Crossing the Bridge

I know of two women who cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge daily by car. S is single,  lives in Wollstonecraft and drives to Camperdown. N is married with three kids. She lives in Randwick and drives to Macquarie Park. She takes her daughter to childcare before heading to the office.

Descending the steps of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in North Sydney.

I met S in London sixteen years ago. She grew up in the North Shore and has a fondness for Subaru. But recently while the car was at the service centre for an inspection, one of the employees was negligent and severely damaged her car.  Dealing with the insurance and the service centre has been stressful and time consuming for the past few months. The loaner that they have provided has an enormous excess, which is also very stressful. Fitting in consistent exercise has been a challenge for most of her life. When taking 10,000 steps daily was a popular metric by which to base one’s level of physical activity, she wore a pedometer and discovered that she took much less than half a day. Over the past few years, I’ve suggested that she consider bicycling to work. She could fit in exercise more consistently. She has always declined for a number of familiar reasons. The traffic is too frightening. It’s too far away. She’s not fit. It would take too long. She doesn’t like cycling in the dark. All of the (male) cyclists that she knows, who ride to the office apart from me, ride in traffic. Understandably, she finds this too daunting. At this juncture, I have yet again suggested that she try bicycling to work. She hasn’t said no this time which is an indication of her frustration and, as I see it, an opportunity.

Ascending the stairs for the journey to the city. Use of a throttle or the “walking” function on an ebike is helpful here for taking e-bike up the stairs.

I met N at my mothers group nine years ago. N leaves the house at 7:30am with her three-year-old daughter after waking at 5am to exercise. The drive varies between 25 minutes with no traffic to 45 minutes with some traffic. Childcare is about 800m away from the train station and her office about 100m away from childcare. They used to live in the Eastern Suburbs but sold their house with the arrival of their third child. She and her husband considered, no agonised, leaving for the North Shore where they both work. It would make their commute much shorter. But then, resolving the question of which schools their children would attend was very difficult. In the end, they bought a house in Randwick. This solution didn’t solve the commuting issue but has solved the question of home. N has multiple concerns about the time her kids have spent in the car. And having two cars, much less having both cross the Bridge, is expensive in Sydney. I understand her consternation. Home is a place which is familiar. Private schools require names on admissions list nearly at birth with holding deposits. Some private schools have become mercenary about late admissions with enormous fees which guarantee very little, if nothing related to admission.

In heels and dress, while crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I was on my way on ebike to SBS Television in Artarmon this lovely sunny day.

I have suggested that she try bicycling from home to Central with her daughter. N’s concerns have been similar to S’s with the traffic. My suggestion is that they ride together, with child seat on the back on the bicycle from Randwick to Central.  Direct trains run to Macquarie station every 10 minutes from 7:30am onwards. The journey takes 36 minutes.They could have a better interaction on the train and no driving for N!

I always use the lifts to the platform with bicycle. When I have taken my children along on the train, we have had a conversation at home before departure. It involves careful reminder of their need to listen, to stay together and to mind the gap between the train and the platform. A smaller child can stay in the seat while rolling the bike into the train. A larger child can be escorted by the hand to the train and then ushered in the carriage first. With your bicycle in the other hand or placed carefully near the door of the carriage, wheel the bicycle into the carriage.

I have found two ideal spots to place a bicycle in the carriage. The best is next to the beam upon entrance to the carriage at the front or back of the train. Placement of a bicycle there, parallel to the doors, allows for people flow. I usually lock up the bicycle for a longer journey and to sit away from the bike.The second is to choose a handicapped carriage and to flip up the seats to tuck the bicycle into the recessed area. Sitting across from the seats works well. Or sitting with your (not too heavy) child in your lap for a long cuddle in the seat next to the flipped up seats.

At that time in the morning, there would be ample space to place the bicycle in the train. With the upcoming closure of Macquarie Station, they could get off at either North Ryde or Ryde Station and cycle a little farther to get to childcare and work. Exercise out of the way via a good ride from Randwick, N would have a little more time to sleep in the mornings with incidental exercise as part of her routine of going to work.

Google Maps is so helpful!

For both of my friends, I have proposed that they try an electric-motor-bicycle a few times a week. The motor gives the rider a boost to ascend hills, to move a little faster and to gradually improve fitness. With a child, the extra boost is also helpful for dealing with the added weight. Disc brakes help enormously to stop safely as the e-bike is heavier than a push bike. For both, I have suggested going together to Omafiets Dutch Bicycles in Redfern one Saturday morning to try an e-bike.

Riding safely along Kent Street Cycleway.

We humans are social creatures of habit. We eat the same things. We read the same things. We cluster around one another. The majority of us drive. Some of us use public transport. Sometimes, we just need a little boost to make a change.

Riding safely along the shoulder coming from Artarmon is possible. I haven’t yet found the way going to the North Shore via this route. Any suggestions?

I have offered to ride with S, over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, via local roads on the weekend to map out a less-heavily-trafficked and safe route to the office.

For N who is equally resistant, I have offered to “race” her to the office. She would take the the car with her daughter. I would bicycle from her house to Central and take the train. Interestingly, if the journey were to take less time or even slightly more, it would still remove the daily stress of driving from home to work, return.

What are your suggestions, Dear Readers for choosing a safe and less trafficked path from Wollstonecraft to Camperdown and from North Ryde or Ryde to Macquarie Park?

Happy Bicycling!

X Sarah


  1. Love the outfit in the top picture, Sarah.

    A personalised route service is available at – you put in your origin and destination, your riding preferences and any special requirements and you’ll be sent and email describing the best route for you, and a GPS map attached.


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