Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Bicycle races

I've been living in Melbourne for nearly three months. Notwithstanding that it's been rated as the most desirable city on earth by The Economist, I must confess that its charms have so far eluded me in comparison to Sydney. Perhaps it's because it feels like a small town masquerading as a big one; perhaps I just haven't given it a chance (and the cold of winter, which is only just beginning to ease, made a big difference to my admittedly petulant sense of aggrieved injustice regarding the place where I currently have to live) - and there's no doubt it looks and feels like a much better place when the sun shines.

One area where Melbourne does outshine Sydney is in the provision and ubiquity of bicycle lanes. The city and inner city are all relatively flat, roads are generously proportioned and laid out in a grid system, and as a result there are a plethora of cycle lanes which get a lot of use every day.

Alongside the light railway line in my suburb (Brunswick) there's a cycle path that runs pretty much all the way into the city. Every morning it's thronging with cyclists, some racing the train to take advantage of green lights at the crossings, which close for the train to pass. There are scores of cool kids in hun helmets (which I believe are more formally known as BMX helmets, and are a far cry from the plastic deformity I have to wear on my head, which is so large it makes me look as though I'm storing some form of foldout tent inside it), and my favourite sight, which is that of two or even three kids packed into a little wooden frontloading cart, speeding along in fine style with a puffing parent behind them, hard at work at the pedals while they sit there, content to be borne along like little nobles. What a great invention! Is it even legal?

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