Riding Electric-Assist in Sydney with Sarah Imm

The founder of Vélo-à-Porter on riding a bike in Sydney, Australia.

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Photo courtesy of Sarah Imm

Photo courtesy of Sarah Imm

Sarah H. Imm
Founder of Vélo-à-Porter
Surry Hills (part of inner-city Sydney), Australia

When did you start riding your bike?
I started riding again in 2008, after a long absence. I last rode a bicycle regularly in 1998. I bought an inexpensive Giant hybrid and carried my daughter in a baby seat. We went for lovely rides together until she weighed about 22 pounds (10 kilograms) and I became nervous about the traffic. I put it aside until we bought our Nihola tricycle in 2011. Since then, it’s become unusual not to find me on a bicycle.

What is your favorite place to ride your bike to?
My husband and I have “date night” every month and we ride together to the restaurant, wine bar, cinema, music venue, or some combination thereof. We tend not to drink too much as a result, have fun interactions with people on the streets, and see lots of interesting sights (and stay slim).

What is your favorite restaurant?
My favourite restaurant in Sydney is China Lane. It’s a Chinese restaurant with a super-sexy atmosphere. The food is delicious and divided into several sections “Raw and Nibbles,” “Steamed,” “Wok and Fried,” “Vegetarian,” and “Sides.” The best is “Spicy and Wet.” It’s located down an elegant alleyway with a birdcage installation. You can hear the recorded calls of native birds from the area if you sit outside.

What is your favorite bike ride?
My favourite bike ride is a loop that I make a few mornings on my road bike (gasp!), which is about 16 miles (25 km) and takes me through the Eastern Suburbs to Bondi Beach. I usually have a quick dip to cool down and then prep for the uphill ride to go home.

What bicycle(s) do you use on a regular basis and why?
I ride a Nihola Cigar tricycle, which has an electric-motor, every day to drop my two children to school and childcare, then I switch bicycles to go to work. In the summer, I ride an eZee Sprint, which is an electric-motor bicycle. It is really hot and humid here in the summer and the motor gives me a boost. As a result, I’m less sweaty. I don’t carry a change of clothes. Instead, I wear my usual work clothes – a dress and heels. In the winter, I’ll ride the bicycle that started it all, the Giant hybrid! Don’t tell anyone but I also have a Merida Ride 93, a road bike, and a Cannondale Scalpel, a mountain bike (double gasp)!

Describe the bike culture in your city.
I would describe the bike culture as nascent but growing. The number of cyclists has grown enormously in the past five years. However, people still view cycling as “exercise” and “sport” with requisite Lycra. Hence, a proliferation of MAMILS. People ride for transport, usually clad in lycra and they are, at this point, mostly men. There are some women and even less who wear work clothing on their bicycles. While cycle paths have been installed in the city, they don’t connect to one another. There are plans for them to connect at some point, but when? It’s uncertain. The animosity between cyclists and drivers is great. I experience it regularly. It’s still a “car culture” city with many politicians living far away from the city who make incoherent policy decisions. One of the most used bicycle paths, the College Street Cycleway, is scheduled for demolition without consultation, no clear explanation of why, and no clear alternative for cyclists.

What do you think your city could do to make cycling easier and more accessible?
I think that people need to understand that cycling is another form of transport. All current and new drivers need to be made aware of bicyclists and their rights. The construction of additional bicycle lanes leading to the city and within the city would also make cycling easier, accessible, and safer. At the federal level, tax breaks for people who commute via bicycle and don’t own a car would be awesome!

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