On your bikes, then

Photo: Sydney Cycleways/Facebook.

Sydney is becoming one of the most cycle-friendly cities in the world, which is a great thing – especially when healthy, Covid-safe, outdoor activities are much-needed, writes Rita Bratovich. 

Many large cities around the world are bike-friendly and Sydney is fast becoming one of the friendliest. 

As part of an intense infrastructure upgrade, the City of Sydney Council and other local councils have created many new, purpose-built bike paths that are both functional and scenic. 

Cycling has seen a resurgence in the last few years, concurrent with a growing interest in sustainable, economical transport; healthy habits; and the inherent Aussie love of the outdoors. 

The last few months, particularly, have seen bike sales boom, with people looking for Covid-safe activities they can do while enjoying fresh air. 

Cycling is also a terrific way to explore new territories that can’t be accessed by car or are impractical to do on foot. 

And while the City of Sydney has led the way, almost every part of Greater Sydney – and beyond – is now serviced by bike paths. 

Cyclists enjoying Bicentennial Park in the Sydney Olympic Park precinct. Photo: Sydney Olympic Park.

It’s not an expensive activity, either. You can pick up a standards-compliant helmet for under $50, and a basic bike for under $200 – even cheaper if you buy second-hand. 

Or you can hire a bike. There are bike rental places close to popular tracks, and many bike shops rent out bikes on an hourly basis. 

Don’t worry if the last bike you rode was your purple Malvern Star Dragster when you were 12 years old in the ’70s – you never forget. Hence the old adage “just like riding a bike”.

However, if you don’t feel confident or you’re a beginner, you can sign up for a refresher/learner course; again, many bike shops offer them. A number of local councils also regularly host free cycling workshops, so it’s worth keeping an eye out. 

The Sydney Park Cycling Centre in Erskineville runs free kids’ bike balance clinics every Saturday, aimed at kids aged three to eight. They also have an enclosed kids’ track that features hills, curves, bridges, tunnels and even ‘stop and go’ signals. 

Sydney Park itself has shared pedestrian/cycle paths that criss-cross the park and take travellers past marsh ponds and over hills with panoramic views. 

Centennial Park is one of Sydney’s oldest and most loved parks, and the go-to for easy cycling. It has a one-way road that circumnavigates the park and two that cut across the middle. The roads are clearly divided into car, bike, pedestrian, and horse paths. Cars are limited to a maximum speed of 30 kilometres-per-hour.

Cyclists in Centennial Park. Photo: Sydney Cycleways/Facebook.

The park features several duck-filled lakes, interesting relics and statues (including one of Charles Dickens), heritage buildings, several cafes/snack vans, lots of parking and a really lovely vibe. It’s close to the city centre and you can get there with your bike via tram. 

Once a large industrial area, Homebush Bay was levelled, landscaped and completely made over for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Olympic Park and the adjoining Bicentennial Park are absolute wonderlands to explore by bike. There are several suggested bike routes you can take, catering to all levels, and of varying duration. The area is rich in history, teeming with wildlife and, of course, there are lots of places to stop and ‘refuel’.

If you find, after a few rides, that you’ve caught the bug, why not join a BUG (Bicycle User Group)? These are recreational cycling clubs spread throughout the state and varying in their membership and activities. Some are for serious, lycra-clad, pack-riders. Others conduct regular sight-seeing tours. Most are about having fun, meeting people, and, of course, finding the perfect place to stop for coffee. 

Bicycle NSW is a brilliant resource for all cyclists in the state. It has a comprehensive contact list for BUGs, maps of routes and suggested rides, up-to-date information on regulations, and a heap of other beaut bike stuff. 

Annual membership is relatively cheap and will entitle you to discount membership for BUGs, various retail deals, limited legal advice and best of all, personal accident and public liability insurance (worth the price alone).

Okay, on your bikes! 

Rita Bratovich is the arts and entertainment editor of the Sydney Sentinel.