This is not the best ride in the Illawarra but it still beats driving to work. Interestingly it doesn't take that much longer, generally I can make the 14 km trip door to door in about 35 minutes (depending on the wind <g>) driving the same route takes about 15 - 20 minutes.
Apart from a couple of sections the roads are multilane with speed limits that vary from 60 kph to 80 kph, there are a couple of spots where extreme care is needed. I could make use of the expressway but don't - it is too noisy, the traffic too fast and an uphill climb most of the way from Dapto.
I live a block off the Princes Highway in the centre of Dapto. Normally I leave home at about 5.20 am so in winter and a fair proportion of spring and autumn my journey to work takes place in darkness. Fortunately most of my journey takes place under street lights so I make do with a barely adequate 3 volt front light however I like to have a couple of rear lights just in case one fails, I am more worried about being seen than seeing.
I head north out of Dapto along the old Princes Highway, there are two lanes and an 80 kph speed limit, as far as the Kanahooka Rd roundabout the highway is well lit but for the next kilometre and a half there are no street lights and this section of the journey can be very black. The road also is reduced to a single lane in each direction between the bridges over Mullet Creek and the Golf Course track. Fortunately there is a hard shoulder between the bridges.
In daylight this can be a pleasant run past the Kembla Grange Golf Course, the Go Kart track and Kembla Grange Racecourse but when the weather is bad this is an open, blustery place to be - the westerly winds whistle across here and coming home into the teeth of a southerly is a very drawn out affair.
After the junction with Northcliffe Drive the road climbs past the Buttercup Bakery (at 5.30 am it used to smell delicious but, alas, these days is merely a depot) and up to the railway crossing at the top. I used to belt across this crossing but after many broken spokes I have traded speed for experience and try to reduce the stress on the bike somewhat.
Back to suburbia - Unanderra has a small shopping centre but with two lanes in both directions and parking restrictions parked cars are hardly a problem. During the day there is usually plenty of turning traffic so it is wise to keep a sharp look out but at least there is a 60 kph limit (though sometimes I wonder if the motorists have been warned about this).
The final part of my journey is along Five Islands Road a busy, fast three lane road with an 80 kph limit. This is the part I enjoy the least, especially as it starts off with a short but steep climb over the railway bridge, then mixing with the traffic coming off the expressway and finally getting through a complex traffic lights system and interchange at the junction with Springhill Rd.
Early in the morning getting through these lights isn't difficult but at other times I turn right toward Cringilla and take a much safer detour over the Steelworks bridge to get round this obstacle - this means that approaching the traffic lights I have to get over into the right hand lane and hug the median strip for the right turn lane; still not the best but much safer than playing Frogger with the merging traffic.
If I go straight on at the lights it is a matter of keeping to the left and trying to get across the two lanes of, what can be, fast moving traffic merging from the north, then onto the footpath/cycleway that comes from Wollongong and heads off to Port Kembla.
Now I am nearly there - a couple of kilometres along the cycleway, past Cringilla and Port Kembla North Railway Stations, past the coke oven batteries and my journey is nearly over. I enter the steelworks at the Sinter Plant gate and walk the one kilometre to the Blower Station.
Well that's my commute, I have been cycling to work for over 10 years now, my only accidents have been at the railway crossing at Unanderra where I have fallen off unaided (twice) and at the Northcliffe Drive junction when a ute ran into the back of me while taking off from the traffic lights. Not too bad a record, even the soakings have been few and far between.
Addendum (May 1999)
After recent back surgery I still cycle the same route but on a hybrid bike (see My Bikes), the ride takes me a little longer as my speed has dropped by several kph so I generally leave at about 5 am but I still enjoy the ride first thing in the morning. On the occasions that I work a night shift I ride via Berkeley, Warrawong and Port Kembla because at that time of the evening the Cringilla security gate is closed and I have yet to remember to take my electronic pass to operate the gate! Lately, on the way to work, I have been using the cycleway along Five Islands Rd as far as Springhill Rd now that the council has made a road crossing of sorts with a refuge in the middle of the six lanes.
Beware! I was hit by a car coming off the southbound expressway and driving going through a red lights onto Five Islands Rd. There are plenty of drivers who think traffic lights are optional early in the morning. Fortunately the car just clipped my rear wheel and I ended up with three broken ribs but it could have been much worse.
Copyright © Bruce Lloyd 2005