The low-down of ditching the car for a bike

I wrote this article in September 2020 for SEE-Change, of which I am convenor of the Belconnen group.

Tuesday 21 September 2020 is World Car Free Day. To encourage others to take up alternative modes of transport and become less reliant on their cars, I am sharing my experience of switching my car for an ebike on my daily work commute.

Me and my Cube Town Hybrid e-bike

I’m just another person on a bike, not a cyclist. I ride to my job in the city on my e-bike, a Cube hybrid with a step-through frame. It’s a 22-km round trip from my home in west Belconnen to my job in Acton. I recharge the bike every second day and it costs about $1.30.

Benefits: Switching to a bike has brought many benefits. At 30 minutes each way, it takes the same amount of time as driving and being stuck in traffic near my office. I now can park at my desk, don’t spend $17/day on casual car parking fees, and can enjoy birds, kangaroos, and other life on the separated bike paths. Riding beside Lake Burley Griffin is a particular daily highlight. Recently I saw a turtle.

Challenges: E-bikes mean hills aren’t a problem. The main challenge is having to share roads with traffic between my home and the start of the bike path (about 4km each trip). So I wear a reflective vest and use my flashing front and rear lights for that section, even in daylight. Outside of summer, I ride in my office clothes. But I’ll soon need shorts, and the showers at work.

Advice: Find where the separate bike paths are – I’m very happy to show anyone in Belconnen – because the roads are not safe, regardless of green paint and bicycle symbols. Get panniers so you can carry things and lose the backpack for better airflow. Ensure you have flashing lights front and back. USB enabled rechargeable ones are more convenient than replacing batteries.

Lastly, I’ve learned riding clears my head, both going to work and coming home. I no longer stress about traffic jams or finding a parking space, and can enjoy hearing and seeing things I couldn’t from my car.

By Paris Lord, Belconnen SEE-Change Convener. 21/09/2020.
Contact Paris at

Foreign companies turn chicken about bartering with Thailand

Written when I was a Bangkok-based correspondent for Agency-France Press (AFP)

Published in The Age, Australia, 30/01/2006

JUST how many chickens is a fighter jet worth?

Thai economists are trying to work out the answer as the Government is hoping to barter chickens and rice to pay for everything from military aircraft to subway trains.

When Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra opened the bidding on Thursday for Thailand’s Bt1.7 trillion ($A58.63 billion) public works program, he said his Government was interested in alternative “financing mechanisms” — namely, bartering.

The highlight of the new projects is an expansion of Bangkok’s public transport system, expected to cost Bt550 billion. The Defence Ministry also wants to barter for fighter jets it is considering buying from Russia, Sweden or the US.

Mr Thaksin’s Government believes that bartering for such big-ticket items would help keep the country’s foreign debt ratio below 50 per cent of gross domestic product.

The scheme envisions trading farm goods already in government stocks, such as surplus rice, instead of using cash for at least part of the payment to foreign companies.

A barter trade committee has been created in the Commerce Ministry to assess the bids for the public works projects and negotiate how much chicken, rice or tapioca could be used to finance the deal.

Final regulations on bartering are expected in mid-February, but foreign companies are sceptical.

Nazir Rizk, who heads the Thai subsidiary of French engineering conglomerate Alstom, doubted whether barter was the best payment option. “A company like us, we don’t do barter, we sell trains. We cannot sell chickens,” he said.


Disposable Blue Rios – 1

Travelling tales – emails from the road, before blogs

Seoul, 29/11/1999

Hey-ho Kids!

I’ve finally found a computer terminal that seems to send messages rather than lose them. Perhaps the other machine back at my guest house breaks down when the messages are too large. Each time I’ve tried to do a mass send. I get some weird message in Korean I can’t understand and the hostess can’t translate. Twice in two days I’ve wasted more than two hours of my life. A bit like lectures with Cratis, but I digress.

I’ve found a cinema when I wanted one and plan on eating a pizza afterwards, as a reward for the unsuccessful attempts to send email earlier. I’ll see a Korean film about something. I wonder if I can follow a foreign film without the benefit of SBS’ subtitles? While waiting for the 6.30 movie, I’ve found a 24 hr computer lounge full of Korean computer geeks ready to take over the world. The gear they use is powered by Windows 2000, whatever that means. The huge towers are big, blue ‘Millennium’ units with huge, white sub woofers on the computer next to me. I’m number 31 and if anything goes wrong, I hope these kids can help.

Here goes attempt number three.

Tip #1

For any would be travellers to Seoul in November, or probably any other northern hemisphere country, BRING CHAPSTICK.

My lips have been punishing me lately. It took four days to find some chappo. The pretty lip gloss I had did wonders at street corners, but failed to stop the chafing.

Tip #2

When you leave Kimpo International Airport Terminal 2, be sure to copy down the taxi driver complaints number located on the huge blue sign to your left as you exit the building and at the beginning of the taxi rank. Also make a record of the taxi’s number plate and the Korean character to the left of the four digit number. Ensure your driver has his (I’m yet to see a taxi driver, cyclist or motor bike rider who is a woman) trip meter turned on. If he quotes you 5,000 won for the journey, pay only the 5,000 not the 40,000 he yells for when he dumps you in some weird intersection in a suburb you can’t read the signs for, after he twice phoned the guest house to get directions.

I’m nearly getting used to the amazing cold. Perhaps it’s the delusions that kick in when the temperature rises but a wee bit. It’s warmer today and the beanie has remained in my backpack, but around my neck remains my super cheap red scarf while my hands sleep warm in my A$1.50 gloves bought at the Tongdaemun markets.

For all those people back in Oz who heard me rabbit on “Oh, not me, I love cold”, feel free to blow raspberries. I should have qualified my remarks with “I love an Australian cold”. Seoul is the real thing. At the top of Mt Namsan, outside Seoul Tower, it was apparently -5 degrees Centigrade when I visited on Friday. I walked down the mountain to better soak in the view of this enormous, seething mass of humanity, pulling the beanie further down with each step.

When I left the first guest house yesterday, I could crack the ice layer that had formed in the bird bath. This cold is no joke, it told me.

Still, I sleep warm every night and the floors of the guest houses are heated. The first night at the Wow guest house, the hot water didn’t work, so I waited another day to bathe. I guess everyone smells the same under several layers of clothing. The layers also keep out the travellers’ smells. Wow was a dirty, smelly place, more expensive than where I now live. A sign in the bathroom said “please do not put paper in this bog”. Beside the toilet was a bin bulging with paper, so join the dots.

My new place is smaller, warmer and cheaper. The hot water works and upstairs is a coffee shop that serves as much toast as I like. Today I liked five slices. I ‘m forever in my sister, Merope’s debt for the Vegemite and apricot jam she put in my ration back. I think by the time I reach Dublin, I may need a crate shipped over, a la Shane Warne.

My dears, I have a feeling I should try and send this before the computer loses my message.

I’m thus far adoring this place. The only thing I have to thank the heavy presence on US forces in Seoul and surrounds is that all the stations in the subway network are clearly marked in English, while a voice also tells you which lines I can transfer to at a particular stop. The American Force’s own FM radio station, SHITE FM I think it’s called, has announcers who spend the day saying “how ya doin’?” and playing forgettable US numbers. (Amon, if we thought the announcers for B105 and MMM were bad, they’re taught by these idiots.)

To further annoy this traveller, Kenny Wee has released a CD for Christmas which is playing outside every music shop in the city. Can I please suggest an uncomfortable place for his sax? Yeah, I know it won’t fit there, but with some gentle persuasion….

The cold can be dealt with. Tonight three Korean female university students stopped me to record my observations of Korea for their English studies project. They then stood beside me and had a group photo taken. I hope more people actually stop me to practice their English, like they did to another Australia staying at Wow. I wish I spoke more Korean than “yes” (ye), “no” (aniyo), thank you (kamsa hamnida) and excuse me.

I like this place with each new day. Tonight it’s increasingly likely I’ll stay my full two weeks, especially if free accommodation happens soon.

I’ll keep you all posted as to my movements, both bowel and physical.

Expect postcards very soon.

Thank you for reading.