Monday, November 30, 2009

Melbourne, cycle city (part 1)

I'm a Sydneysider born and bred, and have grown up with Sydney/Melbourne rivalry, in the matey way Australians do things, as a fact of life. Sydneysiders think Melbourne is stuffy and old-fashioned. Melburnians think Sydney is brash and just a wee bit tarty. Until my stepdaughter moved to Melbourne last year I hadn't visited Melbourne much at all; a few flying business visits which gave me precious little chance to get to know the city.

I've just come back from a long weekend there, and it only reaffirmed what I was already thinking: that Melbourne actually wins over Sydney in many ways. The shopping/Central Business District is well laid out and really, the shops are nicer. The trams are fantastic! Sydney gave up its trams in the 1950s but Melbourne kept them on and they whizz along in traffic snarls with lean efficiency.

But what I noticed most this time was the bicycles - in fact I knew I was in for a treat as the first one I saw was a vintage 70s/80s pale pink lady's bike being pedalled along on a big wide bike lane by a cheerful young woman who was clearly enjoying thumbing her nose at peak hour traffic. This was the first time I'd visited Melbourne since I'd got back into cycling, and boy, does Melbourne do it better than Sydney! Cyclists everywhere in the CBD, lots of women as well as men. There are a few reasons for this:
  • Melbourne is flatter; Sydney is pretty hilly and if you're cycling 10kms or more to work those hills are going to make you pretty sweaty
  • Melbourne's CBD has wide, wide footpaths with plenty of bike parks - several per block usually, and most of them in use
  • Melbourne has easier approaches to the CBD. In Sydney you have to take your chance on the Harbour Bridge (from the North ) and Anzac Bridge (from the west). These are fairly nasty multilane roads driven on by drivers who don't take prisoners when it comes to cyclists
That being said, we saw bikes all throughout the inner suburbs as well, down Chapel Street in Prahran, which is a cool place to wander for a coffee or to check out vintage clothing and other shops. I don't see as many bikes in equivalent Sydney suburbs.

I thought I'd capture some of the more interesting bikes I saw parked in Melbourne's CBD. Apologies for the size of these pics- I processed them fairly small for this blog and then realised some of the details might be a bit hard to spot. The funniest thing was that in taking these photos I felt like a voyeur. It was a little embarrassing taking pics of someone else's bike :-). So I was a bit shy at first and didn't get too close in case someone asked me what I was doing and I blurted out unthinkingly "bike porn!". Some people just mightn't understand...

So let's start with Federation Square. This was around 10pm, and bikes were tethered safely while their owners caroused.
Below.. look at the handlebars on this. I'm not sure what the owner was trying to achieve or indeed how comfortable it is to ride.
Here it is again from the side. Looking at the saddle height and the size of the frame it's not a tall person's bike. And apparently it's a single speed with a coaster brake... those handlebars are devoid of any ornament!
Bikes happily parked in downtown Melbourne. The orange one in the middle caught my eye because of the searing colour.
And here's a closer look at it:
It's wearing a Kronen badge but I wonder if the colour is original; if not, it's thoroughly painted. Even the insides of the mudguards are orange. The owner has chosen to fit a headlight (in this case, spotlight - it's pointing skyward!) on the mudguard and leave the original mount in place.

More on my voyeuristic journeying through Melbourne later.. my cats are both pestering me for dinner :-)


  1. That orange Kronen is nice. Interesting that you've spotted several bikes of this brand - I wonder whether there were a popular import in Australia at one point. In the US you never see them.

  2. A quick investigation has shown Kronan Cycles are sold in Melbourne -see The Kronan Website . Damn... and my wanderings took me just around the corner from the Kronan shop. Had I known it was there I could have hired one to try it out!