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City Cycle around the Brisbane river

When I’m on holiday I look for the opportunity to cycle, whether that’s a ride around a small pacific island like Rarotonga on a mountain bike or along the edge of rice paddies on a mamachari in Japan.  Even around Australia, I’ll often take to my bike, the Turtle Trail in Bundaberg is excellent and the Riesling Trail around the Clare Valley vineyards of South Australia is still on the bucket list.

City cycle

At home in Brisbane though my bike sits on its rack most of the time gathering dust in the garage.  One reason is that I won’t cycle on the roads here but that’s really no excuse as Brisbane is crisscrossed with some excellent riverfront and parkland cycle paths.  Many of these paths are in and around the central business district and that’s presumably the logic behind the Brisbane Councils City Cycle Scheme.

The City Cycle Scheme

If you don’t have access to a cycle in Brisbane you can hire one through the City Cycle scheme.  There are bike racks at 150 cycle stations in the city and surrounding suburbs.  Each station is built to hold at least 10 bikes and they’re located only 300-500 metres apart.  Stations are located from Newstead in the northeast to St Lucia and Westend in the southwest and I’ve never seen a station without bikes available.

Borrowing these bikes does take some planning.  You’ll need to sign up online and pay a registration fee which can be as little as $2 for a one day hire.  For that $2 you can use the cycles all day if you understand how it works.  You pick up and drop off a cycle at any station and if you borrow it for less than half an hour at a time there’s no extra cost. 

The idea is to park your bike back at a station rack each time you stop.  When you’re ready to head off again enter your code and pin, pick up another bike and go.  This prevents bikes from being littered around the city and means you don’t have to find something to do with it while you have your coffee or explore on foot.

The scheme does have its critics:

  • Queensland law requires you to wear a helmet any time you ride a bike – even if you stay on the paths.  Chances are you don’t usually carry one around so that takes some planning.  For foreign tourists this is a major disadvantage and a reason why the facility is massively underutilized.  It’s been partly addressed by some helmets being provided free with bikes but there aren’t enough so you won’t always find one at every station even when its full of bikes.
  • You will almost always find a bike when you want one, a more common difficulty is returning it as many stations are permanently full.  You may need to allow additional time finding a free space to lock your bike back in.  If you’ve almost used your 30 minutes and the rack is full enter your code anyway, this shows you have tried to return it and you’ll get an extra 15 minutes free to return it to another rack.

While the scheme isn’t perfect, $2 for a day’s entertainment and transport is a good deal.

Where to cycle

Whether using your own bike or hiring one for the day there are so many choices of where to go.  I’d avoid the CBD itself and explore that on foot, there are too many people and you need to stop for traffic lights or crossings every few hundred metres.  Instead head for the riverside cycle paths which run on both sides of the river, there are at least 5 bridges you can use to cross the river on foot or on a bike.  Here are a couple of routes but you really can’t get lost:

The Riverside & Parks to the East

From the city pick up a bike and head for the Eagle Street & Riverside precinct then head left (east).  You’ll pass the old Customs House and ride under the Story Bridge for an interesting perspective.  Continue on to enjoy the green space of New Farm and maybe a stop for coffee on the edge of the river at the historic Powerhouse.  The riverside suburbs of Teneriffe and Newstead can be found a little further along.

North of the River to St Lucia

Starting around the Eagle Street precinct again head right (to the West) until you come to the Botanic Gardens.  Following historic floods, the official Brisbane Botanic Gardens moved to Mt Cootha but these city gardens are worth a look around and you can pick up free wifi here as part of another city scheme.  Continue on past the city with views across the river to Southbank Park. 

A little further along you’ll come to Milton, Park Road is a great spot for lunch or a coffee.  The next suburbs are Auchenflower and Toowong with more parks, shopping and cafe options.  You can continue on to St Lucia in this direction but that will require some on-road cycling.

South of the River

The south side would be my pick.  The Southbank Parklands are worth a look around, on the weekend there are regular markets and other events.  There’s a man-made beach to swim or relax for a while and plenty of parks to find either a quiet corner or a good spot for people-watching. 

There are loads of restaurant and cafe options here if you walk through the park to the road.  The museum and art galleries are in this area to the west and to the east is a maritime museum.  The Kangaroo Cliffs park area is popular and you can usually watch some skilled rock climbing and abseiling in progress. 

Further on the park opens out again under the Story Bridge and you might fancy a beer by now at the Story Bridge Hotel which dates back to 1886.  If you headed west from Southbank Park along the river you loop around the suburb of Westend where you’ll find some of the more quirky eateries and galleries.

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