Move your own way: explore your travel options
Make your own moves
Instead of always jumping in the car, change the way you think about transport and ask ‘what mode of transport does this trip need?’.
Mix ‘n’ match your modes of travel to meet your family’s logistical needs. Travel together or with work mates. Walk or cycle to local destinations. Walk your child to school or cycle your toddler to childcare and then hop on the bus. Lock your bike in a secure storage cage or put it on the front of the bus.
Want to work your way up to cycling? Drive to a ‘Park & Ride’ or ‘Park & Pedal’ location and catch a bus or cycle the rest of the way. Or use a scooter to speed up the last kilometre from the bus stop to your destination.
Learn more about planning trips.
Move your feet
Walking is the simplest way to get from A to B; it’s great for your health, and –best of all– it’s free!
Walking is a great way to get to your local shops or school or between meetings or lunch dates. To get to work further from home, combine walking with public transport and enjoy stretching your legs at each end. Most adults can walk about 1km in 12–20 minutes and take advantage of paths that shortcut through suburbs.
Wear comfy shoes and a hat. Carry your belongings in a backpack, small kids in a stroller, or your shopping in a market trolley. Take the family dog for an outing!
On your bike
Bikes are fantastic for fitness and a very affordable mode of transport.
Nothing could be simpler and more rewarding than two (or three) wheels, some cogs for mechanical advantage and the power of your own legs, giving you complete independence to move around the city. Cycling is the most efficient form of transport, using less energy than walking, driving or public transport.
Many trips, including travel to local shops, schools or work within a town area, are less than 5km, a distance that can be covered as quickly on a bicycle as in a car and is very achievable for people of ordinary fitness. Many workplaces and shops have bike parking within the building or close to the entrance. For those people who want the benefits of cycling plus a bit of help on a longer commute, electric bikes flatten the hills and shorten travel time, enabling you to turn up to work in good time and sweat-free, dressed for the day.
Share-bike schemes are a great option for getting around in the city centre, or connecting from the end of the light rail or bus trip to your office. See Airbike or ShareABike.
There are loads of variations in pushbikes and e-bikes to suit your cargo or child-carrying needs, comfort and personal style. Cycle with your kids, partner or friends for added motivation and fun!
Move en masse
Canberra’s public transport system continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of the city and its residents.
Every Canberra suburb is connected to the public transport network by at least one local bus route, and, perhaps surprisingly, most households are within just 1km (about 10–15 minutes walk) of a bus stop.
“Rapid” bus routes and light rail connect the town centres with few stops and more frequent services, so most people should be able to get to work with one change between buses. Use the time to read, listen to music or a podcast, catch up on emails or social media, do a crossword, knit, write poetry or simply appreciate the passing scenery. You could even strike up a conversation with fellow passengers!
Light rail is powered by renewable electricity and diesel buses are being replaced with electric, so your ride is getting greener.
Buy a MyWay card from a newsagent, register and top up the balance online. You can set and forget with automatic top-up payments. Peak-hour one-way full-trip adult fare is $3.22 – much cheaper than paying for fuel plus car parking! Visit Transport Canberra to plan your journey.
Scooters, skateboards, roller skates, roller blades, unicycles and other wheeled contraptions are all great fun and can be an excellent way to travel short distances relatively quickly.
An easy alternative to a short car trip, they provide micro-mobility to connect to public transport. They lack cargo carrying capacity but offer speed and freedom.
Manual (or push or foot or kick) versions are cheap to buy, light-weight enough to be easily picked up and carried onto a bus or into your workplace, and retain the health and fitness benefits of cycling and walking.
Ride responsibly: although manual scooters, skateboards and the like are not classified as vehicles, riders should obey rules for riding on shared paths. Wear a helmet. Do not ride under the influence of alcohol. Always give way to pedestrians.
An easy alternative to a short car trip, electric scooters, skateboards, segways and one-wheels provide micro-mobility to connect to public transport.
Electric devices make getting up hills quick and effortless compared to manual versions, but are less beneficial for health and fitness because the rider mostly stands still on the platform when in motion. They lack cargo carrying capacity but offer speed and freedom. They can be wheeled onto light rail and buses at the driver’s discretion (they may refuse if the bus is full). They have a higher injury rate than manual versions or bicycles.
Ride responsibly: e-scooters, e-skateboards and segways are defined as ‘personal mobility devices’ and riders must obey rules for riding. Always wear a helmet. Do not ride under the influence of alcohol. Always give way to pedestrians.
If using public share scooters, park them in designated parking zones or adjacent to bike rails, ensure they are standing upright and well clear of footpaths, doorways and driveways.
Share a ride
Rather than owning your own car or driving solo, think about transport as a service: car pool or call up a ride or rent a car when you need one.
Get the family all in the one car or gather some work mates to pool the commute.
Or, the thousands of dollars saved by not owning your own car can easily create a budget for an occasional taxi or ride-share to supplement active travel and public transport. For instance, a 25km taxi ride (eg Belconnen to Tuggeranong) costs roughly $55, or book a share car for a couple of hours to take an elderly parent to an appointment, or an SUV at $600 for a week to go on holiday.
More car sharing options give Canberrans flexibility to rent a car from a fleet or peer-to-peer at hourly or daily rates, while more people per car reduces traffic, required parking spaces and greenhouse gas emissions. Taxi and rental fleets are increasingly moving to hybrid and electric vehicles for a cleaner drive. Fewer cars owned by Canberrans reduces the city’s overall ecological footprint.
Find current services in Taxi and ride-share services.
Switching from a petrol/diesel/gas-fueled car to a car powered by renewable electricity or hydrogen will eliminate the direct greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants from burning fossil fuels when driving.
However, a “clean” or “green” car is still a car with all of the other costs, safety risks, health issues, resource consumption, and urban and environmental impacts associated with any motor vehicle.
So while it is definitely better for the atmosphere to drive an electric car when you really need a car, it is far better for so many reasons to travel by other means regardless of how the car is powered.
An electric motorcycle is another way to green your ride and save space, but misses the added health benefits of walking or cycling.
What's stopping you?
Anyone can adopt new travel habits with a bit of preparation.
A barrier or obstacle is anything that prevents you from fully engaging or succeeding in the desired activity. Barriers might be facts (eg “I do not own a bicycle”) or beliefs (eg “I would have to wear lycra”) or deep-seated fears (eg “I’m afraid of getting lost”). Some of these can be overcome relatively easily with some practical information and an action plan. Others might challenge you to examine your thinking, attitudes or self-image. Whatever your personal barriers are, you are not alone!
Five steps to knock through obstacles
Pull out a pen and a piece of paper or download the Make the Move action planner.
- Why change? At the top of the page, write down why you want to change your travel habits. What will motivate you to get active?
- Identify your barriers: Down the left side of the page, jot down whatever thoughts come to mind in response to the question “What’s stopping me from getting out of my car?”. Be honest with yourself!
- Assess them: Review your list and to the right of each barrier, note whether it is a fact, belief or fear. Be critical of your “facts” – many of them are likely to be beliefs, eg “I’m too old to cycle” or “I have to drive the kids” is a belief, not an objective fact. Dig a little deeper – what are the facts or beliefs underlying each barrier? For instance, “I’m too old to cycle” might result from your perception of what activities are socially acceptable for someone your age or because you feel physically unfit.
- Plan a barrier buster: Browse through the list below of some of the more common barriers to active travel and the suggestions for getting past them. On the right-hand side of your page, write down a practical action or two for how you can tackle each of your barriers, eg “I’m not fit enough” > “Book a health and fitness check with my doctor” or “try an e-bike” or “start with a short trip”.
- Take action! Pick one action and do it right now! Then do the next one!!
How do I get started?
Follow the steps in this website to get moving at your own pace.
Figure out your needs and what trips you want to replace first.
Gather your kit. Buy a MyWay card to access public transport. If you have a bike you haven’t ridden for a while, get it serviced. Check that your helmet is in good condition and fits well. Join Pedal Power or AusCycling to obtain insurance. That’s really all you need!
If you don’t have a bike, visit the ReCyclery or Gumtree to find a second hand bike or head out to some bike shops to buy a new bike. Check out Switched on Cycles, the Canberra Electric Bike Library, Cycle Canberra bike hire or bike shops to try a bike before you buy.
If you’ve never ridden a bike before or you’re not confident, practice in a quiet location or do a learn to ride course with Pedal Power. Ask an experienced friend to do some weekend riding with you to build confidence or join a social riding group or even start your own local group.
Visit your doctor for a general health check and advice before getting active if you are in doubt about your fitness or have existing health conditions or risk factors.
The best way to get started is just to get out there. Start small, be safe, and figure out the rest as you go along!
Do I have to wear a helmet?
Cyclists and e-scooter riders are legally required to wear a helmet in Australia.
Helmets save lives and reduce the severity of head and facial injuries (Olivier & Creighton, 2017 and Olivier et al, 2019). Also, if you are injured while not wearing one, it may affect an insurance claim.
There is an exception for wearing religious headwear, such as a Sikh turban.
Choose a good quality helmet that meets Australian safety standards. Ensure your helmet fits properly – it should fit securely over your forehead and skull and not wobble. Select the correct size for your head measurement and adjust the interior foam padding and rear ratchet (if present) so that the helmet is snug and stable. The V of the straps at each side should sit just below the earlobes and you should be able to fit two fingers in the chinstrap.
Replace the helmet if it shows signs of wear, cracking or has been in an accident.
Helmets come in a range of styles for different cycling activities, varying the number of air vents, visor and other features. For warmth, rain or sun protection, use a helmet cover, sun brim or visor, or wear a thin, snug skull cap under the helmet and ensure the helmet still fits properly. If you wear a hijab, adjust it and your hair so that the helmet fits properly over it. Don’t wear a baseball cap underneath the helmet – it can cause injury in a crash.
“Helmet hair” is a small price to pay for keeping your brain safe! Wear long hair tied low on your neck so that it does not interfere with the fit of your helmet. Take a comb with you or keep what you need at work to freshen up your hair when you arrive or wear a hair net or skull cap under the helmet to keep your locks in place.
Remember that a helmet that fits poorly, is left undone or hanging on the handlebars will provide no protection to your head in the event of a crash.
(Source: Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 2021, Put a lid on it: Bike helmet safety awareness month partner outreach toolkit)
What should I wear?
Wear whatever you like when you get on your bike.
Racing and road cyclists wear lycra for the thermal performance and aerodynamics of the fabrics and features like back pockets on jerseys to stuff snacks into and padding in the crutch of shorts to cushion the seat. Specialist cycling gear is often well made, durable and makes cycling more comfortable, meaning it can be good value for money. But it’s not compulsory!
For short or easy commutes and around town you can wear ordinary clothes. There are people who cycle in suits, skirts, jeans, casual sports clothes, and everything in between.
Here are a few tips for safe and comfortable attire for cycling or walking. Remember that you likely already have what you need to get started.
- A helmet is a legal requirement and protects your brain in the event of a crash. Make sure it fits snugly – it should stay in place when you shake your head. Check the position of sliders regularly. Always do up the chinstrap snugly – you should be able to fit two fingers.
- In cool or cold weather, wear light layers that you can take off if you get warm, a windproof jacket, a light beanie that fits snugly under your helmet, and gloves or mittens to protect against windchill.
- In warm weather, protect your skin from the sun with long sleeves or sunscreen.
- Flat shoes that attach securely to your feet, with rubber soles that grip the pedals are advisable (smooth leather soles may slide around on the pedals, thongs or ballet flats may fall off).
- Carry a raincoat or poncho for unexpected showers. Shoe covers are great for keeping shoes and socks dry.
- Light colours and/or a reflective high-vis jacket, vest, belt or sash over your clothes makes you visible to other road users. High-vis doesn’t have to look construction-site-ready: check out some more fashion-conscious ideas!
- Check that tight clothing still allows you to pedal and operate the bike comfortably including getting on and off.
- Keep loose clothing and shoe laces clear of wheels, pedals, gears and the chain – trouser clips are good for keeping pant legs contained.
Take spare shoes and clothes with you, or keep a change and a towel at work if you’re worried about being sweaty or getting drenched by rain. While you might want to limit how much you carry for walking or pushbike riding, it’s easy to carry spare items on an e-bike because the added weight doesn’t impact the ease of riding.
What will I do in cold, windy, wet or hot weather?
Cold, frosty CanberraLight layers are best so that you can bundle up against the cold then remove a layer or two as you warm up. A windproof jacket, gloves, closed shoes and woollen socks, and a neck tube or balaclava that covers the ears will keep you warm on chilly or windy mornings. When wearing gloves, make sure you can still operate the gears, brakes and bell. E-bikes can help you power through windy days. There are windscreens and canopies, such as Veltop, available if you want greater protection from the elements. Handlebar mittens (eg Bar Mitts) and hand or foot warmers (eg HotHands) offer extra warmth on really cold days and for people with Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Wet rainy daysCarry a good quality raincoat, cape or poncho for light or unexpected showers, and add waterproof trousers, gloves, shoe covers and helmet cover for wet days. Wraparound glasses and a helmet visor will help keep rain out of your eyes. Keep your bag dry in panniers or add a rain cover. Take spare shoes, clothes and a towel with you or keep a change at work in case of an unexpected drenching. Fitting full-length mudguards and mudflaps to the wheels of your bike will reduce muddy spray off the wheels onto your clothing and into the bike’s chain and gears, and anyone behind you. Keep the bike chain lubricated to protect against grit. Thicker tyre tread and slightly lower tyre pressure offers better grip on slippery roads and fallen leaves. Anti-slip tape wrapped around brake levers can improve your grip. Pop a plastic bag over the seat and helmet if you have to leave the bike in the open. Have a tyre repair kit handy under the bike seat or in a pannier and avoid riding through puddles that might conceal potholes. Wash the bike if it gets muddy, leaving it clean for the next ride. Slow down and take extra care to be seen. Brake gently and early to avoid slipping or skidding. Turn on lights and throw a reflective high-vis vest over your clothing to ensure you can be seen in the gloom.
Hot and sunnyOn hot sunny days, carry plenty of water and wear sunscreen or light long sleeves. Add a helmet visor or cover with a brim. Get to know the shady routes at different times of day. Avoid riding in extreme heat.
Walking or taking public transportIf you are walking or taking public transport, much the same advice applies: check the forecast, carry a raincoat or umbrella, wear suitable footwear, layers, gloves, a hat or beanie, sunscreen and carry water. Remember, you’ll be warmer walking or cycling than standing on an e-scooter.
How will I fit the time for active commuting into my working day?
Walking, cycling and buses are quicker than you think and are great value-for-time.
When comparing different travel options, it’s important to add up all of the time you spend using your car (including getting petrol, finding and walking from parking etc), and account for the added benefits of cycling, particularly that it incorporates exercise!
Over short distances up to about 8km (home to your local shops or nearest town centre), walking or cycling is often faster or at least more satisfying than driving in traffic and finding a carpark. Cycling over longer distances may take longer than driving, but you are packing in a whole lot of good stuff that is great for your physical and mental health – exercise, fresh air, experiencing nature, singing out loud! Cycling is the ultimate in flexible, independent transport – ride to exactly where you need to be whenever you want to go, door to door, no waiting. Plus you’ll save significant money by not running the car and you can skip dragging yourself to the gym after work, saving even more time and expense!
The local bus route may be longer than a direct car route, so make the most of personal “me time” on public transport to read, listen to music or a podcast, catch up on emails or social media, do a crossword, knit, meditate, write poetry, have a quick snooze or simply appreciate the passing scenery. You could even strike up a conversation with your fellow passengers!
Plan your trip in advance and have everything you need set up at home to make it as quick and easy as possible to get out the door in the mornings. Check out cargo options if you need to carry gear, or the kids! Make use of the Transport Canberra Journey Planner or Google Maps’ schedule explorer feature to pick the quickest route bus route.
Flip your morning routine: it doesn’t take any longer to shower at work after cycling than it does at home before cycling (in fact, probably quicker as you’re less likely to dawdle through a shower at work!), it’s just shifting the time at which you do each of those activities. Factor in the time to secure your bike and freshen up at work when planning your departure time from home.
The cost of owning and running the average car may be as much as 20–25% of many people’s salary. Reduce your transport costs to merely a few hundred dollars per year by switching from a car to public and active transport and you could potentially reduce your working hours (freeing up time to cycle or devote to other activities that increase wellbeing) or put aside the money saved and retire earlier or take more holidays.
Am I young / fit / able enough to cycle up hills and all that way?
If a pushbike seems too hard, e-bikes flatten hills and shorten travel time, making cycling easier for anyone.
If you can manage on a pushbike, and the distance and time suits you, keep doing that!
However, for many people, an electric bike is a great way to get into or continue cycling, particularly when replacing a car commute. Other options for people with mobility issues include tricycles, tandem bikes, recumbent bikes or rickshaws, either manual or electric.
The motor on an electric bike is like an extra set of power gears that reduces the amount of effort your legs need to apply. You still need to pedal on a “pedelec” bike, but can travel much faster and further than on human power alone. This makes e-bikes ideal if you feel unfit or ‘too old’ to ride a pushbike, or have mobility limitations, or the hills and distance are a struggle. Many pushbike riders switch to e-bikes as aging joints slow them down or to overcome injuries.
E-bikes can cut the time and effort of a bike commute, and help with carrying children and other loads. They can make the difference between arriving comfortably and in reasonable time at your destination vs being hot and exhausted, making cycling a viable travel option where you would not consider a pushbike. It’s like riding with a perpetual tailwind, even into a headwind!
If you do want a workout, you can turn the power down to zero. But even with full power assist, you’ll be doing more exercise, getting fitter and gaining greater health benefits than if you drive a car.
If you’d like to try an e-bike, the Canberra Electric Bike Library run by SEE-Change holds regular information sessions about their cargo and commuter electric bikes, including pushbikes retrofitted with motors, which you can borrow for a 2-week period, with a small fee to cover insurance.
Also, most bike shops will let you do a test ride and some will let you borrow or hire a bike for a day or two. Switched on Cycles offer a 2-day free trial of a commuter e-bike or will loan you one for a week for $70 (deducted off the purchase price if you buy one).
Visit your doctor for a general health check and advice before getting active if you are in doubt about your fitness or have existing health conditions or risk factors. Wouldn’t it be great if your GP could prescribe free bike hire rather than medication!
How can I arrive at work cool, clean and ready to start?
A morning bike ride in fresh air and sunshine makes you more alert and productive for the rest of the day!
Over short distances, you shouldn’t get too sweaty on a pushbike or scooter. You could take a clean shirt to change into when you get to work or a wash cloth to freshen up.
An e-bike will take much of the effort out of a longer ride, allowing you to wear your regular work clothes and get straight into the day.
Take spare shoes and clothes with you, or keep a change of clothes and a towel at work if you’re worried about being sweaty or getting drenched.
Locate showers and lockers so you can freshen up and store gear if needed. They might be on a different floor or even a neighbouring building.
Look out for public bike repair stations and local business ‘bike stops’ that have facilities for bike riders. See also “Workplace moves” for how your employer can support all employees.
How will I get the children to their activities and myself to work?
Plan logistics as a family.
Map who needs to be where and at what time. Use journey planning tools to explore options, including combining walking or cycling with public transport. Practice your route on a non-work day to work out how long it will take.
Most kids love being on bikes and want to walk or ride to school. Children will gain the same benefits of improved physical and mental health as adults who get active, including being able to concentrate better in class and increasing their confidence, independence and resilience.
There are plenty of options for getting them either onto their own bikes or carrying them on an adult bike. An e-bike can help with the weight. Ride or scoot with them to daycare or school then continue on your bike or lock up your bike at the school and hop on the bus the rest of the way to work. Reverse this in the afternoon. Treasure the fun time cycling together as a family rather than stuck in traffic!
Pool with other local families for older children to walk or cycle together so parents can head off to work. Talk with your employer about adjusting your start or finish times to accommodate active travel with kids. Take turns between parents or split up to take kids to different locations. Encourage independence in tweens and teens by getting them to cycle, take the bus or share lifts with a friend to their sports, music, social and other activities. It will also reduce children’s expectation that parents will constantly ferry them around town.
Remember that with the money you save by not owning a car or not driving each day, you can more easily afford to call a taxi if you need to urgently pick up a child or get to an appointment. Don’t be hard on yourself if some days are too hard.
Find more resources for parents and schools to help children ride or walk to school.
Note that a bike rider must be at least 16 years old to carry children, all of whom must be under 10 years old and wearing helmets.
How can I carry all my stuff?
There are many options for carrying large and small loads on bikes!
Hanging ordinary bags off the handlebars is NOT one of them – they can swing into the wheels or your feet and pull your bike off-balance. Cross-body satchels, sling bags or shoulder bags are also not ideal as they can slide around your body pulling you off-balance.
Here are some better options that can be fitted to almost any kind of bike (pushbike, e-bike, cargo bike). There is no perfect way to carry stuff, just figure out what works best for you.
Pouches & saddlebags
Pros: small pouches can be fitted to handlebars, under the seat or within the frame of the bike; ideal for small items like mobile phones, puncture repair kit, water bottle, raincoat.
Cons: limited capacity.
Pros: easy, versatile, goes with you on and off the bike, you probably already own one.
Cons: makes your back sweaty, raises your centre of gravity.
Baskets (wire or wicker)
Pros: easy to pop belongings into, some models detach so you can take it with you. Can be fitted to either the handlebars or a rack above the rear wheel.
Cons: large baskets on the handlebars obstruct your view of the front wheel and may make steering feel unwieldy depending on how they are attached; items could bounce out if not packed in well and secured with a strap or net. Baskets can sag or break if they are overloaded.
Pros: cheap to install, easy to load your choice of bag and secure with either a fitted spring-loaded catch or a stretchy strap.
Cons: standard racks are quite narrow so larger bags may be unstable.
Pros: either double or single bag, fits onto a rear rack, keeps the weight of cargo low for good balance, items are securely contained and protected from weather and splashes. Can be fixed to the bike and large enough to drop your own bags into, or may detach easily to take with you instead of a separate bag – look for a shoulder strap or handle.
Cons: pannier bags can be less comfortable to carry on your person than a backpack.
Pros: like a pick-up truck for your bike, useful if you need to carry large items like tradie toolboxes, musical instruments or weekly grocery shopping or your business supplies. The weight is low to the ground and off the bike; two wheels makes them stable. A good alternative to a cargo bike – removing the trailer allows the bike to be used separately.
Cons: they add length and width to the bike making them more awkward to manoeuvre and park.
Pros: longer, sturdier bikes, usually electric, many with carrying capacity in excess of 150kg – the minivan of bikes! Can be fitted with heavy duty versions of any of the above cargo accessories eg front tray basket capable of carrying two bags of groceries or a case of beer; rear bench seating for two children; customised pannier crates, boxes or trailers to carry heavy supplies.
Cons: longer, heavier bikes can be more difficult to balance, manoeuvre and park; more expensive than adding baskets, panniers or trailer to an existing pushbike.
See some other ways: ‘Urban biking: the art of carrying things by bike’
What would I do with my bike when I get there?
Lock your bike safely and securely.
Find out what racks, rails or storage cages are available at or near your destination to secure your bike or scooter and charge it if electric. There might be space in a basement or an adjacent building, or perhaps your employer could allocate a storeroom or space in a garage or lobby.
There are public bike racks near the entrances of most major buildings, in town centres and at local shops and schools. There are bike rails at over 15 bus stop locations, primarily on Rapid routes, plus bike cages at selected bus stop areas.
If you have to leave your bike other than in a proper bike parking area, ensure that it is not obstructing pathways, doorways, driveways and can’t fall over. Check for signage prohibiting bike lock-up – the bike may be removed if it contravenes.
D-locks are the most secure method to lock the frame to a fixed pole or rack. A cable, chain or folding lock can be threaded through wheels and frame. Combining a cable with a D-lock offers greater versatility and security. The thicker or more solid the lock, the harder it is for a thief to quickly cut it off. Choose combination locks so you never lose keys.
If you have easily detachable accessories on your bike, such as lights, a water bottle or a pump, you may prefer to take them with you, rather than risk them being stolen.
Register your bike with Bikelinc, Crime Stoppers WA’s free national bike registration network that helps police and the community return your bike to you if it’s lost or stolen. If the bike is expensive, list it on your home and contents insurance.
How will I keep myself safe?
There are many things you can do to stay safe when getting around town.
Did you know cycling has lower injury rates than most other forms of sport, exercise and active recreation? But accidents do happen so here are some suggestions about how to reduce the risks.
Canberra is a very safe city to get around in even after dark, but here are a few suggestions to help avoid mishaps and feel confident. Whether active travel or public transport, plan your trips so that you know where you are going. Follow marked routes to avoid getting lost. Carry a mobile phone. Take a paper map or mobile phone map app. Stick to well-lit paths and bus waiting areas or carry a torch (many phones have a built in flashlight). Find friends, neighbours or colleagues to meet up with along the way. On a bus, sit near the driver if it makes you feel more comfortable.
Listening to music or podcasts can add to the enjoyment of commuting – just ensure that you can still hear what’s going on around you and pay extra attention to what you’re doing, especially when crossing roads or walking on shared paths.
Choose the right size bike or scooter for your needs and set it up properly, including the seat height and angle, lights and reflectors (compulsory), bell, brakes and tyres. Get comfortable with the equipment and making hand signals by practicing in a quiet location or do a learn to ride course with Pedal Power. Keep your bike or scooter well-maintained and batteries sufficiently charged.
Wear a helmet and appropriate clothing and footwear including a high-vis vest with reflective tape. Secure your stuff in a backpack, panniers or basket. If using a mobile phone for navigation, attach it to a bracket on the handlebars. Join Pedal Power or AusCycling to obtain personal accident and public liability (third party) insurance for cyclists.
While cyclists and scooter riders do not require a licence, they are required to obey road rules – most of what applies to cars also applies to bicycles, including stopping at red traffic lights, obeying street signs and giving way to pedestrians (see Part E for additional rights and responsibilities for bicycle riders). See Pedal Power for key rules that affect bike riders, and ACT Policing’s tips for cyclists, e-scooter riders and pedestrians.
Ride defensively, that is, take particular care when riding on roads: look behind you frequently, approach intersections and exit lanes with caution, assume you have not been seen and be prepared to avoid cars turning or changing lanes. Ride in designated bike lanes or the centre of the left car lane if there is no bike lane – avoid the far left “door zone” where parked car doors open. Control your speed and ride predictably so that other road and path users can anticipate your movements. Slow down smoothly in plenty of time before turns, curbs, road crossings, and allow a longer braking distance in wet weather. Use gears to adjust your speed and how hard you need to pedal: low gears for going uphill, higher gears for horizontal or downhill.
Do not ride bikes or scooters under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Remain aware of what’s happening around you, including the movement of other road or path users, parked cars, pet animals, kangaroos, swooping magpies, and hazards such as curbs, crossings, tight bends, safety barriers, changes of surface, debris, potholes, puddles, sticks and leaves.
Report hazards to Fix My Street and dangerous driving to Crime Stoppers. If you see someone in difficulty, help them out.
If you feel threatened or endangered by other road users, call 13 444 for police assistance or 000 (triple zero) in an emergency.
What if I get a flat tyre?
Knowing how to change a tyre is a handy skill, but not essential!
Regular cyclists know that punctures do happen occasionally. Carry a mobile phone so you can call someone to pick you up and take your bike to a repair shop, or put your bike on the bus.
Or learn how to fix your bike. Get hands-on instruction about how to maintain bikes and repair punctured tyres at the Canberra Environment Centre’s ReCyclery or at ActSmart’s workshops at various venues around Canberra. Bicycle repair shops may also offer instruction, or watch some how-to videos online.
Look out for public bike repair stations and local business ‘bike stops’ that have facilities for bike riders, and ask your workplace to set up a station for basic maintenance.
Fit a basic tool kit (like this) under the bike’s seat or handlebars, containing:
- a replacement inner tube,
- tyre levers,
- a tube patch kit,
- an allen-key & screwdriver multi-tool,
- a chain tool,
- a compact tyre pump, and
- work gloves and/or hand wipes to keep your hands clean.
Other items some people find useful include a small adjustable wrench, a pliers multi-tool, and a CO2 bulb & control knob for quick tyre inflation. Remember to take rubbish with you to dispose of responsibly and replenish the tool kit after use so it is ready for the next time.
What if there's an accident?
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, accidents do happen. It’s important to take care of yourself and others as best you can.
Before you start riding, you could join Pedal Power or AusCycling to obtain personal accident and public liability (third party) insurance for cyclists. This will cover your own medical expenses and loss of income, and costs you are liable for in the event you cause injury to someone or damage their property, even if you are at fault.
If you have a minor accident and are slightly injured or your bike is damaged, ask the next passerby to help you. Call a friend to pick you up, and seek medical treatment, especially if you hit your head.
If you are involved in or witness an accident where someone else is injured, offer whatever assistance you can. For minor cuts and scrapes, offer to clean and dress the wound using a first aid kit or even just water if that’s all you have. Sit or lie the person down and assess if they are dazed, confused or feeling unsteady. Offer to call someone to pick them up. Stay with them until you are certain they are alright or in someone else’s care. Advise them to seek medical treatment. Exchange contact details.
For serious accidents, call triple zero (000) (or 112 if no mobile service) to get emergency services to attend the accident. Follow the DRSABCD action plan.
For any accident, make notes about the date, time, location, contact details of all parties involved and witnesses, what happened, details of any vehicles, weather conditions etc. Take photos. Keep damaged clothing, bikes or equipment to assist with police reports and insurance claims.
Report collisions to ACT Police. Report hazards to Fix My Street and dangerous driving to Crime Stoppers. Seek medical treatment, legal advice and counselling as needed.
Consider doing a first aid course – handy life skills for any situation. Consider also keeping a mini first aid kit on your bike for minor cuts and grazes, such as antiseptic wipes and bandaids. Suggested items for a more comprehensive kit are: disposable gloves, face shield, antiseptic cream or wipes, bandaids, a larger dressing or two, a self-sticking bandage, triangular bandage/sling, surgical tape, scissors, safety pins, tweezers, a whistle, survival ‘space’ blanket, notepad and pencil.
Why not just swap my petrol car for an electric or hydrogen car?
By using a range of travel modes, you can reduce the number of cars in a household rather than swapping the fuel source, and reap a range of benefits.
Switching from a petrol/diesel/gas-fueled car to an electric car powered by renewable electricity or green hydrogen will eliminate the direct greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants from burning fossil fuels. However, an electric car is still a car with all of the other costs, safety risks, health issues, resource consumption, and urban and environmental impacts. The upfront cost of electric vehicles may also make it difficult for many commuters to switch their vehicles.
Swapping car journeys for other modes of travel and having fewer vehicles of all fuel types on our roads brings many more benefits for your family and will help create a more liveable city and sustainable future, especially as Canberra’s population and density continues to increase.
So, instead of trading in an existing petrol car for an electric or hydrogen car, start reaping the health and cost-savings benefits of active travel simply by using your current car less. Save thousands of dollars more by selling your petrol car and not replacing it. Free yourself from the burden of car ownership – not having a car at your immediate disposal is a great motivator to travel by other means!
What about the environmental impacts of buses, bikes, batteries and cars?
All modes of transport have impacts on the environment.
As of 2020, Transport Canberra’s bus fleet of 451 buses included only one electric bus and 34 28-year-old Renault diesel buses that pre-dated European emissions standards for particulate matter and greenhouse gas emissions. However, every purchase of buses has been progressively less polluting. The Zero-emission transition plan for Transport Canberra commits to transitioning the public transport system to zero emissions by 2040, including building new and upgrading existing depots to support electric buses. Diesel and gas buses will be progressively replaced with zero-emission battery electric buses powered by 100% renewable electricity, including 90 new electric buses by the end of 2024. Hydrogen-fueled buses are also being considered for future fleet upgrades. This is accompanied by the ACT Government’s investment in battery storage, electricity network upgrades and public electric vehicle infrastructure and incentives.
Retiring buses that still have some useful life are sold into the secondhand market where they displace older buses in organisations that cannot afford new vehicles. Like the used car market, this has a flow-on effect of gradually displacing aging vehicles and improving the emissions standards of remaining vehicles. Buses being retired at the end of their technical lifespan are broken down for useful parts and recyclable materials.
While the material, energy and environmental impacts of manufacturing a 15 tonne transit bus are obviously higher than a 1.5 tonne mid-size car, a single bus has the potential to displace 40–70 cars, and may have a lifespan of 20–30 years compared to Canberra families buying a new car on average every 9.5 years.
The manufacture of electric and manual bikes is more or less the same aside from the motors and batteries. Materials include metals, plastics, rubbers, carbon fibre and other minerals. All of those materials have to be mined, processed and transported, requiring energy. As the world moves towards a more circular economy, more bikes will be made from recycled materials, like The ReCycle.
First generation e-bikes used nickel-based or lead-acid batteries; current e-bikes mostly use the same, more efficient, lithium technology used in electric cars. Lithium batteries do cause environmental damage during mining, production and disposal, so using them as efficiently as possible is important. Looking after the battery will maximise its lifespan, which may be anywhere from 400 to 1500 charge cycles – up to several years – depending how often you charge it. The more you pedal and the lower the power setting, the longer the battery lasts.
While it is no surprise that bicycles use far less energy than cars (either fossil or electric) in both manufacture and usage, perhaps surprisingly, the total energy consumed per kilometer of travel on an electric bike is lower than either walking or a pushbike when human energy input is taken into account. The energy required to produce the additional calories that a person needs to eat to power a pushbike or walk the same distance outweigh the combined human and electrical energy that powers an e-bike (Lemire-Elmore[text link]). This does not, however, consider the full lifecycle material, energy, social or economic costs or benefits of these modes.
Most of the components of a bicycle can be recycled. If the bike is in reasonable condition, sell it online, donate it to charity or drop it off at the ReCyclery for refurbishment and resale. Otherwise, take old bikes and parts to Mugga Lane or Mitchell Resource Management Centres, except rubber inner tubes which go in the landfill bin. Take e-bike batteries to Battery World or Ecobatt for recycling in Australia.
A typical medium family car embodies 475 gigajoules of energy or 41 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents and over 1,000,000 litres of water during mining, manufacture and transport. While electric cars produce no emissions when driven (if powered by renewable electricity), they embody similar resource consumption to manufacture. In contrast, a bicycle embodies less than 9 gigajoules and 19,000 litres of water to produce.
When you no longer want your fossil-fuel car, it will not go to waste in landfill. Sell it into the secondhand car market or recycle it to recover valuable resources. Scrap cars are treated to remove any hazardous materials including oils, batteries and tyres then, materials such as the metal, glass and plastic are separated for recycling. See Recyclopaedia for where to send your old car.
A key consideration is that to meet the ACT’s legislated emissions reduction targets, the use of fossil-fuel vehicles will need to be phased out by 2045. So the question is, what will you replace your current car(s) with? Although choosing a single ‘best’ social, economic, health and environmental outcome between walking, pushbike or e-bike riding and public transport is complex, you can with certainty immediately begin to reduce your ecological footprint simply by leaving your car at home more often. When you finally dispose of your fossil-fuel car(s), consider replacing it with active and public transport and avoid the environmental impacts of obtaining a new private car. There is no doubt that the combined benefits of public and active transport far outweigh the costs of private cars to both individuals and society.
How will I tow a trailer or go on holiday or move big loads without my own car?
Hire the vehicle you need when you need it.
With the money you save by not owning a (second) car, you can easily afford to occasionally hire a truck to move house, or an SUV to tow a caravan to the coast, or a minibus to take a bunch of kids camping in the mountains, allowing you to use the right vehicle for each occasion. There are plenty of traditional vehicle hire companies plus car-sharing schemes. Alternatively, take a relaxing train trip or coach service on a regional holiday or for interstate business.
Indeed, not owning a car can open up the flexibility to travel any way you like – hire that fantasy sports car for an ocean road trip!
My car is irreplaceable, so how can I make it greener?
Even motor enthusiasts can do their bit for the planet.
If you just love your V8 performance Holden, prize-winning vintage Chevrolet, sleek luxury Porsche, tough old Landcruiser or dust-eating rally car, go right ahead and love them. But maybe save them for weekends and switch your daily commute to something greener. Still, check out this drag race between Australia’s most powerful HSV Holden versus a Tesla Model S. Maybe you’ll develop a new love.
Reduce polluting exhaust from your vintage machine by avoiding peak hour traffic, checking tyre pressure, removing unnecessary weight and features (like roof racks) that create drag, regularly servicing the engine and air conditioning, fitting a catalytic converter to the exhaust, or even retrofitting an electric engine – talk to the Australian Electric Vehicle Association.
Consider buying carbon offsets.
What about on-demand and self-driving cars?
The future of transport is shifting from private car ownership to on-demand services.
Did you know that the majority of the 290,000 passenger and light commercial vehicles registered in the ACT could be displaced by a fleet of just 34,000 autonomous (self-driving) on-demand electric share cars?
Imagine: around 10% of the current number of vehicles, almost constantly in motion, could provide over one million door-to-door trips daily, and vastly reducing the need for public parking spaces (Fitch).
Of course, it’s unlikely that our entire car fleet will switch to on-demand vehicles, as many people use their vehicles for specialised purposes, such as providing trades and services. But if we start to think about transport as a “service”, then we can start to rethink our entire transport system. Public transport, cycling and walking supplemented by ride-share and other on-demand services could completely overhaul dependence on privately owned cars.
There is a way to go ensuring that autonomous cars are safe for use on our roads, but on-demand transport services are already with us.
How can I stay covid-safe?
Walking or cycling are great ways to get exercise and travel that don’t involve being in an enclosed space with other people.
At time of writing, May 2021, the ACT Government advises using public transport at off-peak times to avoid crowding. Fare payment is cashless via MyWay cards. Masks are not compulsory. Use the rear door of buses. Wash or sanitise your hands regularly (sanitiser is not provided). Do not use public transport if you are unwell. Get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms.
See the latest advice from the ACT Government about any restrictions and use of public transport. Find additional coronavirus (COVID-19) health advice from the Australian Government Department of Health or the World Health Organisation.