First Solo Hook Turn!

People often ask me for directions in foreign cities.  My second day in Melbourne last week, while locking my bicycle up on Collins Street, a man asked where he could find the nearest Westpac ATM. I hate looking lost.It makes me an easy candidate for theft or getting hit on by strange men. Consequently, I tend to “fake it ‘till you make it” in a new city.  Of course, the bicycle helps me look like a local. More thrilling though was executing my first solo hook turn in Melbourne. Hooray!

The benefit of a car from the airport is that I am able to work to prepare for my days ahead. A bit more difficult on the bicycle for good reason.

I spent most of last week in Melbourne for work. I usually take a taxi from the airport to Spokes Bicycles in Abbotsford to borrow a bicycle. I have a weekend bag that I attach to the back rack and with my Linus Eleanor attached to the side of the rack, I’m off! My bags are lighter now that it’s summer.

The Gazelle Geneve loaded up at Spokes in Abbotsford.

Before I left the shop, I asked Sean about the prescribed route on GoogleMaps. He suggested that I take Gertrude Street which was the second suggested itinerary on GM. The maps are slightly better in Melbourne than they are in Sydney. (In Sydney, Paddington is a black hole strewn with mistakes and why would I ever choose to cycle on Broadway?)  He said that it narrows with cars and trams closer to the city but that it was manageable. I had to agree. I couldn’t quite figure out how to cross the tram tracks to Carlton Gardens (which had “no bicycles on the footpath” at all entrances). Eventually I walked across the street as a pedestrian to the Gardens and resumed my ride in the car park.

The hook turn happened at La Trobe Street entering Swanston Street. I was heading to my Airbnb accommodation off Little Bourke Street. It made sense at the time for me to position myself at the far left of the street in the cycleway to make a right turn. However, I was mystified by the white signage on the road for cars and bicycles to turn right. I suspected it was there to help me but I wouldn’t work this out later until Melbourne Crank demonstrated for me.

The hook turn aids cars and bicycles to turn right across Melbourne’s very wide streets. The white car is approaching its space. The cyclist has just passed the continuation of the cycleway at the intersection. The sign that says, “Wait” tells you when to proceed to turn right. Bicyclists place themselves in front of the car’s right turn arrow to keep the path clear for other cyclists. When the light turns green for the traffic (now) behind you, it’s safe to turn right.

The hook turn is quite useful in Melbourne because of the width of the roads. In the centre, tram tracks make it impossible to sit in the middle of the road to turn right.  (Dear Overseas Readers who are not part of the Commonwealth. We drive on the left as opposed to the right.)

I am enjoying getting to know Melbourne by bicycle. I had lunch with the editor of a bicycling magazine whom I had never met. They recently published an article of mine. Along Bourke Street Mall, I saw “no bicycling” signs. Yet, there were bicycles parked everywhere. Heels starting to hurt a little, I rode a bit but saw a cyclist walking his bicycle. I stopped and did the same.

Had lunch at Postal Lane next to the GPO. The laneway was so unlike what we have in Sydney that I thought I was in an Asian country.

After lunch I went to the apartment to drop my bag off. Then I was sucked into the vortex of “time to myself.” As a woman, wife and mother, it’s often difficult to balance competing agendas. Kids need care, attention and love and so do husbands. And so do I. Being alone in a vast converted warehouse space decorated so beautifully, I suddenly felt a moment of self-recognition. Yes, here I am again. Me.  It was refreshing for a parched-for-time-alone-soul.

I had a quick shower to cool off. It was 35C today but the apartment was blissfully cool. My next appointment was at 3pm and I knew that I would get lost at the University of Melbourne.  I always get lost on university campuses because they are cities unto themselves. Texting and calling Bec, I made my way to University House for a giant bottle of sparkling water and a chat about locations to hold my workshop “How to Bicycle with Style for Women and Men” in Melbourne as part of the Sustainable Living Festival.

Refreshed with a giant bottle of sparkling water, work and laughter with Bec, I was soon on my way out of the University of Melbourne. My blue silk dress was holding up well to the heat, the bicycling and the flight that morning.

Afterwards, I was a bit tired after a 5am wakeup to make the flight to Melbourne. Heels off, I carried the bicycle up one flight of stairs for the night. I wanted to have a look at some of the shops by foot, especially my favourite shop, Zara. More importantly, I wanted to orient myself without the use of Googlemaps. After another refreshing shower, I went to have a look. I noticed a difference in style at Zara Melbourne to Sydney. It was definitely more conservative. A particularly sexy dress that I had seen in Sydney was no where to be found. I left with a coral scarf to keep myself warm as a cold wind was blowing. Also, I realised that I was hungry. I walked to dinner, Facetime’d with the kids to say goodnight, enjoyed my meal and went back to the apartment.

I never have time to watch television at home. We don’t even have Foxtel. I’ve missed the Game of Thrones, Girls, Breaking Bad phenomena. We must be the last people in Sydney with a CRT television. And now that we have moved our furniture around to accommodate our growing children, the TV is no longer connected to the arial. I pushed a few buttons and the flat screen television sprang to life. Despite several thousand channels, the only thing on of interest was “Mr. And Mrs. Smith” which I saw in the cinema in 2004. Twenty minutes of a young Mr and Mrs Jolie-Pitt and I was done. Bed. My own adventure was to start again tomorrow. All with the aid of the bicycle!

Happy Cycling!

x Sarah

Today’s ensemble: Herringbone silk dress, Geox heels, Linus Eleanor bag, Yakkay helmet, Traditional Indian earrings, Cartier Santos, Witchery sunglasses, Gazelle Geneve provided by Spokes Bicycles.

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