Next morning we went to the Art Gallery to see the Monet exhibition. Being a philistine I never knew that Monet spent many years developing his garden in Giverny, about 70km north east of Paris. That then led to Monet's many paintings of lilies, his green bridge and other flowers:
Our hotel was opposite the MCG. Below is a map of the area. The orange arrow points to the hotel (I fear I am fairly crap with graphics programs so a dodgy arrow is the best I can do). The Art Gallery, as I am sure you know, is where the purple arrow is pointing:
On our first day, to get to the arts centre, we walked along Wellington Parade and then picked up the free city circle tram near where the Hotel Lindrum is. That took us to Flinders Street station and then we walked across the bridge to South Bank.
The next day I was determined to have a go on the bike share bikes and luckily there was a station near the hotel (where the blue arrow is pointing). Had it not been that close, I would not have been allowed. The system is very easy to use and very cheap. You pay $2.70 for the whole day and as long as each journey you make is less than 30 mins you don't pay anything else. Just climbing into a taxi is more expensive than that.
As we all know, Australia is one of three countries in the world with all ages helmet laws. There were about 6 bikes at the station but only one helmet. However a sign where you pick up the bike tells you they are closer than you think:
The 7-Eleven I was directed to was about 800 metres away in the opposite direction from where we wanted to go. Also, when the system was introduced there were a number of complaints about a lack of helmets at the 7-Elevens. I didn't fancy a wasted walk so I broke the law instead.
The bikes themselves are great - comfortable and smooth with a functional little luggage rack on the front. The gearing makes the bikes quite slow even in top gear but that kind of works because you end up spending a lot of time on the pavement and journeys are quite short.
We passed another set of bikes near Federation Square and I was able to pick up a helmet there. That meant I was no longer a criminal. I have to say though the helmets are probably the cheapest crappiest examples I have ever seen. And they make you look like a total goob. Before that I had been rolling through the streets looking all debonair with my linen jacket flapping in the breeze. The image was totally destroyed once I put the plastic hat on. A total turn off.
And completely unnecessary. I'd been on the pavement the entire time. Everyone we passed was fine about it. I was doing maybe 12 km/h tops. Is the plastic hat really necessary? There was no way I was going to walk to the 7-Eleven and back. Had I not had a specific intention to use the bikes, like most people, I would not have bothered.
Now it may be that there are other reasons for the woeful performance of Melbourne's bike share compared to other cities. I doubt it though. Dublin uses the same system - with fewer bikes. It is just as hilly and the weather is much worse. Yet it easily outperforms Melbourne by a mile. A combination of ditching the blue hat requirement and setting up a decent grid of safe bike lanes would transform it.
After Monet's exhibition, we took the bikes to see Legally Blonde the Musical (of course). This time, although there were plenty of bikes, there was not a single helmet. Again, the 7-Eleven was "closer than you think" but really? For a 5 minute journey? We both broke the law initially and then found some again near Federation Square. So after a brief spell of feeling just a little bit European, we went back to looking like the two guys off the Motor Accident Commission advert:
Not sure I'll bother next time.
When we dropped the bikes off, there were 3 helmets for 7 bikes (the largest ratio we'd seen). Something tells me they would not have been there a couple of hours later.