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  1. #1
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    Bicycle Friendly Directions

    I plan on starting a 15 mile/one way commute in the next week or so and am wondering if there is some secret full proof way to find the safest path for my destination.

    I have went through google maps and using the little pins created a route which at the very least avoids all highways. (i did click "avoid highways" but it failed to avoid them all)

    Short of driving this route in my cage is there any other way check the route for being bike friendly viable? I'm pretty sure I know the answer but figured I would ask anyway.

    It is kind of frusterating to travel a path like this only to discover half of the roads to have no bike lane, no shoulder, and look very biker unfriendly... It would be nice if google maps or something similar had some kind of rating system or identifier for bike friendly roads. Hell, they could even allow people to post bike friendly routes that they have come up with and compile a data base. It wouldn't take long to get a lot of the more traveled areas in their database.

    Anyhow, just thinking about my commute and wondering how safe it's going to be, especially when Fall/Winter get here and I'm riding part of it at night. I use to commute on a motorcycle, quite a few years ago, and nearly lost my life to a careless driver. Now my wife is asking me if the bicycle is really that much safer than the motorcycle was, and I'm not sure it is...

  2. #2
    LCI #1853
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    First, get a good city street map, and try local streets. The best route by bike is usually not the same one you would choose by car.

    Look for streets with low traffic volume – few trucks or buses.

    Straight roads with quiet intersections and 90 degree left and right turns.

    Stop signs and stop lights are good things to help you get across busy intersections, though intersections have hazards all their own from scofflaw motorists and cyclists alike. These things will make your route safer and more pleasant by slowing the car traffic down.

    Look for adequate lane width – safe to share with cars

    Beware of surface hazards – poor pavement, storm drains, and space to avoid them.

    Terrain – relatively flat terrain requires less effort.

    Look for good pavement conditions

    Traffic signals at key intersections


    Things to avoid:
    -- Narrow streets with parked cars.
    -- Poor road surfaces
    -- Having to make turns at busy intersections.
    -- Many driveways on your right side
    -- Railroad tracks at bad angles.

  3. #3
    Another Retro Grouch
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    Have you seen this site:
    http://www.mapmyride.com/

    It uses the same database as googleearth/yahoomap. Allows you to map out any route and gives distance and topo sideview.

  4. #4
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    Unfortunately....

    the only way to see if a proposed route will work is to ride it. Pscylepath has hit it right on the head. The route you think will work usually isn't the route you'd take if you were driving. The site that pursuiter recommends is every bit as useless as google maps or any others for the purpose of planning a commute route. All mapmyride does is just that, map a proposed route. And just like google maps it gives absolutely no information on bike lanes or paths, lane width, shoulders or no, etc. All things that are essential to the bike commuter to take into consideration. But there is ONE useful feature that most map sites have anymore, the sattelite veiw! While not the be all and end all, it is a very useful tool as it can give hints if not openly show trails and bike paths that may work as alternate routes, the size of the road, what businesses or large shopping centers line the road etc. All things that a regular line map won't show. I've found that avoiding large shopping centers, factories, malls, or roads with high concentrations of such is desireable when ever possible. These areas tend to draw more and heavier traffic and concentrate trun points for traffic to other areas than just the street intersections. One of the riskyest points on my commute route is the enterance/exit to a Walmart. I've had more close shaves there than anywhere else on my route.

    Anyway, what I would suggest is that you ride your proposed route. On a day off, get on the bike and ride it. You'll get a better idea of how safe the route will be. And in riding it you may find some alternate routing that will be better, you'll have the time to explore without the constraint of having to "get there on time". Just keep in mind that if you are looking at weekends off, traffic patterns will likely be different than during the work week, usually lighter. But that's not a bad thing. You'll still get a good feel for lane size, road surface conditions, and so forth without having the higher volume to deal with. So get out and ride it before you start commuting. It's still the best way to plan a route. I usually plan routes in four phases, 1. map it, 2. drive it, 3. ride it/modify it (on a day off), 3. commute.

    Have fun and ride safe.

    Good Dirt
    "I do whatever my Rice Cripsies tell me to!"

  5. #5
    tlg
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    I've been trying the same thing. Unfortunatle I've got all rural back roads with NO shoulders. Been driving different directions to find a safe route.

    Mapmyride with satellite view helps. But still not enough to tell what's safe.

    Check out this site.
    http://maps.live.com
    Find your location and get a Bird's Eye view. Way better than the satellite view. Closest thing to actually being there.

  6. #6
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    Ride it

    Observe all the dangers...

    Mitigate the dangers...

    Pay attention

    Ride anouther route

    Observe all the dangers...

    Mitigate the dangers...

    Pay attention

    Each route will have advantages and disadvantages...some better at night, some better in the rain etc...

  7. #7
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    I wasn't familiar with Map My Ride before. It looks useful to an extent, and I absolutely appreciate the thought and effort that went into it. That said, a couple changes would make it much more useful. I wish there were an easy way to rate individual stretches of a street with a kind of "confidence rating". Over time, ratings would accrue, allowing someone to auto-generate routes from point A to point B which offer the fewest potential difficulties.

    It would also be cool if it actually plotted all of the routes in an area instead of just displaying the pins that denote the start points of routes. To avoid confusion with routes covering the same ground, there would need to an index on one side with check boxes that would allow routes to be turned on or off individually. The way it's set up now, it's impossible to know if a route is useful unless you click on it, which jumps the user to a whole different page.

    In any case, I'm not sure whether you live in a dense urban area or a more suburban area, but I definitely echo what's been said so far.

    Personally, when I'm riding into uncharted territory, I try to:
    • Be extra patient, extra deferential with pedestrians and vehicles.
    • Take more time to check cross streets.
    • Ride much slower so I can take note of where traffic is coming from and how dense it is. I especially take note of the presence of buses and that sort of thing.
    • Look for the presence of businesses, schools or other institutions that can generate a lot of foot traffic. It's also handy to know where you can get something to eat/drink or have the possibility to complete some errands (ie, stop at the bank, get groceries, etc.) while commuting.
    • Keep my eyes peeled for badly maintained surfaces or other hazards.
    • Where possible, I stick to side streets that parallel arterial streets with traffic lights at major intersections. It is always supremely annoying to have to stand for five minutes waiting for an opening to appear where a side street meets a heavily trafficked thoroughfare. In Chicago, we have a lot of one way streets, which make travel a bit easier when you plan your route well.
    • Don't beat your head against a wall trying to make a route work that throws up a lot of obstacles. Be ready to make adjustments.
    • Bring additional water and have the addresses of the bike shops closest to your route.


    Of course, all of this preparation requires some extra time, so the first time you ride your route, allow at least twice as much time as you think it will take. Also, it may sound obvious, but bring your map with you. If something requires that you veer off your route, you won't get hopelessly lost.

  8. #8
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    I appreciate all of the well thought out replies. Thanks!

    I checked out MMR and is great for what I'm trying to do. Especially nice is the abillity to export it to google maps and see some really decent street level shots. Again, like others have stated, not perfect by any means as far as being able to see everything, but a great start to mapping out a "test" route.

    This is my first "test" route. Haven't traveled it yet, but using the tools linked in this post I was able to do a much better job at mapping a route than I was just using google maps.

    http://www.mapmyride.com/ride/united-states/ca/vacaville/508846317509

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