AFTER DARK #2: Cargo Bike in the Dark

Artwork by Sorcha Avalon Mackenzie
Artwork by Sorcha Avalon Mackenzie

“BIKE THE BLUES away,” read a random post somewhere online. When an anonymous cancer charity gifted us with a cargo bike, I did just that, crushing crankiness away with a slow ride around the inner western suburbs of Melbourne. But only during the daytime. With two young children, my husband Chris and I rarely had a need to go out at night. Until, on a dare, I applied to join a writers group.

It was the same year our younger child’s cancer went into remission and her oncology appointments were now only every twelve months. When I received an email that I was accepted among the shortlisted candidates for West Writers Group, it took a while to hit me that their meetings were held at night.

Was I ready to broaden my horizons and move away from my comfort zone? Was I ready to face my seemingly unfounded fear of the dark, though at times it felt frightfully real?

Over the past five years, we have seen the inner west transform into a friendlier, more welcoming place, especially with its extensive and interconnected bicycle infrastructure. Surely my journey through three suburbs at night, to get to the writers group venue, would be safe. Would it matter that I, a woman—a woman of colour no less—would even cycle at night?

With the sunset behind me, I cycled towards the already-darkened sky, pedalling furiously to get to the writing group on time. My husband had stuck more reflective strips onto my cargo bike, the back of my boots, and my mandatory helmet. He had uploaded his rock music onto my mobile’s music folder; his way of saying, you’re not alone; I’m with you, throughout my forty-minute ride along the newly built, well-lit, off-street bicycle path that ran alongside the Sydenham train line.

As an art student of Footscray Community Arts Centre (FCAC) for the last three years, I’ve been attending drawing and painting courses during daylight hours. I had never seen FCAC at night. To my surprise, the art centre was brightly lit and welcoming, even as darkness fell.

Footscray at night, with its newly renovated train station, was awash in bright lights. As the seasons changed and days became shorter, nights longer and the rain colder, I realised I had already been slow cycling in the dark for half of the year.