Archive for the 'St Kilda Road' Category

New season, new gripes.

It’s the third day of spring in Melbourne. Mother Nature has rewarded us with three days of glorious weather, which is quite unusual in Melbourne in particular, because spring will usually lull you into a false sense of security and then pelt hail on your head as you commute home in a singlet and stubbies. Last week, to prove to us that it was still winter, we had torrential rain and some crazy winds, something like 100km/h! Oh you crazy Mother, Nature.  Well, so far so good with the spring weather. This morning it was an unheard of 16ºC at 8am! There was glorious sunshine and no need to wear longsleeves for the first time in months. Ideal conditions for commuting to work by bicycle I hear you mutter. And yes, it has been. And it has also been a nightmare on the roads! With the new season comes all of the old season cyclists out of the warm and cosy closets for the first time since before winter. Bikes that have been sitting in the garage since July have been pulled out of retirement faster than you can say Lance Armstrong, and judging by the squeaks and clunks being emitted by these machines, they haven’t had much TLC over the winter break. The riders themselves haven’t had much TLC either, it seems. Getting back on the roads after a substantial break can be daunting, and I would think that starting the season by heading straight into peak hour cycling may not be the best idea. Given the tentative nature of many of the cyclists I have been stuck behind over the last few days, I’d say most of them have just dragged out the old bike, without so much as a touch of Heavy Lube for the chain, and charged off into the carbon monoxide filled cloud of peak hour mayhem without so much as a thought for Road Readiness.

I realise that this sounds like a big old fashioned whinge and I suppose it is, but in my humble and not very educated opinion, I would recommend a few weekend rides to become acclimatised to cycling in traffic once again before heading out in peak hour after several months away from the saddle. Countless times in the last few days I have had to come to a complete stop behind someone who was too uncertain whether to go around the car; whether they would fit through that gap; whether they should give way, etc. I know that as a cyclist you are at risk of injury and even death while out on the roads, but being a tentative cyclist is as dangerous as being a tentative motorist. Ringing your bell at a car that is 20 meters ahead of you to alert them of your approach is likely to be as effective as cleaning your house with a toothbrush, and if you feel the need to be so safety conscious that you have to ring your bell every five seconds, then at least have the common courtesy to stop at a red light!

Speaking of red lights, there is another Bike Blitz going on at the moment. I was alerted by a friend to this press release by the local constabulary, which details their current program to target cyclists who disobey the road rules. Funnily, before being alerted to this campaign, I had noticed an increase of police standing by the side of the road, especially along Princes Bridge and the start of St Kilda Rd. Funnier still, another cyclist and I pulled to a stop a red light directly next to a couple of police who were studying cycles and cyclists intently. Even more hilarious was the fact that while we were stopped at the red light, a car tore straight through it without even so much as slowing. The police didn’t seem to care whatsoever. Perhaps instead of focusing on one particular aspect of road safety, the entire spectrum should be covered holistically. And if police do wish to target cycle safety, as they claim in the press release, then I will happily point out several ‘black spots’ where pedestrians daily flaunt the laws forcing cyclists to backpedal, so to speak, in order not to hit them or become road kill themselves.

End of rant.

The Daily Commute… Photo Gallery.

In the interests of community service, I have decided to put together a little tour of my daily commute. I realise that this may seem excessively interesting, but believe me, it won’t be.

lygon1

Here we are at the top of the tour, or stage one of my gruelling three stage commute. The becoming trendy north end of Lygon St. Here we can see that the road is unusually clear. This is because I happened upon a red light which was holding back the hordes of motorists waiting to speed off to the next red light. Also notice that there is no marked bike lane in this section of Lygon St. That fact should help explain why I took no further photos for the next few kilometers, as I was too busy either dodging rear view mirrors or riding in the gutter. Oh the joys.

lygon2
This is the only section of my commute where I use a ‘shared’ bike path. Again this morning it was unusually clear. On any given day there are normally people walking their dogs, sans leash, piling their kid out of their cars with their strollers in the middle of the path, etc. I only use the shared path as a shortcut to the next section of my ride….
weaver1

… Which joins the shared bike path with the next on road bike track. Here you will see that I have caught a glimpse of a common sight, the Paddle Footed Weaver. If you look closely you will see the shadow of your intrepid writer, thus proving that I am not a vampire.

weaver

Here is a close up of the Paddle Footed Weaver’s pedaling style. This is a common version of Paddle Footing, where the rider slots the pedals in between the ball of their foot and the clunky heel of their boot. This makes for a winning combination of unpredictability and wobbliness.

cardigan1

Next we come to a stretch of road with a beautifully wide and bountiful bike lane going south towards the city centre. Unfortunately it is also wide enough for a car to fit down, and there normally are a few in it. Also worth noting is the car park to the left, which north driving motorists enter across the bike path without looking or giving way to cyclists. A treat.

cardigan2

The next section marks our entry in to stage two of the daily commute: entering the CBD. Here you will see a car parked in the bike lane. You will be happy to know that he wasn’t just trying to park, or talking on the phone, he was just there.

swanston1

Next we zip past RMIT University, once again encountering an obstruction in the bike path. This is a common sight and we happily cruise around it.

swanston2

We now arrive at one of the major intersections in Melbourne. Here cyclists are required to give way to passengers boarding and alighting the trams. Of course this often doesn’t happen as you can see by the cyclist on the right continuing to ride through the stop. The gentleman on the left is walking his bike along in order to continue his commute. I did have a chat to him this morning, and he was very pleasant indeed.

stkilda1

Now leaving the CBD and onto sage three of the commute. Notice the second cyclist along, who is riding a freewheel singlespeed with no rear brakes and trick pegs. He is successfully combining the aesthetics of fixed wheel culture with the practicality of BMXing, albeit on a much larger and less maneuverable bike.

stkilda2

Further along St Kilda Road we see that not only the bike lane has been removed, but also the entire left lane, forcing cars and bikes to come together in a touchy feely communal way, not seen since the late 1960s. This section is made more interesting by the entry of busses into the left section of the road, who usually make the cyclists swerve violently in order to not become squashed.

stkilda3

Another St Kilda Road obstacle, but as this is a garbage truck, I don’t mind that they are in the bike lane. They really have nowhere else to go to do their job. It isn’t their fault that there isn’t enough room for them to unload the bins without blocking the bike lane. They are a bit stinky to pass though.

punt1
Here we are at the next major intersection of my commute. We are in the home stretch now. These lights take an awfully long time to change, and I just missed the lights here by moments. Normally I would take advantage of the time it takes to cycle though the the changes to cycle through the lights, but as you will see, a police vehicle was right at the front of the pack waiting to take off. Just above the nose of the police car you will see the local bike shop whose proprietor got awfully snooty at me when I asked for a chain link to fix my ailing singlespeed chain.

dandenong1
Almost there now, and as you will notice there has been yet another accident in this intersection. I’m unsure if the accident was caused by people not knowing how to manage the ambulance trying to cross the busy intersection, or if the ambulance was crossing the intersection to attend to this scene. It didn’t seem to be a very serious incident, but one never can tell, unless you are on a bike, in which case any incident is always serious.

I hope you have enjoyed my first foray into the world of photojournalism as much as I have enjoyed bringing it to you.

Ride safe.

Ghost bikes and expensive rides.

P1040026
I ran into a ghost bike recently. I wasn’t quite sure if it was a real ghost bike, as to my knowledge no cyclist had been killed outside that pizza shop, at least not recently. Perhaps, I thought, it was just a cool white bike. It’s hard to tell these days, what with bicycle style reaching new highs. Now that my own bike is becoming cool with its new white chain, I suppose I should raise my standards of bicycle stylishness. A few days ago I spotted this amazing beast on my morning commute.

P1040021

To me, this bike is the epitome of cool. It has everything, well it can carry everything at least. I have no doubt that the owner is as pleased with his ride as you can get. I assume that he left his trailer at home because he was only carrying a small load that day. Speaking of cool, I also recently found this news item about Jack Griffin, an 85 year old Gold Coast man who is going to ride the 1,680km from Brisbane to Cairns. He even forked out $11,000 for a Trek Madone, because that’s what Lance Armstrong rides. Fair enough. If he can afford that, then the best of luck to him. He expects to finish the ride in 18 days, which is pretty good. He is looking to buy his local hospital a Stress Machine with the funds raised by his journey. Don’t get me wrong, I think he is doing an admirable thing, but I would expect that the Stress Machine (whatever the hell that is…) would probably cost less than the bike that Jack will be riding is worth. Speaking of Lance, it looks like he is still in with a chance to finish at the top end of the Tour, although he was quite eclipsed by his teammate Alberto Contador in the last stage. I’m not sure how Lance is dealing with this, being forced down the ladder by his own teammate, but I’m sure he can always turn to recreational drug use with his good buddy Ben Stiller if his comeback goes astray.

On my grand tour on Friday evening I was on the second stage of my 3 stage commute when I was stuck behind one of those tourist horse and carriage rides that always use the bike lane. Just because they use bicycle lights doesn’t qualify them to use the bike lane in my opinion. But I suppose it beats getting stuck behind Cadel.
horse-carriage

Back from the past to the future to the past…

Last week, while commuting to work, I was treated to one of those “I wish I had a camera with me” moments. A magnificently bizarre sight came my way in the form of a very strange cyclist. Initially he wasn’t that bizarre, but as I was able to absorb more and more details, he became more and more fascinating. Initially, his appearance was farily straightforward for a high-tech roadie. He was wearing a full body black lycra suit, with a snug black racing jacket, topped off with an oversized white visored helmet. He did look rather odd, but no odder than many specimens I encounter on a usual day. The thing that caught my attention was his massive boots. They were chunky hiking style boots, but with cleat holding functionality on the sole. Now, I must mention that he was riding a Trek mountain bike. This was the next thing to really catch my attention. I’m not sure which model he was riding, but it seemed to be quite a decent machine. It slowly dawned on me, that it was modified to be a single speed bike, with suspension and a disc brake at the front, and a freewheel singlespeed with V-brakes on the rear. All topped off with road tyres as well. This example of cycling glory was one of the skinniest people I have ever laid my eyes upon, and I have lived with some skinny people, believe me. So with his massive boots and helmet he looked like some kind of futuristic law enforcement officer. Maybe a little something like this…..

thx-1138

This morning I was treated once again to this amazing sight, and for once, I even had a camera with me, so I can share with you, dear reader, the wonderment that is Future Cop.futurecop_2

You will notice his skinny attire and oversized boots, as well as his oversized helmet. You can almost see the front suspension in this shot, and the singlespeed conversion in the back. Note the road tires. Notice that Future Cop saw a friend of his on the side of the road. This friend had the appearance of some sort of wizard, and was equally as fascinating as Future Cop himself. Note the loaf of bread. Wizards need food too. I was unable to get any more snaps, as the unlikely pair stopped and chatted, while I rode off when the lights changed. It was a happy occasion indeed. I still couldn’t help wonder about the Future Cop rider. Who is he, where is he going, and why? Initially I assumed he actually was from another time, here to show us commuters the way of the future, but I have reconsidered this seeing as he has a friend in this world. I suppose the next obvious assumption would be that the Wizard is from the future as well, and was procuring a loaf of bread to take back to the future so reverse engineer and save the future of humanity. I would therefore assume the Wizard is holding the recipe in his other hand.

Foggy Mornings and Apparitions.

So the last couple of Melbourne mornings have been high on the fog-o-meter meaning that visibility has been lower than usual on the morning commute. This morning it was difficult to see 20 metres ahead at some points. I had no camera with me, but thankfully someone did so I can show you the conditions.
Princes Bridge May 22nd 2009

It varied from pea soup to chicken soup, but it was pretty soupy for most of the ride. As I was stopped at an intersection waiting the Green Light of Go, I noticed a fixed gear cyclist who had pulled in front of me sussing out my bike. Now admittedly, my bike is a bit daggy. It has little flair. It is functional and I do like it very much. And despite it being a single speed freewheel, I have no aspirations to become a fixed wheel freestyler. I have two brakes, one on the front and one on the back, and my rims are designed to accommodate them. So anyway, I was being sussed out by a chromed up fixie with bright green Deep-V rims as the lights turned green. I was then lucky enough to witness a sight which I had assumed I would never be lucky enough to see again.

To my right flew past an apparition of mixed-metaphors. I had seen this cyclist once before and had assumed that it was some kind of once in a blue moon occurrence, but here he was again, right there in front of me. The Cyclist Who Cannot Be Named. Now this gentleman was dressed appropriately for time trials or other such serious cycling business. He had on full lycras and and rather aerodynamic helmet. The amazing thing was the steed he was riding. Now the first time I saw him, I thought he must have had to take his ride to the shop for some work to be done on it, and was forced to ride his sister’s bike, or some such scenario. But this morning I saw him once more. The same outfit, the same bike. I was too shocked to actually notice the make of his ride, but I couldn’t overlook the front and rear baskets, each filled with bags, so therefore very practical. I also couldn’t help notice his rusty, creaking mudguards, clunking away as he rode off. The radical juxtaposition of pro-cyclist style coupled with the get-about-town-with-your-groceries was a little disconcerting for an early morning commute through heavy fog, and the image has been burned upon my retina.

This cyclist is an amazing example of serious practicality. Just as the fixie guy was sneering at my dual-braking capacity, along came the modern saviour of all practical cyclists everywhere. As mentioned before I was sans-camera, so I have used my “skills” to mock up something similar to the melting pot that is this amazing cyclist.
bike_pro-with-baskets

Now I can understand the gravity of publishing images and concepts as revolutionary as this, and am prepared to offer online counseling to anyone who feels that this information is too much for them. In the meantime, spare a thought for this saviour of practical cycling. He may pass you at an intersection of cool, and provide the light you need to move on to the next step of the velolutionary chainring of salvation, as he did for me. He may be real, he may be an illusion, but he lives in my heart.

PS. Any resemblance to Daniele Nardello is probably because I nicked a photo of him for the mock-up.

This is why it pays to wear a helmet!

The father of the 12-year-old Victorian boy saved by a country doctor who used a household drill to bore a hole in his skull has praised hospital staff, saying the procedure was carried out ”like a military operation”.

Michael Rossi’s son, Nicholas, was not wearing a helmet when he fell off his bike late on Friday while riding outside a friend’s house in Maryborough, 170 kilometres north-west of Melbourne.

From The Age

dr-drill

OK, so I’m not the king of safety. Although I did recently buy a flouro vest, it looks so damn awful that I can only wear it to bush doofs with my furry shorts and my glow stick earrings, but I always wear a helmet. I remember the olden days when it wasn’t lawfully required of a cyclist to wear a helmet and how odd and constrictive it seemed at the time to have to wear one. But now, as an old man, commuting during peak hour I could never go back to those free and easy days of no head protection.

Last night while riding home I encountered a rare Safety Cyclist. She was fully decked out in flouro, and was obviously very safety conscious. So safety conscious in fact, that as she rode alongside a footpath, she rang her bell constantly for the entire duration. As she was directly behind me I wondered if she was attempting to alert me to a problem I may have been having. Was my rear light off? Was my bag open and spilling onto the road? Were my shoes on the wrong feet? As I pulled to a stop at the lights I glanced behind to discover it was the Safety Cyclist I had passed earlier, and that she was busy alerting all pedestrians to her presence. I have no problem whatsoever with using your bell to alert pedestrians, as they often need alerting, but to me the concept of ringing your bell continuously seems to mimimise its effect on the foot walking population. I usually find that it works best when trying to attract the attention of a particular pedestrian as they are about to step out in front of you, usually doubled up with a bit of voice power to emphasise the urgency of the situation. I find that bell ringing alone doesn’t usually cut it. People seem to ignore it. Which is why ringing your bell for the whole time you are riding adjacent to a footpath seems like a bad idea. How will the potential stepper-outer notice me if someone is ding-a-linging away like there is no radio attached to her handlebars?

On the other hand, I also witnessed another rare creature on the evening commute yesterday….. The Duffle-Coated-Hands-In-Pocket Cyclist. Admittedly, the weather is turning a bit chillier of late. We have had some nastily cold mornings in particular. 3º was the lowest morning commute so far, and it’s only just autumn! So rugging up is completely understandable, although I do find once you get going, that being to rugged up only makes me feel like a steamed wanton by the time I get to my destination. That was until I spotted the Duffle-Coated-Hands-In-Pocket Cyclist. Obviously I have been doing it wrong all along! The way to keep warm while riding isn’t to wear thin layers and ride like you would normally, it is to rug up and then cycle really slowly with your hands in your pockets! Now why didn’t I think of that. I do have a nice thick duffle coat which I haven’t pulled out due to it not being cold enough yet. Perhaps if I allow an extra hour on my commute I will be able to wear it and not break into a sweat. Double win! I always find cycling without your hands on the handle bars during peak hour is a bit risky, usually I witness the cycle-couriers pulling such stunts, but to place your hands in your big thick woolly pockets while travelling (albeit it quite slowly) next to maniacs stuck in peak hour traffic looking for any way to sneak down a side street to get stuck at a different intersection (without indicating, of course) seems like too great a risk for me. Guess I’m just a wuss.

At least if you are wearing a helmet as you paddle foot along with your hands in your pockets, the doctors might not need to use a rusty old power drill to release the blood clot in your brain. But they might need a shovel to scrape you off the road.