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Old 06-21-14, 06:44 AM   #1
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How many are comfortable enough in their own cities but have problems elsewhere?

I'm a NY'er, born here, lived here almost my entire life. I commute a few days a week by bike but far from all the time, and do a lot of road biking too. I ride the streets, bike lanes, parks, bikeways, all over New York. I never give it much thought. There are certain streets that are known to be bad, and I avoid them, but really not that many. Basically I ride anywhere and just know how to react to situations, traffic patterns, intersections, pedestrians, etc... New York isn't a bad place to ride at all in spite of the assumption that it is.

A few years ago I went back with my bike to one of the few places I've lived other than NYC, Seattle, where I spent eight years, and during those eight years I was a pretty hard-core cyclist. But it had been over 20 years since I'd been back. I was scared s**tless. None of the patterns made sense, I found the bike lanes to not be sufficient, the electric trolleybuses to be scary coming up silently behind you. The hills of course mean that you are struggling a bit more. I found way too many streets with no place to ride. But yet, Seattle is supposedly one of the better cities for cyclists. Even Lake Washington Blvd where I used to do after work rides all the time seemed narrow.

I've also been to Chicago a few times, and I mostly stuck to the Lake Shore Drive bikeway, but ventured out into the streets around Wrigley and found it a bit daunting. I didn't have a bike map there though so I didn't know where to go really. I was in Montreal last summer, which has two-way bike lanes along one side of the street (I saw a thread about those here somewhere), and found that also not so great, and other streets I just wouldn't ride.

What are your experiences?
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Old 06-21-14, 06:56 AM   #2
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Do a.lot of touring and randoneering rides all over South Korea. As.long as I have my Garmin with a goodbase map
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Old 06-21-14, 09:31 AM   #3
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I lived in Montreal for many years in the 1990s and 2000s, and I think if you would have been amazed if you had had their bike map and explored the city that way. (Their bike infrastructure has gotten even better than when I lived there.) I visited Chicago for a week a couple of weeks ago and used Divvy bike share to ride from the my hotel in the loop down to the convention center each day. I did a lot of consulting of the Chicago Bike Map on my smart phone and trying out different routes and found it to very easy after about day 3. I live in NJ and do a fair amount of cycling in NYC -- Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, which is also great. However, I wouldn't say its bike network is more intuitive to the uninitiated than Montreal's or Chicago's. And apart from the separated paths on the West Side, etc, in NYC motorists respect the network less (for example by parking in the lane), adding some anxiety to the experience. For example, I've never had a very pleasant experience on the Eighth Avenue bike lane and try to avoid this route if possible. However, armed with my bike map and some patience, biking around NYC is one my favorite ways to spend a weekend morning or afternoon.

Even in the small city in NJ where I live, I'm still finding shorter, safer ways of getting around after living here for many years.

So I guess I'm agreeing with you that in North American cities, even those with what is considered good bike infrastructure here, the uninitiated need to do some homework to wrap their minds around what is available to the cyclist. And only after a lot of experience do you feel at home. No doubt networks in European cities are more approachable.
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Old 06-21-14, 12:32 PM   #4
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The two cities I bike in the most are Boston and NYC. Though they share some similarities they are quite different. I find getting around NYC and Brooklyn a bit more fun than Boston. The infrastructure connects better and, if I plan my route well and take my time- not push too fast a pace, I can have an enjoyable safe ride to just about anywhere.

In Boston the infrastructure is more spotty, the drivers are abysmal- rude, impatient, territorial and aggressive and I often feel myself pushing the pace to stay with traffic. NYC seems to prefer a steadier pace for me. Too fast in NYC is asking for an accident.

I'm also a road rider and bike tourist and do a lot of riding far from cities. That is also a completely different style and set of expectations.

I've ridden in a lot of US and Canadian cities, either due to work or when traveling (I've biked across US2x's and Canada once). And every city and region has its own specific "car culture". It always takes me some time to adjust.

Right now I am living and working in San Diego for 2 months and I've had a bit of "car/bike culture shock" as I commute by bike. The roads all feel like freeways to me. Sometimes I can't believe the road I am on actually has a "bike lane" as cars whiz along beside me at 50+ mph. The intersections feel like they are 1/4 of a mile wide and making a left turn can mean crossing 3-4 lanes of high speed same direction traffic to get into the left turn lane. Last night I had my first car ride and we got on "the 5"- which is the freeway- and moved at the nice biking speed of 17-19 mph for a good 40 minutes until we got to our exit, where we promptly got on a multi lane road and travelled at 50+ between stoplights.

The bike culture here is much more an outgrowth of the "fitness culture" and though there are transportation cyclists they definitely feel second tier to the triathletes and road bikers.

The weather here is highly conducive to biking and it seems remarkable that I am seeing no more bikers than I do in NYC or Boston.

As a side note, having just installed solar panels on my home in the Northeast I cannot believe every house here does not have panels on the roof. A very modest solar array here would easily produce at least 20 kW per day virtually every day of the year. It seems just a bit more wedded to the automobile and traditional power plants than I expected.
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Old 06-21-14, 08:48 PM   #5
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The only region of the country I haven't ridden in is the northeast (not counting central PA, which is more midwestern from a cycling viewpoint). Yeah, there are differences, but they're not much greater than the differences that I encounter within a single county in some places. One thing of note, there have been changes over time in every place I have revisited. The regional differences appear to be more a matter of some places being trend setters and other places being a bit slow to catch on.

Regarding Buzzman's aside: San Diego and Orange County are the Golden State's most conservative locales, and Orange County is changing. SD is always living in a past that never was in the rest of the state, if you know what I mean.
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Old 06-22-14, 08:15 AM   #6
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I started bike commuting in Boston. Never had an issue in any other location. San Francisco is amazing, rural Southern Maine is a bit sketchy, and I'd rather be riding in Boston or Cambridge, but still tolerable and manageable.
I know next to nothing. I am frequently wrong.
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Old 06-23-14, 07:18 AM   #7
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I ride mostly in my city. I don't know why but I used to get a little freaked out when I'd go on vacation in more rural areas. However, I do a good amount of planning on Ridewithgps and use Google street view to get an idea of the conditions. I found the drivers have been fine it's the loose dogs that are the issue.
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Old 06-27-14, 03:48 AM   #8
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Biked to work to Chelsea in Manhattan from Queens back in the 90`s. It was kind of nuts but so was I - loved the adrenalin rush every morning but it was definitely pretty dangerous. For the past 8 years I have been living in Yokohama and riding just about everyday. I usually rent a bike when I go back to NYC to visit and feel that it is much safer now. It`s good to see the lanes and more women and even kids riding. My parents now live in Raleigh NC and I can`t imagine a worse place for biking. Not even tempted there.
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Old 06-27-14, 06:54 AM   #9
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My commuting started here in Atlantic Beach back in the mid-80's and I've ridden/commuted all over the country from the east to the west and I've done several long cycling tours. I'm comfortable riding anywhere. There are "pockets" everywhere that are bad to ride, but all-in-all they are about the same. I like bike lanes, but don't need them and I'm perfectly at home on shoulderless roads. I never cycle on bike paths (MUPs), unless I'm riding with others that don't have the experience of riding on the roads.
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Old 06-27-14, 08:11 AM   #10
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Knowing the place makes all the difference. I suspect that they are few places that are bad to ride once you know all the ins and outs.
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Old 06-27-14, 12:26 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by modelmartin View Post
Knowing the place makes all the difference. I suspect that they are few places that are bad to ride once you know all the ins and outs.
This is my point really. I wouldn't expect anyone to be comfortable here in NYC, but you get used to it and know what situations to avoid. But even Seattle where I used to live and ride felt weird when I went back, albeit a long time later.
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Old 06-28-14, 07:20 AM   #12
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That's always true with any place...or thing.

I have a bike I use mostly for touring and use another bike for commuting. I have over 12,000 miles on this touring bike, so I'm fairly use to it. However, I recently broke the frame of my commuter bike and while waiting for a replacement frame I just started riding my touring bike and despite the mileage I have on this bike it took me a little to get use to riding it again. Nothing big, but there are little peculiarities that you must adjust to when riding, such as how to take a quick tight turn and so on...

It's a perfect example how a tool becomes an extension of you; much like the Samurai and his sword. When you first ride in a certain place or thing (i.e. new bike) you must, to some extent, program (or reprogram) your brain.
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Old 06-28-14, 05:15 PM   #13
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I have biked in cities of Washington, D.C. and in Duluth/Hermantown(Minnesota). Duluth n' Hermantown, was far better, during the years that I lived there. Than Washington, D.C. and the surrounding region, has ever been. Because, In the DC-Metro area, there is a pervasive attitude of entitlement to the roads. On the part of motorists'. In Duluth n' Hermantown, motorists' were more laid back and not in such a rush to get something done yesterday, and to push someone traveling wi/o a car, out of the way.
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Old 07-21-14, 03:35 AM   #14
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I am just the opposite. I have problems in my local area, but I love it when I get out of the area and ride to places like Chattanooga, Tn., and through other counties.
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