For Maja Graham, bike riding works on so many levels. And not just because she has a new shiny bicycle!
Environmental concerns underline Maja’s main reasons for being a bike rider but she also loves being able to get around quickly and keep fit.
“I began riding my bike when I started uni in 1999 because it was so much faster and cheaper than public transport. As well as being a healthy lifestyle choice riding really clears my head. I do everything on my bike and although I don’t own a car I do occasionally borrow one”.
One of things that galvanized Maja’s love of riding was taking part in Critical Mass, an informal gathering of cyclists in Melbourne dedicated to making streets more bike-friendly.
“Critical Mass was instrumental for me in making riding fun – riding with a large group of like minded people, taking control of the road for bikes – it was inspiring.
The last six months I’ve been riding from North Melbourne to St Kilda and back every day. Sometimes this is really tiring and the traffic can be a bit heavy. My family and friends keep telling me I should buy a car but I’m not keen. I live in the inner city and it seems unnecessary to own a car when you can get around on your bike”.
Besides keeping Melbourne’s air clean, riding has other environmental benefits according to Maja.
“I tend to shop in small amounts regularly so I can carry everything on my bike, which makes it both easier to carry home and we waste less food.”
In the past Maja has volunteered for Bicycle Victoria where she took part in their annual bike surveys.
“I have really noticed lots more cyclists in the last couple of years – I’m sure this is inspired both by financial factors like rising petrol prices as well as concern over climate change.”
Improved cycling infrastructure like off-road bike paths has also encouraged previously reluctant riders onto their bikes.
But more needs to be done to encourage people out of their cars and onto their bikes.
“Friends have big concerns about being so close to cars and trucks. And ironically the big increase in cyclists can make it intimidating for new cyclists.
I’ve also spoken to people at work who want to ride but don’t feel they can without showers and change rooms.”
Maja has some tried and true advice for those daunted about riding to work, school or the shops.
“Riding with friends is a great way to start if you’re not feeling confident. Map out a safe bike path – I always travel with Travelsmart maps to find a safe route that avoids heavy traffic and traffic lights that slow me down!”
Story by Sarojini Krishnapillai