Bicycle Commuter Profile: Cate Cahill

Name: Cate Cahill
Location: Sydney NSW Australia
Started bike commuting: 1998
Commute distance (one way): 4km to 21km depending on my workplace

Describe your commute: Commuting to my main employment location is a lovely run through Sydney’s Centennial Parklands and adjacent Moore Park which are both very cycle friendly with many paths new and old to choose from. Then I go into some moderately quiet back streets where I detour a particularly busy intersection just before work, which is good because it takes me past a great coffee shop!

When I commute to my other location – about 4 – 8 months of the year depending on the projects I’m assigned to – I head toward the city having to negotiate some cycle paths and some busy city streets. Then I ride across Sydney Harbour Bridge on a dedicated cycle lane that faces west of the city. It’s all you can do to stay on the bike when you ride at sunset because it’s one of the most beautiful urban sights in the city. After the bridge I go through some more city streets both busy and quiet to a wonderful system of bike lanes past a freeway, some parks and through the guts of a wonderful leafy suburb in Sydney’s north. The last part of the commute is the trickiest as there’s no cycling infrastructure, but I’ve learned some routes to make it as safe and as enjoyable as possible.

My ride home through the city used to be a nightmare riding the bus lane between three lanes of very relentless, unforgiving and busy peak hour traffic. Recently though, the City of Sydney councils have erected some separated cycle lanes through the city that take away the stress and danger of that ride. Against some formidable opposition the lanes have been constructed nevertheless and have encouraged more riders to commute in the city.

Sydney is a very car centric city but by sheer critical mass bicycle commuting is now becoming part of the cityscape. When I first started commuting I’d rarely see other bicycles, but now might see up to a hundred on my commute to the upper north shore. The commute to the closer workplace is even getting slightly crowded in places due to the numbers of people taking to commuting by bicycle. I’m fortunate to live in this part of Sydney because in other parts the cycling infrastructure is absent and the attitude of motorists are not as kind.

Describe your bike and accessories: I started riding on a rather heavy but reliable bike custom built by a local bicycle shop in my area. Called a Europa it was a road/touring bike with 32 tires and heavy wheels. I’m currently upgrading it with new lighter parts as a bit of a hobby and to learn more about what makes my bike tick. For the last few years I’ve been riding a Kona Dr Dew that has a rack that I use for either a rack bag or panniers depending on how much I need to take with me to work. I’ve experimented with different bags etc and prefer not to take backpacks especially in the Sydney hot season as you get a bit too sweaty! I have a seriously bright front light for some of the darker sections of my commute and to just be visible on the roads at night. I believe the more lights the better on Sydney roads because people tend to drive fast and I feel safer all lit up – so have a couple up front and back with reflectors on the side. I often ride with a light on the helmet which is useful when you turn to look at a car. I believe it helps them to notice you.

What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?: I used to drive to work and it was a grind to get through traffic from A to B with your mindset being to get there as quickly as possible. I’d be cross from waiting at lights, the congestion and at some of the stupid driving of other motorists. It seemed such a waste of part of my day, Now my journey to work is just that. A journey, an adventure. Being able to enjoy every moment of time in the commute. I arrive at work happy and energised and feel fit and strong. Just remember that getting to work isn’t just about transporting from one spot to another, it’s enjoying the little things on the way, enjoying the journey. There’s lots to see and experience on a bicycle and it changes daily. Also it takes me exactly the same time to ride as it does to drive to my closer commute and I feel very smug about that!

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