Australia

From heart attack to daily rider: an insider's guide to bike commuting

Four days a week, in just about any weather, Glenn Asquith wheels his bike out the front door at 5.30am, switches on his lights and turns right.

The IT worker rides almost 27 kilometres from his home at Bass Hill to his office near the Queen Victoria Building in the city. It takes roughly 65 minutes - barely quicker than walking to the station and catching the train - but he loves the start to the day.

"The simplest pleasure": Glenn Asquith on his way home from the city to Bass Hill.

"The simplest pleasure": Glenn Asquith on his way home from the city to Bass Hill. Credit:James Brickwood

"It's the simplest pleasure," he says. "You sit on the seat, turn your legs and steer the bike. You always feel better for it."

There is a health reason why a self-described "car guy", aged 54, takes on such as an excessive commute.

"My family has a history of heart attacks," he says. "Having had my first one at 33, I'm pretty keen to avoid a second one."

Isolation has sparked a boom in bike riding for exercise and, as workers head back to offices amid coronavirus restrictions on the number of passengers using public transport, that is expected to lead to more cycle commuting.

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Mr Asquith believes Sydney needs more than just six new pop-up cycleways to encourage riders, including a wider recognition that "everybody matters" on the road and the installation of bike racks on buses and trains to mix up commutes.

Years of riding have taught him a lot about how to get by on Sydney's roads.

For anyone starting out, Mr Asquith suggests cycling to a station and taking the train the rest of the way initially then progressively riding to stations further away.

Heading through the city: Glenn Asquith who rides from Bass Hill to near the Queen Victoria building four days a week then home at night.

Heading through the city: Glenn Asquith who rides from Bass Hill to near the Queen Victoria building four days a week then home at night. Credit:James Brickwood

If there's a bike path, use it; make sure you're visible while riding; keep the bike's lights on night and day; never wear headphones while riding; and follow the road rules.

"I'm quite vocal at any road user to make sure they're obeying the rules," he says. "You might not like the rules but they're there for a reason."

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The president of Australian Cycle Alliance, Ed Hore, says the best advice for new bike commuters is to look for a local cycle group, meet other commuters you might be able to join and study possible routes.

"It's all about finding the best, safest and less physically exhausting route that will be most economical for your time," he says.

As well as making sure bike lights are angled so they don't dazzle other riders, Mr Hore advises new cyclists to be assertive on the road.

"Ride out at least a metre from the gutter so that you're visible to drivers and always indicate when turning so it's clear to them what your intentions are," he says.

Bicycle NSW spokeswoman Bastien Wallace says new cycle commuters should check the detailed advice on its web site about riding in traffic, at night and in wet weather.

It advises riding predictably; giving big vehicles a wide berth because of their blind spots; using a marked bike lane if available; crossing tram tracks at a 90 degree angle; watching for debris on the road; and carrying ID in case of emergency.

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