On a blazing hot 37 degree day in Melbourne I commandeered a blue bike from the cycle rack in front of St Paul’s Cathedral on the corner of Swanston st and Flinders st. It’s possible to rent your own bike from Melbourne City Council for the measley sum of $8 for a week, with unlimited free 45 minute cycles between bike stations. After that if you don’t make it to the next bike station, you are charged a small fee for each hour you have the bike with you. I think it’s about $1 per hour or something like that, which is no big deal, it works out to be far cheaper than hiring a bike for the day.
The journey starts near Federation Square, a towering behemoth of architectural splendour, and you cruise underneath of gumtrees and in the shadow of large skyscrapers. Along-side you to the right is the Yarra River, a brown snaking river that harbours a lot of kayaks, small pleasure boats and rowers. The path along the yarra is wide and easy to cycle on, it’s both paved and gravel.
Along the way you pass the stadiums of AAMI Park and the MCG with the Royal Botanical Gardens on the other side of the bridge.
The Yarra River trail runs parallel to the citylink toll road on your left. There is an interesting and mysterious island in the Yarra River called Herring Island where there are apparently sculptures, it’s mostly closed to the public, which makes it even more compelling! I haven’t been but I am bursting to get over there.
You go past Loys paddock and picturesque parkland. As the trail goes underneath the Citylink freeway, the underpass features a little known Melbourne secret. An open-air gym with exercise equipment, a climbing wall and various other things underneath of the freeway! This was a surprise to me and it piqued my curiosity. I got off my bike and begun taking photos of the secret gym and the guys working out. In retrospect this might have come off as being a bit creepy or pervy? LOL…who me? I got on my bike and kept going.
You soon reach St Kevin’s boat shed, Scotch College and Melbourne Girls College. All spectacular relics of affluence sitting on the Yarra imposing their presence. The trail makes many winding turns along the snaking path of the river, as increasingly lush and beautiful native bushland surrounds you.
The Walmer Bridge continues the ride, but you need to cross over to the other side of the river to keep going. I got confused and ended up in scrubland with a dwindling dirt path in front of me – so I turned back.
By this point the mercury had hit a toasty 37 degrees and it was 4 pm, I was roasting. I moseyed my sorry ass over to the nearby Victoria Gardens Shopping Centre, where they have an IKEA and all kinds of other newfangled crap to buy and also thank Christ – a cafe where I gulped down an iced coffee along with a litre of water. Then, newly fortified, I took the journey back to the city the same way. Rewarding myself at Federation square with a nice freezing cold pint of beer.
This is a wonderful ride for people of all ages and abilities if you ever go to Melbourne.
Melbourne’s Blue Bikes
During the great weather of spring and autumn it’s a good time to get a hold of one of these bikes.
The bike stations are located all over the city centre, along with inner city suburbs like Richmond, Fitzroy, Port Melbourne, St Kilda, Carlton and South Melbourne.
If I was living there I would certainly make use of these blue bikes instead of using my own bike, there are no worries about locking them up, maintaining or caring for them. Each bike comes with a free helmet, in keeping with Australia’s bike helmet law.
And with most of Melbourne being flat, it’s a pretty easy ride. Although the terrain is easy, there are other environmental hazards to watch for, like swooping aggressive magpies, billions of mozzies and flies, and the 40+ degree heat which can be a bit of a deterent to foreign cyclists.
I was amused to see a few Melbourne bike commuters riding their expensive bikes and expensive suits through the city but wearing one of the ‘free’ blue bike helmets, in other words they stole a helmet from a blue bike…how very stingy and cheap!
You simply download the app to your phone. Then pay your $8 and then you go to the nearest bike station, punch in the code that shows on your app into the bike stand, the bike unlocks itself and the time starts from then. It’s really easy.