Slash your transport costs by getting back on the bike


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I envy cyclists who commute confidently to work alongside the cars while I'm stuck in traffic.

I didn't take up bike riding until I was already an adult and I'm terrified of busy peak hour traffic, preferring the weekends and holidays.

I'm waiting to see what bicycle infrastructure the City of Sydney council builds and whether it will give me enough confidence to get off the bus and onto the bike. Ideally I would like a bike lane that I didn't have to share with buses and cars.

One reason I'd like to cycle from home to work is that I can ride to work in about the same time that it takes me to catch the bus or drive - probably less.

The average speed of a bicycle is between 15 and 20 kilometres an hour, which means it takes only around 30 minutes to ride 10 kilometres. This is most likely faster than travelling by car in peak hour traffic.

A big plus is that I could combine my exercise with travel instead of having to go the gym.

I could also cut 1.3 tonnes of a year of carbon if I converted my 10km car trip to a bike ride. I could save significant money that I spend on parking in the city as parking a bicycle is usually free.

Perhaps one day I can ditch my car and get by with a bike and belong to a car share instead. I'd save some serious money. According to the NSW-based NRMA the cost of running a car can range from $130 to $380 a week.

There is some good news from the federal government for part-time bike riders like me. It is pumping $100 million of stimulus funding into cycling and shared paths this financial year.

The City of Sydney will spend $70 million over four years on cycling facilities and there's $115 million earmarked for Victoria's cycling network.

There are a couple of things I can do to help my riding confidence. The first is to join a bike bus, which is like a car pool for commuters who like to ride together to and from the suburbs. And I could try the "ride to work" days when there are thousands more cyclists than usual.

I could sign up for one of the free bicycle maintenance days some local councils offer so I could change my tyres and understand how my bike works.

I could join a bike users' group (BUG) in my area, find out the best routes and join social bike rides to build up my confidence on the road.

Cycling is the fourth most popular physical activity after walking, aerobics and swimming, according to the Cycling Promotion Fund. It is more popular than running or tennis.

Around 1.6 million Australian adults or 9.7% of the population go cycling. In flat, bike-friendly cities like Melbourne around 9% of commuters cycle to work.

Bike riding makes plenty of sense as over half of all car trips in Australian cities are under five kilometres and 30% are less than three kilometres.

For 10 years bike sales have exceeded car sales. In 2009, 23% more bicycles(1,154,077) were sold compared with 937,328 motor vehicles.

The Australian bicycle industry employs around 6000 people.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.