Bikers Can’t Be Choosers

November 26: Those of you who have read Bill Bryson’s book about Australia know that he doesn’t have much nice to say about Canberra. I would completely disagree – the people are very nice, and the parks, lake, and museums give you plenty of free things to do on a weekend. Canberra is very bike-friendly and mostly pedestrian-friendly, and it’s quite easy to get around the city – that is, if you can manage to stay to the left.

Keep left! (Commonwealth Park bike path)


Walking around Canberra is quite pleasant because drivers actually stop for pedestrians in crosswalks!  (What a concept.)  In fact, they slow down as they see you approach a marked crosswalk. It’s a nice feeling!!  I walked every day – 90 minutes total  – to  and from the ANU campus, and by the second week, I could almost always remember to walk on the left side of the sidewalk.  This was important, of course, when faced with on-coming bike or foot traffic.  If I had to walk on the left, that means that cars also drove on the left, so I had to change my mindset, taught long ago by Dad, from “look left, right, then left again” before crossing the street (on foot or by car), to “look right, left, then right again”.  Fortunately, the good people of Canberra thought to add reminders to street crossings.

Look left to see which way the traffic is coming! Friendly ACT reminders to keep pedestrians safe.


Donna was kind enough to loan me a bike during my stay, and Marc loaned me a helmet.  Donna’s son, George, calls the bike the “mean green machine” , and while it looks a little shabby, it rides well and it was nice to get some additional mobility.  Of course, I had to wear a helmet (and usually did) because bike helmets are compulsory in Canberra (for now).

Bikers can't be choosers. If you look closely enough, you'll see that the basket is broken in more than one place! It still worked, though.

I rode my bike often, but mostly on the weekends so that I didn’t have to deal with the Canberra Civic traffic.  I rode it to the 9/11 Memorial, to Floriade, to see the Queen, to and from campus, to the museums, and all around Lake Burley Griffin and Commonwealth Park.  You can imagine how busy traffic gets when you have people like the Queen and President Obama visiting, and a bike makes getting around that much easier. 

(L) President Obama vistis Canberra (November). (R) Currong St. usually has 1 car on it at any given time!

The bus system is also very good.  A “MyWay” card for $20 makes it easy to pay for public transportation and I used the bus to get to some of the surrounding suburbs, including Belconnen, Woden, and Lyneham.

Of course, a car makes getting to places that much easier, and while I don’t have access to one, Meredith does! She has been FABULOUS about driving me to see different places, including a recent last-minute trip to Mt. Stromlo for observing.  She also drove us up Mt. Ainslie one night for a nice view of Canberra.

Canberra at night

Other Links:

Video of Queen E II
Ad for getting rid of Canberra’s helmet law