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Pedal Powered

Date: 17-Sep-13

Claire on her bike © Jess McCallum

This is Claire. She's 40, a busy mother of two gorgeous girls, and lives in Sydney's funky, but busy, inner west. Last year, she decided to take on the challenge of converting her commute from train platforms to pedal power and here's her story. The uphills, the downhills and everything in between!

Last year I took on the challenge of cycling from Sydney to Wollongong. This was daunting as although I was physically fit, I hadn't been on a bike outside a spin class in years. But having recently turned 40, I felt a new challenge would be good. So I dusted off my 24-year-old bike, got it serviced, bought a new saddle (extra support was needed due to turning 40!) and started training in earnest. I completed the 90km ride, thoroughly enjoyed it, and caught the cycling bug.

This started me thinking about cycling to work, as there seemed to be many benefits. I could combine my exercise time with my commute, be environmentally friendly, save money on my train tickets and get outdoors. For me, cycling to work takes the same time as my train commute.

The thought of riding to Circular Quay in peak hour traffic was a bit scary after hearing stories of the sometimes uneasy relationship between motorists and cyclists. I decided to prepare by attending a free cycling workshop run by my local council. It taught me some basic bike maintenance skills, road traffic rules and safe cycling know-how. They also checked my bike was roadworthy and advised on any gear I would need. I found the course beneficial and recommend new cyclists to find a locally run workshop.

Armed with a Sydney Cycleways map, I planned my route and did a practice ride into the city one weekend when traffic was quiet. The route I settled on means I cycle in traffic for about 10% of my journey - the rest is on dedicated cycle paths and back streets, which makes me feel a lot safer.

I have now been cycling to work for almost a year and I have not looked back. It is great to get outside and feel the fresh morning air, and get the legs and heart pumping. I love hearing the morning birdsong and my ride takes me through an inner city regenerated wetlands area, which is calm, quiet and beautiful. It's my favourite part of the journey.

I would like to encourage others to take the plunge, feel good about their environmental footprint, and discover the benefits of cycling for body and soul. I particularly encourage female cyclists, as there are not many of us riding into the city. I have felt safe and so far have not encountered any major issues commuting by bike. I take my time, don't take risks and treat others as I would like to be treated.

I have even upgraded to a new bike, which should keep me commuting for many years to come!

Ride2Work is a great program aiming to get people started and keep them riding to work. It's designed to help people move from 'contemplation' to 'action' and establish the habit of the most eco-friendly mode of transport. By participating in National Ride2Work Day and registering to make your ride count, you inspire thousands of others to give it a try. Your registration also makes an important contribution to building the case for better bike facilities in your community, so get your bike out, pump up those tyres and start riding! Check out the Ride2Work website for more information.

Claire and the Planet Ark team will be cycling to work on Ride to Work Day, so will you join us?

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