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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 02-20-11, 10:03 AM   #1
earth2pete
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do you ever feel 'boxed in?'

do you ever feel frustrated avoiding certain roads or intersections that you wouldn't worry about if you were driving?

i remember moving from an area where i could ride a few miles through quiet neighborhood streets to an area that was surrounded on all sides by busy, high-speed arteries. i suddenly felt boxed in. it was like i was imprisoned in a castle surrounded by a moat or something.

how do you handle the obstacles that are a natural part of your commuting landscape?

may i suggest, this can be a very informative thread if posters feel free to speak the truth without fear of criticism. so please, do not comment directly about others' choices or preferences, just talk about your own experience and how you handle it. we are all intelligent enough to make our own choices. if you want to express your dissent openly, the Advocacy and Safety forum is right next door.
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Old 02-20-11, 10:32 AM   #2
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Most of my rides involve 45MPH+ multilane roads. I don't look at them as obstacles. They are roads that get me places, not obstacles that block me from getting places.
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Old 02-20-11, 10:35 AM   #3
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I don't feel this way commuting, but for longer rides around here there are a lot of roads that could be a lot nicer if the speeds weren't so high. And the idiot road department just rumble stripped them, so the shoulders are pretty useless
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Old 02-20-11, 12:15 PM   #4
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I have a right to the road. I use all of them if I need to (except highways, since bicycles can't use them in MA )
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Old 02-20-11, 01:33 PM   #5
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There are certain road that I see as more dangerous condition for me. One of them is a freeway overpass that is also the interstate on ramp. Car accelerate to speed to get to the on ramp just to slow down before heading into the turn. I get stuck between cars if I stay on the right lane. If I don't get out of that lane, I end up on the freeway.

To avoid that, I chose a whole different route that have an underpass through the freeway. It is more safe although farther. A few extra miles on a bike for safety reasons is relatively small and provides a peace of mind.
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Old 02-20-11, 03:37 PM   #6
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Every road I ride on is 50+ MPH other than a small section through a town. Doesn't really bother me, because it's all I've ever really known.
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Old 02-20-11, 03:48 PM   #7
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I wouldn't get very far if I avoided traffic chokepoints.

I'm between the railroad mainline (NYC to Chicago, 4 tracks), and three expressways. All have limited points for any vehicles to cross. I'd be limited to an area of one mile wide by three or four long if I didn't use overpasses and underpasses. Going to work, I also have to cross the river. I seldom cross the Erie Canal, but it forms the southern border of my usual "territory".

The bridges in the area are all pretty good. They're at least 4 or 5 lanes, and taking the lane still gives cars a way around me. However, in 1909 when Commodore Vanderbilt pushed the New York Central right smack through the middle of the city, two-lane dugway-style underpasses were all that were needed. Those can get tricky, especially with the storm grates at the bottom. They've been a problem for 102 years, and there are no changes planned in the foreseeable future.
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Old 02-20-11, 05:18 PM   #8
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My wife and I used to work at a school that is less than three miles from our home. The main road to get there has a thirty-five mph speed limit with bike lanes on both sides and a two-way left turn lane for the entire length of the 1.5 mile road. After too many close calls we finally gave up on that road. Our alternate route was eight miles long with over half of it on bike paths. The upside was that we got more exercise and got to meet many of the homeless folks who spend their days keeping dry under the overpasses on the bike path (they became our own private security detail, always looking out for us). The downside is we had to allot more time for our trips and the defeated feeling of having been terrorized off of our public right-of-way.
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Old 02-20-11, 06:20 PM   #9
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BCarfree, I'm astounded that drivers could be so BAD that they could chase you off a road with THOSE conditions! WOW! But I can get with the alternate route idea -- I have several, most of which get used during the warmer months (I'd say Easter-Halloween).

There are a few streets where I live that are just absolute 'Mad Max' dangerous to ride a bike on; fortunately, most are not part of the 'business district' where bikes are forbidden on sidewalks (like that stops me when the need arises!). They also 'boast' rugged sidewalks that are a pure joy to MTB on.

I don't think about it all that much, because I get bored easily taking the same route all the time; so I'd switch up every couple days anyway....
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Old 02-20-11, 07:03 PM   #10
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when i worked days, i found morning to be more pleasant and easier than afternoons. it seemed the traffic was heavier later in the day. i often took slower alternate routes in the afternoon to avoid traffic, not out of fear, but because it was much nicer to ride where there was shade, fresher air, and quiet streets.

so i guess i see heavy traffic as an obstacle, mostly to my enjoyment. it's about the same when i drive or ride my motorcycle.

now that i work nights, traffic is not that bad in either direction. i don't miss the busy traffic of rush hour, but i do miss being awake in the daytime.
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Old 02-21-11, 12:35 PM   #11
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Most of the scary roads are just as scary in a car. I ride where I need to.
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Old 02-21-11, 12:45 PM   #12
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I feel the opposite of boxed in, my route is shorter and easier on bike than it would be in a car since im not limited to one way roads and parts of my ride go through parks and not around them
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Old 02-21-11, 12:47 PM   #13
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Yes, earth2pete, I know exactly what you're talking about. It's the worst in newer developments here. Which is a big part of why I live in a house built in 1900.

One thing I do is spend a little time looking at a map to try and find a decent route. Otherwise I suck it up and take the miserable arterial road.
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Old 02-21-11, 12:54 PM   #14
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I ride anywhere by myself, but when I ride with my wife and/or kids, we stick to 35 mph and slower roads, avoiding the 45mph arterials that are required to access some destinations.

My part of town has a usable network of 25 mph low-volume residential streets plus some 35 mph medium-volume thoroughfares with wide pavement that we ride to get most places we want to go, plus a few greenways we use to bypass some less pleasant roads. We use these routes to ride into downtown Cary (with lots of interconnected slow streets) and numerous other commercial areas for errands and outings. This has worked very well for us, no unpleasant experiences on these routes.

There are some neighborhoods in the town that are boxed in by 45mph (50 mph design speed) arterials and lack any alternate low-speed routes in or out of them; the only way to leave the neighborhood is by 45 mph arterial. We won't buy a house in those areas and won't ride to them as a family on our bikes.

The town is now encouraging better residential street connectivity, as well as better low-speed street connectivity between commercial activity centers and neighborhoods. This is making low energy travel more pleasant in those new neighborhoods.
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Old 02-21-11, 02:24 PM   #15
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The roads I avoid most are the 2 lane, 2-way roads with no shoulder and heavy traffic moving 50+. The only way to use such a road is to pretty much shut down one direction of travel, backing up cars for miles. I understand the right to use the roads, but I'm not going to do something that will be that irritating to so many people. I'm also not crazy about someone coming up on me going 60 and neither of us having anywhere else to go if they cant slow down fast enough. There are a few multi-lane roads I avoid because they are too packed with traffic and moving fast.

Luckily, I havent found myself "boxed in". I have been able to find safe routes to most places I want to go.
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Old 02-21-11, 02:33 PM   #16
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No.
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Old 02-22-11, 10:53 AM   #17
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Yes and no. I am definitely boxed in by where I live, but I don't necessarily feel boxed in on the bike. My preferred roads are 4-lane 45mph roads, which make up most of the town. My least desirable roads are two-lanes, and the higher speed country two-lanes are where I would most expect to die. You know, the roads all the roadies go to to be "safe".

I make one detour to avoid one stretch of road. Unfortunately, I live off of one of the only roads in town I would rather not ride on. The red is my detour. The most troubling sections of what's left are the two-lane roads, not the 55mph 4-lanes or the big intersections.


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Old 02-22-11, 11:07 AM   #18
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I live in a suburban wasteland so I feel boxed in a lot of the times unless I'm on a MUP. Sometimes I wish I lived somewhere more remote with scenic country roads where I only have to deal with the occasional banjo player.
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Old 02-22-11, 12:14 PM   #19
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I've noticed that a lot of cities in the Southeast have concentric rings of development and road construction built over the years, yielding different qualities of cycling at different distances out.

The innermost "downtown" areas have a nice dense grid of urban streets built before 1950. Most have slow speed limits; the most convenient roads will have higher traffic volumes while others will be very light and make great alternate routes; I'm comfortable cycling on all of them. Land uses are often mixed and useful non-residential destinations are near the residents they serve. These areas are ideal for a car-lite utility cycling lifestyle.

A little farther out, where most of the development dates from the 1950s and 1960s, the street density drops considerably, and a larger percentage of the useful through roads are higher speed arterials. However, there are often still nice 2-lane collector streets that connect neighborhoods together and provide alternatives to the arterials. These roads are often signed as bike routes due to their wide pavement and lower traffic speeds and volumes compared to the main arterials. Land uses are more separated and everyday trip distances are longer. I find these roads enjoyable for exercise and utility cycling, although stop signs are frequent.

As one moves farther out, one usually encounters a limited-access ring arterial or ring freeway depending on the population. Because not many roads may cross the ring, it may be difficult to find a pleasant low-traffic or low-speed street to cross it. A ring road that isn't a freeway may have at-grade intersections with collectors directly across from one another on both sides, but in some cases cross-traffic has been prohibited with barriers and right-in-right-out restrictions. Freeways may have severed local street connectivity, with only the most important, busy roads crossing at bridges. Sometimes a greenway or rail-trail will cross the freeway, but it will be closed to the public after dark.

Farther out, one encounters neighborhoods built in the late 1980s and early 1990s, where some of the worst pod-style cul-de-sac development took place. The only useful through streets connecting residential to non-residential land uses are 50 mph arterials. All trips leaving a residential single-use subdivision must use the arterial. Commercial destinations such as grocery stores are in large activity centers located on the busiest arterials. Most cycling not done in small loop within one's neighborhood requires the confidence to ride the 45mph 4-lane arterials. Most novice cyclists ride on the sidewalks.

One may have to cross another ring road to go farther out.

As one reaches developments built near 2000 and later, some developments incorporate Traditional Neighborhood Development elements, with higher street connectivity and residential uses adjacent to or even mixed with commercial destinations. Some of these developments weave into more typical 2000s era suburbia with good connectivity of collector streets, while others are isolated islands. Some of the other more common single use residential subdivisions now have better collector street networks and the collectors often interface with the activity centers allowing direct trips without use of arterials. Streets vary considerably in how pleasant or useful they are for cycling.

A bit farther out, one encounters very low density semi-agricultural residential on a very sparse network of narrow state highways, posted 45-55 mph, with no paved shoulder, and heavy traffic traveling between adjacent cities and new exurban subdivisions. Most cyclists find these areas unpleasant for cycling.

Even farther out, the isolated subdivisions are less common, and traffic volumes are lower. This is what most roadies consider truly "rural" roads that can be quite pleasant for cycling.

In summary, I often encounter a "band" of varying width around a city where cycling is unpleasant or inconvenient. There may also be patches inside or outside that band where the enjoyment of cycling wil vary.
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Old 02-22-11, 12:24 PM   #20
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There are a limited number of ways to cross the Potomac from No. VA into DC. The MUP is a really nice option, and I am glad to have it, but it is doesn't get treated or plowed, so ice and snow are a headache sometimes (no studs for me yet). The plethora of walkers, joggers, and 5 mph recreational cyclists on nice days can be an annoyance, too. I occasionally wish there were another way across just for variety. I guess that does leave me feeling a bit boxed in.

I'm not sure my situation is really any worse than anyone else who has to deal with bigger rivers or other geographic/geologic/hydrologic obstacles/features to contend with, though.
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Old 02-22-11, 12:47 PM   #21
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Yes, rivers are one of those problems. We have the Des Plaines river here, and it turns out to be an issue for those living in suburbs beyond that river. 4-5 roads go over the river, and they are all major thoroughfares. I can't get people (who are interested and ask me for advice) to start commuting when they know they will have to ride on a 45-50 mph road with no shoulders, even if it's only for 1/2 mile. And I do understand the hesitation. A nearby forest preseve has some paths, but none of them crosses the river. I guess it's just too expensive to build.
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Old 02-22-11, 06:31 PM   #22
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do you ever feel 'boxed in?'

Quote:
Originally Posted by earth2pete View Post
do you ever feel frustrated avoiding certain roads or intersections that you wouldn't worry about if you were driving?

i remember moving from an area where i could ride a few miles through quiet neighborhood streets to an area that was surrounded on all sides by busy, high-speed arteries. i suddenly felt boxed in. it was like i was imprisoned in a castle surrounded by a moat or something.

how do you handle the obstacles that are a natural part of your commuting landscape?...
When I first read the title of this thread, I imagined that it referred to any situation where one is squeezed out by an obstacle on the right and traffic on the left. I have even previously posted Jim’s Law of the Road: “No matter how well paved and lightly traveled a road is, you are likely to be passed by vehicle on the left as you encounter an obstacle on the right.”

Now, I have a remarkably nice reverse 14 mile commute from downtown Boston through mostly residential and light commercial areas to a southwestern suburb. Furthermore I even have the option of a convenient Commuter Rail trip nearly from door to door, with my bike. My only real limiting obstacle is crossing a major circumferential Beltway, I-93 / Rte 128, but even this is via a wide overpass. My suggestions to plot a tolerable commute are to:
- scrutinize maps and accept longer, but more comfortable routes as tolerated
- travel early in AM and/or late in PM to avoid rush hour
- use public transit if possible to circumvent obstacles
- use eye-catching lights, even in daytime
- wear a rearview mirror because no matter what the road is like, Jim’s Law will apply.
(I wear right and left eyeglass-mounted mirrors for riding the left side of one-way streets, and for rotaries, aka roundabouts.)

This winter though, the heavy snowfalls and cold temperatures have deposited virtual glaciers on some of my safe-riding road shoulders, putting me directly onto the right hand travel lane of some major thoroughfares. I have described how I handle this temporary obstacle:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
…previous safe shoulders are now obliterated by frozen snow banks, slightly melted to only about three feet high, with occasional ice patches extending out a foot or two.

Even on my reverse direction, when I leave after 6 AM I have to deal with tight road conditions. I’ve found that cars tend to pass in bunches coordinated by the traffic lights, like a bolus of swallowed food. I have adopted the technique of what I call “bolus riding.’’ I just pull over into a driveway and let a bolus of cars pass… So I practice bolus riding, heretical to Vehicular Cyclists I’m sure, to maintain this uneasy truce with the cars, and keep my commute enjoyable.
I actually thought up this technique riding a heavy, highly commercialized arterial in a Detroit suburb on a visit there, so it can be useful year round, where there are places to pull off.

Finally, here’s the most radical suggestion I have read, from a website about cycle commuting:

Quote:
http://www.xootr.com/commute-by-bike.html

Where to Live

If you have not yet settled on a place to live or are considering relocating, then considering your bike commute can really improve your quality of life…
I must admit though, I don’t necessarily agree with his choice of an optimal location as described on the website.
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Old 02-22-11, 06:43 PM   #23
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There are a few roads that I choose to bybass and take a alternate route while I'm riding. These roads are 40 or 45mph roads with one-lane each direction. Many people drive well over the speed limits. These roads are also hilly and very windy with no shoulders. I have ridden them in the past, but I prefer not to unless absolutely necessary.
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Old 02-22-11, 09:06 PM   #24
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I live on the outskirts of a smallish college town. The area is filled with sugar cane fields, and 2-lane shoulderless 45MPH roads originally only meant for farm traffic. Over the years, farmers sold off chunks of fields to become rural neighborhoods. Thankfully, there's not much traffic in my neighborhood, but once I get closer to town, things get heated up quickly. The roads don't improve, but traffic multiplies threefold.
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Old 02-23-11, 01:58 AM   #25
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My commute takes me from a suburban two lane road with a bike path, over surface streets in various states of disrepair, to downtown Los Angeles. To be fair, it is broken up by ride on the subway. I do feel somewhat "boxed in" when traveling through downtown, but I am able to use the far right bus lane, which is restricted to buses and right turning vehicles. I don't know if its luck or novelty or what, but I've had relatively few altercations with cars - most see you are on a bike and give a reasonable berth when passing. On the days when I ride all the way in, (about 24 miles door to door), my route runs the gamut of a four lane road with a bike path through Griffith Park, (one of the largest urban parks in the US), to a MUP along the Los Angeles River, ( a river in name only, but still relatively scenic), to a series of narrow winding two lane streets through Echo Park, Silverlake, and finally my destination at the University of Southern California.

Being in SoCal, we are blessed with 12 months of pretty good to outstanding weather, and have little to worry with river crossings, railroads and the like. The major complaint most riders have is with the condition of the roads, but with budget cutbacks in most urban areas, I'm sure its the same (or worse), in many other places.
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