to work so there is no Tube behaviour to cite.

I wrote in my last stair climbing post:

‘I’ve finally bitten the bullet and resolved to take the stairs to the fifth floor, where my desk is at work. I did it every day last week. I hope I can keep it up…

‘I’ve avoided taking the stairs because (I know this sounds weird) I felt embarrassed walking past the crowd waiting for the lift. I felt especially embarrassed if someone in that crowd knows I work on the fifth floor because they, too, work on the fifth floor. In that context, being a shown to be a stair climber seems self-righteous and snobbish.’

Since that post, I relapsed and started taking the lift again. I couldn’t get over my embarrassment.

However, there has been a development. For the past 6+ months, I have climbed the stairs to the fifth floor every day. I have discovered a set stairs at the back of the building, hidden away so that I can do my shameful stair climbing in peace.

There are 90 steps all together, enough compensation for a third of a square of dark chocolate.

Taking more than your fair share

There are many things I can talk about under this blog post title of ‘Taking more than your fair share’. Ecological footprint is the obvious example for me.

However, I’ve had commuting and the Tube on my mind for the past few posts and I saw something that really irritated me. I sat opposite a man slouched on the other Tube seat. At the next stop, a lady got on and gingerly positioned herself on the nominally vacant spot next to slouched man. Any decent person would pull in their limbs to occupy only their fair share of the seat. But this man, who otherwise looked respectable in a business suit, didn’t budge and stared into space while listening to whatever was on his MP3 player.

If he was a large man, I would understand. But he was average sized! I couldn’t understand it at all! He was so rude!

Litter or gift?

Here’s something I’ve thought about in relation to free newspapers. Some people get annoyed when they see free newspapers left on the train and the platform. I used to disapprove of littering of this kind too.

However, I once heard someone on the train complaining about the selfish people who took their newspapers away with them. ‘Why don’t they leave them behind so that others can read them too?’ they grumped.

Now that I’ve taken the train after rush hour and have felt the disappointment of not finding any newspapers, I too appreciate the amenity of ‘littered’ newspapers.

I wonder if people leave their papers because they’re lazy or out of thoughtfulness? I suspect it’s laziness in most cases.