Things I Learnt While Biking To Work In Malta
If I can do this, everybody can
When the #bike2work campaign asked me to try cycling my daily commute, my first reaction was genuine laughter. To me it seemed like a physical impossibility to cycle from Naxxar to Valletta. When you're deeply unfit (like one in four of us Maltese) the first things that come to mind are profuse sweating and/or heart attacks. But when they told me they'd give me an e-bike to try out (thanks to The Cyclist in San Gwann), I thought it'll be worth a shot. Turned out it was my most rewarding commute ever. I arrived to work with a sense of accomplishment and I started to wonder: why don't I do this everyday?
1. It's faster than driving, especially during rush hour traffic
It took exactly 40 minutes for me to cycle from Naxxar (my house) to Valletta Hub, where I work. A drive at rush hour will invariably take longer than that, not to mention the added time to find parking.
2. Most drivers are really respectful of cyclists
I was impressed by the courteous behaviour of the vast majority of drivers. My physique probably helped in that they could tell I was an inexperienced cyclist. But I also got the feeling most people appreciated that I wasn't another car on the road.
3. Especially when they have a GoPro stuck to their helmets
Yes, the GoPro serves as a great warning sign to the few drivers intent on being dicks to cyclists. Just a short word of advice: apparently it's unsafe to stick a GoPro to your helmet, because it could interfere with the helmet dynamics in the case of a fall. So best to keep the GoPro attached to your bike instead.
4. You can find routes that avoid hills
Loads of people say they'd bike it to work if they lived in a less hilly country. But if you plan your route you'd be surprised by how easy it is to find flat routes. We cycled through Birkirkara via Hamrun and then down to the Valletta waterfront.
5. E-bikes are the future and must be subsidised ASAP
E-bikes are not to be confused with the loud motorised bikes you sometimes see whizzing past you dangerously. E-bikes have an integrated electric motor that gives you added propulsion and makes steep gradients seem much less steep. The problem is that you'd need to spend about €2,000 to buy one.
6. It's easier with a buddy
It can seem a bit lonely on the road if you're cycling alone. Sometimes you need someone to cover you while you cross a road. And car drivers might give you more space if they see two cyclists rather than one.
7. Malta has A LOT of pastizzerias
When you're cycling you actually get to smell the air around you and that includes wafting scents of freshly baked pastizzi. It's crazy how many there are around the island. Cycling gives you the opportunity to explore new routes, including sights and smells that you're likely to ignore while driving.
8. Road grating is terrible if it's not against the route
If you can't put cycle lanes everywhere, the least Transport Malta could do is make sure road grating isn't built in parallel with the roads. Bicycle tyres could easily get stuck in them. They must be built at opposite angles instead.
9. Business owners should provide shower facilities
Most people don't sweat as much as I do but it would be nice to know you could arrive, shower and start the day feeling fresh again.
10. And a company car (or driver) to get to meetings
This is probably the biggest barrier for people whose work doesn't involve staying at an office all day. But if a bunch of people cycled to work and then your boss provided a company car or driver to get to your meetings throughout the day, it could solve the problem.
11. There's nothing more fun than seeing road rage and traffic while you're cycling
The contrast between their rage and your zen is enough to make it all worthwhile.
12. It gets scary. Make sure you indicate with your hands, take precaution and remain focused
Don't get too lost in the thrill of it all because you could find yourself flying over a car door that's just been opened in front of you.
13. You can spend 40 minutes without looking at your phone
Although if you're anything like me you'll spend all the time you save on your phone as soon as you arrive. Cycling also makes you realise how dangerous it is to use your phone while driving. There were at least three times when I was praying aloud for a car to see me and not be distracted with the phone.
14. All that fresh air and movement really wakes you up for the day
It's way better than coffee.
15. This can be a way of life
If I did this everyday, I'm convinced I'd be a much happier person.
16. The sweat is real, so you'll need a change of clothes
Also, deodorant is your friend.
17. Your ass will be sore
But some of us are used to that.
18. The bragging rights more than make up for any hardship
Xeba Facebook likes u hekk.
19. Cyclists should be rewarded
A lot of small things could make a big difference. One example is the Upper Barraka Lift which could help cyclists avoid the Ġlormu Cassar uphill. It should be available for free to cyclists.