Walking is better than driving, any day of the week.
Cycling is better than driving, any day of the year.
But cruising around, hands off the handlebars through an empty subdivision is best of all.
10 minutes from where I live there’s a block that’s sprouted 15 apartment complexes. The roads are smooth and wide and perfect for a midnight cycle, except for the traffic lights. There’s so little traffic on these big new roads that the lights don’t change often.
Cycling through this neighbourhood always makes me think of this song by The Avalanches:
The corridor stretches out like an airport runway, every desk pushed against the window with engineered precision. I imagine the night cleaners bowling balls, racing office chairs and playing indoor cricket.
My team staggers itself out across the line. Looking up from my desk I see the tops of apartment blocks and church spires. Fluffy clouds sit over the mushroomed heads of tree tops, sprouting among terracotta roof tiles.
In the distance the Sydney Harbour Bridge springs out from the cluster of skyscrapers, an iron rainbow in the city haze. Rustling bags muffled by the carpet and the hum of aircon surround us.
It’s not a one way street but the walls are narrow and the only cars that turn in drive in the same direction.
At night I cycle east, dodging potholes them at the last moment. No streetlights, just the reflection of the moon, or the glare of oncoming cars.
During the day I cycle west, the same direction as the cars parked along the street. Shuttered garage roller doors back onto the alley, forklifts duck in and out of storage rooms, and the Allpress sign glows 24/7, their workers sitting with their feet in the gutter on a smoko break.
The brown sacking spilling out of red topped bins, the smell of roasting coffee – burnt toast and malt – following me to the end of the street.
“Morning lovely,” is the way I want to get greeted every morning, by every barista.
The shop is a little larger than a hole in the wall, if a truck driving into a building was how they created the hole.
Facing east, the hanging baskets of flowers glow in the sun and warm the group of us gathered and waiting.
They call my name, but it’s for a different Jo. A blonde and tanned Jo.
Opposite the shop is a mysterious warehouse. No signs, no name on Google maps, barbed wire on the fence. Looking past the men in high vis and women in black pants and sneakers I can see racking and pallets stacked to the roof. Sometimes a row of pink vans exit through the electronic gate.
Outside the warehouse milk crates wait for the staff to take their breaks.
At 7.30am my feet and knees feel uncoordinated. I lurch down the stairs, propping open the back gate with the kitchen mop, and gently step out onto the bark.
Peach tiles and geranium bushes and a blushing sky greet me every morning. The red flowers are so bright they don’t look real. They’ve flowered all winter and I wonder if they’re perennial.
Joggers join me on the path up the hill. Kids in unform, the few people who still commute to the city by bus, what feels like 100s of dog owners, and the early morning smokers. Somehow I’ve never seen the same dog owner twice.
The crest of the hill looks down on a rundown series of shops, the tops of gum trees and a stretch of hills – deep blue in the distance.