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Using a bicycle as your main form of transport or for occasional trips will significantly lower your travel costs and reduce your energy use. It's also a great way to improve your health and fitness and reduce the stress of driving and parking. You can get some exercise and get to where you want to go at the same time.
If you can't cycle everywhere, you can still benefit by using your bicycle for short trips.
A bicycle is a very cost-effective means of transport. Bikes are generally much cheaper to buy than cars or motorbikes and use much less energy for their production. Using a bicycle for transport means you will also save on fuel and parking costs.
Cycling is a great way to include regular exercise into your day or routine. It can lead to long-term health benefits like increased strength and muscle tone, fitness, and even reduce stress. Remember cycling only has to be as strenuous as you want it to be.
Cycling also makes our cities and communities more liveable. It reduces traffic and parking problems, greenhouse gas emissions and air and noise pollution.
Bicycles are often faster than cars in built up areas during peak traffic periods and you don't need to find a car park.
You may even avoid buying a car or a second car.
If you're buying a bicycle think about how often you'll cycle, and how far and where you'll travel. This will help you work out what sort of bike you need.
Before making a decision do some research—there is a wide range of bicycles available and many are made for specific purposes. Talk to a bicycle shop as they can provide advice and information and help you to select the best bike. They can also set up your position on the bicycle correctly to ensure a comfortable ride.
If you're planning on cycling a lot, it may be worthwhile investing in a good quality bicycle as it will usually be lighter and stronger, more comfortable, reliable and generally last longer.
You may also be able to buy a second-hand bicycle that meets your needs. Try to find a bike in good condition as replacing worn-out parts can be expensive.
Electric-assist bicycles are also available as an alternative to conventional bicycles. They reduce the amount of effort required from the cyclist—this can be especially useful on hills. Electric-assist bikes are much heavier than conventional bikes due to the battery, motor and other associated components. The battery may need to be recharged regularly depending on how much you use the electric motor and how far you ride. A bicycle shop can provide further advice and options.
If you start cycling regularly, planning will help make your trip easier, safer and more enjoyable.
Plan your route before you start. Contact your local council or community cycling organisation for maps of your local area or talk to other cyclists about the best route. Many areas have dedicated cycle paths and lanes.
For longer trips you can combine cycling and public transport by riding to a bus or train station, locking your bike then using public transport for the rest of the trip. Some stations may have secure bicycle lockers. You can also take your bicycle on some buses and trains. Contact your local transport authority or community cycling organisation for more information.
Showers, change rooms and lockers at work can encourage people to cycle. If you don't have these facilities talk with your employer and colleagues about installing them. This can also promote your workplace as a healthy and energy-efficient place to work.
Even if you don't cycle regularly, you can use a bicycle as alternative form of transport for occasional trips. Consider cycling instead of driving when visiting friends or doing the shopping, especially for short trips.
It's important to stay safe when cycling. Ride defensively, scan the road, show common sense and courtesy, and you'll improve your safety and reduce the risk of an accident.
Make sure you:
- understand and obey the road rules, cyclists have the same obligations as other road users
- wear a correctly-fitted and fastened helmet that meets the current Australian Standards
- install and use front and rear lights, reflectors and a bell
- turn on your lights at night or when visibility is poor
- take extra care in the rain as roads become slippery and visibility can be poor
- wear brightly coloured and/or reflective clothing
- maintain your bike and make sure your tyres and brakes are in good condition.
Wearing a bicycle helmet when cycling can reduce your chance of serious injury in an accident; and is compulsory in all states and territories in Australia. Don't forget helmets for children in bicycle seats, trailers or on tag-a-long bicycles.
To be effective, a helmet must fit and be worn correctly. To check for correct fit, place the helmet on your head and securely fasten the retention system and then make any further adjustments. Grasp the helmet and try to rotate it to the front and rear. A correctly fitted helmet should be comfortable and should not move forward to obscure your vision or rearward to expose your forehead.
When buying a helmet look for the sticker or label certifying that the helmet meets the Australian / New Zealand Standards. Your helmet should be the right size and fitted correctly.
A helmet has a limited life span and should be replaced and destroyed when it shows obvious signs of wear, damage or if subjected to a severe blow—even if it appears undamaged.
Safety for children
Bicycle safety is especially important for children. If children are cycling to school, on or near roads, make sure they understand and obey all the road rules. Parents can help plan the quietest route and escort their child on a practice ride before the first trip to school. Crossing major roads should be done at school or pedestrian crossings or at traffic lights.
The correct equipment and clothes can make cycling safer and more comfortable. Work out what suits you and the weather conditions you may experience.
You don't have to invest in a lot of specialised bike gear, but wear clothes that allow you to move easily, are warm and dry quickly. Bright colours are best for maximum visibility.
Protection from the cold, heat and sun is important. In very cold climates the wind-chill from cycling can make you even colder. During the warmer months, don't forget to carry a water bottle and use sunscreen, especially on longer trips. You can talk to colleagues and friends who cycle or contact your local bike shop for more advice and options.
Carrying a pump and puncture repair kit can help you get going again quickly if you get a flat tyre. If you don't want to repair a puncture or don't know how, a mobile phone can be really handy to call for help.
If you need to carry items, try a backpack, bike basket or panniers (bags that can be fastened to a rack) so that your hands are free.
Maintaining your bike will help you avoid breaking down and may also prevent costly repairs. If you don't want to service your own bike, a bicycle shop can do it for you. If you aren't experienced and want to do it yourself consider doing a course. Contact your local cycling organisation or bike shop for information about courses.
The condition of your tyres can affect the handling and safety of your bicycle. Inflate tyres to the recommended air pressure (stamped on the sidewall of your tyres) and check regularly. Checking your tyres and removing any foreign objects embedded in the tread reduces punctures.
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