“Good Jewish girls don’t bike”

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Malka Baker

Traveling 10,353 miles to visit my 93 year old grandmothers in Australia is really no big deal. In fact, it’s an honor.  What complicates my time there is the long days spent going from grandma one to grandma two, with little to talk about other than the weather, jet lag and what’s for lunch. So when I went to visit last month, I thought I’d use my newfound SIGGIE skills to enhance my visit, and at the very least, obtain a little conversation material. My elegant, European grandmothers were horrified. “Good Jewish girls don’t bike.”  That only increased my interest in obtaining a two wheeler.

I went over to the closest bike rental (St. Kilda Cycles, don’t recommend). The road bikes had been left outdoors, with rusty gears and sparse inventory. I decided to opt for a single gear bike with an expandable coffee cup. This was a delightful vehicle that allowed me to tour the city in a way I’d never seen it before.  Riding on this bike with flip flops (or thongs, as us Aussies call ‘em), I checked out the beach, the forests, amusement parks and state parks.  I stopped frequently for ice coffee, served in true Melbourne fashion with ice cream and strawberries. I locked up my bike with a flimsy lock and checked out museums, markets and the zoo. My bike was never touched.

Biking in Melbourne was so starkly different from NYC.  The first thing I noticed was everyone stopping at traffic lights. While they’re admittedly more infrequent, everyone stops.  And talks to one another.  (Weird, I know).  Most streets have bike lanes that are similar to the green lanes we have here.  NOT ONCE did a car go near the green lane.  I NEVER saw a double parked car. I felt so safe!  The most popular bike route sees thousands of cyclists on weekends.  On weekends, cars are prohibited from parking to allow cyclists to bike safely. Instead of political signs, homes display signs advocating for wider roads FOR SAFETY OF CYCLISTS! The gate of one of the more popular cafes is made of high end bikes which are loosely chained to the ground.

After biking each day, I was sweaty, tired but satisfied. I had plenty of conversation material for both grandmothers.  I had an appetite for the delicious food they had prepared for me.  I had patience once again for their incessant questioning, including “Nu, so have you found a nice Jewish guy?”  I can’t wait for my next visit, and invite you to join me.

cycling trips