A bicycle beside every desk

IMG_5397A few years ago when I was still in the workforce, I attended a seminar on Green Skills Training. As part of the introductory session we were all asked to describe the future “green” office. I don’t remember what most of the responses were, including mine [with one exception], but they were most likely along the usual lines of “paperless offices” etc. The comment of mine which I remember was: “A bicycle beside every desk”, a response which was greeted with snorts of derision from some. This surprised me greatly as it seemed to me that this would solve so many of the transport dilemmas faced by me and my colleagues at this time, as well as facilitating a very major “greening” of the workplace.

We were located in the centre of Newcastle where parking was either expensive or inaccessible (ie at the top of an enormous hill), our workplace was divided between two locations which were about 2 kilometres apart and often we had meetings to attend  which were nearby, but maybe a few kilometres away, they were rarely a comfortable walking distance, and were often along Hunter Street which is wide and perfectly flat. [For those who are not familiar with Newcastle’s topography, the centre of town runs parallel to the harbour and is flat, but right behind those few inner city streets there is an enormous hill, upon which are mostly houses, units, a cathedral and a school; this area is called, unremarkably, The Hill.]

At our workplace we also had a spacious open office area which would easily accommodate a bicycle beside every desk, as well as undercover parking space. I was the only one who rode to work there, I had a flat ride which took me about 25 minutes and I rode slowly so I didn’t sweat enough to warrant a shower so I could ride in my work clothes. I have written before about the difficulty I had in convincing management to allow me to park my bike indoors as I didn’t want to risk it being stolen or damaged. So it was not a terribly bicycle friendly work place, but it could easily have been.IMG_5301[An employee of the John Hunter Hospital carrying his commuter bike to his office, after riding it up an enormous hill.]

Most of the people at the Green Skills seminar were not from the same workplace as me, but they mostly worked in a similar location to me and could easily have used bikes for transport. Likewise, many of my colleagues lived as close to work as I did and could have ridden to work in a simliar timeframe. Are we making it too hard in our heads to embrace the idea of riding to work or is it just not a part of our culture, and never will be?

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6 Responses to A bicycle beside every desk

  1. Good question, Vicki. I suspect Australians are pretty much addicted to their cars and that only the price of petrol will push things along with regard to cycles at work.My work place backs up to one of Melbourne’s major cycle paths and yet we have to cycle a kilometre past our back perimeter to reach the front door. Nobody cycles.Everybody arrives in a single occupancy car. At lunch time they all drive 2 k down the road to the nearest take away. Sad,hey?

    • Vicki says:

      Yep that is very sad Ian. I dont know if petrol prices are the answer either, people will make a lot of sacrifices to keep something they are dedicated to.

  2. anniebikes says:

    I love the first photo. The soft, diffused lighting is nice. One of the things I noticed when I visited Australia (hubby and I rode rode from Melbourne to Sydney by way of mountains) was that it resembled the United States. Open spaces, shopping malls, highways without much of a shoulder, etc. Only Canberra had cycle paths and they were highly used. I guess you notice things like that when you travel by bike. We are gradually coming around to lots more commuters here, especially in the bigger cities, but also in our small city (population is 45,000). It’s slow, but gaining momentum. Maybe Australia will eventually follow suit. I’ve heard you mention that your city is installing paths. It’s never fast enough for we riders though, is it?

    Our gas prices are nearing 4.00 again. I think it’s more than expensive fuel though. It’s a lot of things happening at the same time that are driving our cycle culture. Lots of unemployed college grads can’t afford cars. We have immigrants trying to get by. The green movement.

    • Vicki says:

      I didn’t know you had been here Annie. At that time Canberra was light years ahead as it is a more modern city, that is, planned and built in modern times so it tends to work better. You are right about the distances here, they are a barrier to some things, but few people would choose where they live so it is bike friendly, they are happy to rely on cars.

  3. Stuart says:

    Commuting has been booming at my work place in Wallsend. It is a small office (<50) but there is around 10 people who ride at least once a week (5 who nearly always ride). I even spied a new starter purchasing a bike at lunch time today.

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