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The best commute!

As all Bicycle NSW friends and Members know, using a bike to get to work has a multitude of benefits.  It's healthy, and cheap, and reliable, and – of course – fun. What’s more, a bike commute can take the scenic route and show off the best corners of the city.  So much better than the ugly arterial roads and concrete motorways that are part and parcel of a car trip to work!

Bicycle NSW Member Greg Keaney started riding to work in the CBD after moving to Rockdale in March 2020 after many decades in Southeast Asia. His ride to work is definitely worth sharing.

Greg Kearney’s 19km bike ride to work takes in some of Sydney’s best cycle infrastructure – and packs a few punches with views as well! (Image: Google Maps/Bicycle NSW)

 A hidden Bayside gem

We lived in the CBD for a while but had decided we needed to settle down. Sadly, our budget didn’t extend to buying a place in the Connaught overlooking Hyde Park! So we discovered Rockdale.

The quiet and leafy back streets of Rockdale (Image: Greg Kearney)

Rockdale is surely one of Sydney’s most underrated and underappreciated suburbs. It has trains, beaches, cultural diversity, and even - by Sydney standards at least – reasonable house price. But one of the key reasons for choosing Rockdale is the great bayside cycleway running from Arncliffe to Cronulla. For a leisurely cyclist like me it is heaven. It passes the Chinese market garden at Kyeemagh, with the terribly named, but surprisingly pretty, Muddy Creek on the other side. It then runs right along Botany Bay for ten kilometres or so before crossing the Georges River on Captain Cook Bridge, through the Towra Wetlands and past Shark Park and then onto Kurnell for the committed, or the glorious surf and sands of Cronulla for the beach-lovers.

But that is a tale for another time and work is in the other direction!

Comparing options for the commute from Rockdale

I work at Quay Quarter Tower close to Circular Quay. In the morning peak hour from my place to QQT takes

  1. By car (with toll): 20 – 30 mins but a $9.74 Eastern Distributor toll
  2. By car (without toll): 30 – 45 mins with no traffic disruptions
  3. By train 40 – 50 mins by train (including a 10-minute walk either side)
  4. By express bike (shortest route, riding hard) 45 mins
  5. By relaxing bike: 60 mins via the scenic route (more below) with the odd stop to drink in the view

On any day where the sun is shining #5 is always my choice!

Stage One - Home to Giovanni Brunetti Bridge 

I start off from home and ride up the only hill of any significance on the route (and it’s probably only significant to an aging leisure cyclist like me!). After a 50-metre climb, I turn into Gibbes St and then it is all flat or downhill across some of Rockdale’s pretty backstreets to tiny Beehag Reserve and its even tinier bridge.

Beehag Reserve with its tiny bridge provides a leafy short-cut for those on two wheels. The reserve was named after an early European resident of Rockdale, James Beehag, who settled in the area in 1853
(Image: Greg Kearney)

I then ride down Spring Street with a wave to the car prisoners jammed up on West Botany Street as I cross over to Barton Park. Behind the park is a fine cycleway passing Morty, the magnificent Moreton Bay fig tree, and then under the M5 and Marsh Street leading to a few blocks of shared footpath riding before the delightful but narrow crossing over the Cooks River at Giovanni Brunetti Bridge.

The Barton Park cycleway which passes Morty the Magnificent enroute to Marsh Street (Image: Greg Kearney)

The shared path weaves its way under the concrete overpass of the M5 (Image: Greg Kearney)

The Giovanni Brunetti Bridge alongside Marsh Street. I am intrigued by how the bridge came by the name. After a little research I presume that it is named after Giovan Gualberto Brunetti, the Italian composer, but – perhaps a local librarian or historian could enlighten us! (Image: Greg Kearney)

Note that the shared path here is narrow and puts bike riders very close to high-speed traffic.  Bicycle User Groups have long advocated for a safer active transport connection across the Cooks River and tried to ensure it is delivered by major projects such as Sydney Gateway, the M6 Stage 1 and the Cooks Cove development.

Stage Two - Alexandria Canal (with thanks to Bicycle NSW) 

The nearly completed Alexandria Canal cycleway follows. This ever-improving ride had a tremendous jump in quality with the transfer of the shared path along the canal being moved from the eastern to the western bank. This stretch of the ride is quite pleasant being now across the canal from the freeway traffic. The added bonus? The steel underbellies of large planes coming into land roar overhead within touching distance as you ride along.

I then ride across Nigel Love bridge – thanks to the interpretative sign on the bridge I imagine winning a high stakes trivia night by being the only one in the room with the answer to the question: ‘Who donated the land upon which Sydney airport is now built?’

The high-quality Alexandria Canal cycleway opened in 2022.  Rest areas with great views of the runways and a dedicated walking and cycling bridge across the canal will be open soon (Image: Greg Kearney)

A little further along the canal and then it’s a turn into the delightfully named Coward St leading back to the cycle path near Mascot Station. I can highly recommend the café on the equally magnificently named Coward Corner if you need a morning caffeine shot to move you on your way.

Coward Corner is a great place for a coffee stop (Image: Greg Kearney)

Stage Three – The Bourke Street cycleway

The Bourke St cycleway runs from Mascot along Bourke Road and Bourke Street. A great bit of infrastructure to provide a way into the city from the south – and getting ever more popular with cycle commuters. There are always a few friendly fellow cyclists at the traffic lights along the way – most impressively the ‘lady from Loftus’ who commutes from Royal National Park to the city on her e-bike!

I’m always grateful to the speedsters who get to each set of lights before me and often trip the crossing switch just in time for my arrival. The only spot to watch out for is the Grounds at Alexandria where parting groups tend to say their goodbyes in the middle of a section of narrow shared path.

The cycleway on Bourke Road is quite good with long stretches of separated bicycle path. However, it has sections of share path which are very narrow in some locations – such as outside the Grounds of Alexandria. Look out for farewellers! (Image: Greg Kearney) 

Stage Four - Waterloo, Redfern and Prince Alfred Park 

I veer off the Bourke St cycleway to join up with the Waterloo and Redfern bicycle path on George Street.  A lot of patience is needed at the busy Cleveland Street crossing. The signals are definitely not set to favour cyclists or pedestrians!

And then it’s through Prince Alfred Park (look out for dogs off the lead), past the beautiful swimming pool (extra bonus if I can squeeze in an early morning swim) and grand old Central Station.  The new cycleway that leads me round the eastern side of Central is excellent.

The downhill cruise through Prince Alfred Park is always lovely (Image: Greg Kearney)

Stage Five – and decisions to be made!

Now it’s a crossing of Belmore Park and then three-way decision.  I can use the Castlereagh Street bicycle path to then enjoy Hyde Park and Macquarie St. Sometimes I enjoy the hustle and bustle of George Street and the tramway obstacle course (not officially allowed!).

Or I take a pleasant cruise through Chinatown to Darling Quarter and Darling Harbour. Then I follow the waterside path around then beautiful Barangaroo followed by the finger wharves at Dawes Point. A lap under the Sydney Harbour Bridge – look at the size of those nuts (and bolts) -  and then onto the Circular Quay and the crowning glory of Sydney – our magnificent Opera House bidding me good morning glistening in the sunshine.

This last option is definitely my favourite!

Darling Harbour – go slow and enjoy the surroundings! (Image: Greg Kearney)

Superb separated walking and cycling paths around Barangaroo headland (Image: Greg Kearney)

The finger wharves at Dawes Point sparkle in the early morning sunshine (Image: Greg Kearney)

Here she comes…. (Image: Greg Kearney)

Nearly there! (Image: Greg Kearney)

The perfect view at the end of a really fantastic commute! You just have to stop and admire our beautiful Opera House (Image: Greg Kearney)

As I sit and bask in the early morning glory of those majestic sails, I spare a thought for all the unfortunate bus, train and car commuters – starved of exercise and sunshine – although I do give a smile and a wave to some kindred spirits enjoying the view from a Sydney Harbour ferry commute!

I am very lucky to have excellent end-of-trip facilities at my office (Image: Greg Kearney) 

And home again 

I do it all in reverse on the ride home but I’m no purist – if a southerly hits, the weather turns nasty, I have to work late or I’m feeling tired then I can always just wheel my bike onto a train.  I’m so, so grateful that this wonderful city offers us such a choice – not many major cities provide cyclists with an easy ‘get out of jail’ train option. 

And finally… 

Like all of us who have discovered the joys of cycling, I hope that many more will occasionally ditch the car and fall in love with a bike or e-bike commute. I’m 63 and have loved the freedom, ease and immense joy of every cycle ride I have had ever since I saved every penny to buy my first bike at 9 years of age.

And please join Bicycle NSW. Not only will you be covered by the best bicycle insurance. You will also support advocacy that campaigns for better infrastructure for bike riders of all ages and abilities across NSW.

Happy cycling!

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