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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 07-02-12, 05:21 PM   #1
lorenjz
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6 blocks of sidewalk in a 23 mile commute

Hello,

I'm new to commuting. Earlier this year I started to drive part way to work and bike the rest. After looking up the distance with out driving I decided to try commuting without driving part way. I think I've found a good route without much traffic except for one six block section. The six block section that I'm concerned about is 2 or 3 lanes each way and is very busy and intersects with another major street. I'm not confident enough to ride on the street in the right lane. Is it completely stupid to ride on the sidewalk for the six blocks? I did try and find other options, but unfortunately there are no neighborhood streets that would get me from point A to B. If anyone is familiar with Alexandria, VA, I'm trying to cross Franconia and Van Dorn streets on my way to Eisenhower.

Loren
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Old 07-02-12, 05:34 PM   #2
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It's stupid to ignore your limitations. If you lack the confidence to take the lane for that 6 block stretch, then don't worry about it. As your confidence grows, you'll be less inclined to opt for the sidewalk.
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Old 07-02-12, 05:47 PM   #3
degnaw
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No problem with it. Just yield to pedestrians, and use extreme care at intersections (at a minimum, slow to walking speed and check both ways).

Also, perhaps I'm looking at the wrong spot, but google maps is giving me a 'suggested' on-road/MUP bicycle route across Franconia and Van Dorn: http://goo.gl/maps/WkH3 - it winds through the neighborhoods just west of Van Dorn.

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Old 07-02-12, 06:45 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by degnaw View Post
No problem with it. Just yield to pedestrians, and use extreme care at intersections (at a minimum, slow to walking speed and check both ways).
^ This.

If you aren't confident to take the lane it that stretch you are better off not doing it IMHO. Just go slow and be extra-cautious during that 6 block stretch. Use it as kind of a physical (but not mental) break. If there are a lot of pedestrians you could always get off and walk the bike.
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Old 07-02-12, 08:16 PM   #5
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I'm familiar with the Franconia and Van Dorn intersection, but I've never biked through there. I can understand your apprehension - wide streets with lots of traffic. You're heading for Eisenhower (which I have ridden) - a pretty good road for bikes, particularly after you get on the MUP. Are you coming from the Springfield direction on Franconia, or from Kingstown on Van Dorn? If I'm not mistaken, there is a MUP on Van Dorn after you get through the intersection - it's getting there that is the problem.
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Old 07-03-12, 04:31 AM   #6
lorenjz
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No problem with it. Just yield to pedestrians, and use extreme care at intersections (at a minimum, slow to walking speed and check both ways).
I do slow down a lot (good opportunity to give my legs a rest). Of course try and stay out of the way of the pedestrians.

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Also, perhaps I'm looking at the wrong spot, but google maps is giving me a 'suggested' on-road/MUP bicycle route across Franconia and Van Dorn: http://goo.gl/maps/WkH3 - it winds through the neighborhoods just west of Van Dorn.
Yes the problem is that then I have to ride a fairly long part of eisenhower either on the sidewalk (not crazy about) or on the road along with some traffic, but the street isn't that good. This is actually the route I tried the first time I rode from home.

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I'm familiar with the Franconia and Van Dorn intersection, but I've never biked through there. I can understand your apprehension - wide streets with lots of traffic. You're heading for Eisenhower (which I have ridden) - a pretty good road for bikes, particularly after you get on the MUP. Are you coming from the Springfield direction on Franconia, or from Kingstown on Van Dorn? If I'm not mistaken, there is a MUP on Van Dorn after you get through the intersection - it's getting there that is the problem.
I'm actually riding from Lorton. I take Telegraph to Beulah and then Kathmoore to Em. Once I'm across Van Dorn I take Brookland and head for the entrance to Eisenhower through the residential area. This worked really well yesterday except I felt a little uncomfortable taking up the sidewalk.

Thanks for the encouragement!

Loren
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Old 07-03-12, 05:10 AM   #7
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If you feel that riding the sidewalk is safer than riding the street at any point then there's no shame in catching the sidewalk. I've done it quite a few times. One thing I'm mindful of, though, is that pedestrians shouldn't be inconvenienced because I opted to ride. When I approach a pedestrian I dismount and walk my bike past the pedestrian. I know some might feel that's unnecessary, but I think of it as being common courtesy.

There's a difference between a sidewalk and a MUP.

I also have a commute that took me down some fairly busy roads. I used mapmyride.com to chart out an alternative route that allows me to ride roads the entire way. I spend most of my time riding through industrial areas before and after business hours (less traffic) and residential roads. The cool thing about mapmyride.com is that it keeps a running tally of distance, so you can adjust the route and see immediately how it effects distance - allowing you to tailor the ride to make the route as efficient as possible.

Good luck, be careful and enjoy the ride (and the benefits of riding)!
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Old 07-03-12, 08:01 AM   #8
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First- I'll side with the rest here and say definately ride within your confidence level. If you're not comfortable to take the lane, then don't do it. You've got nothin to prove, so who cares. Just be careful on those sidewalks.

Second- I deal with a similar stretch myself. When/if you do decide to take the lane, the safest way to take it is WELL before this stretch. Let me illustrate. The wrong way to do this is as such; You're approaching this stretch and you notice heavy traffic (several fast moving cars, big trucks etc) coming up behind you. You think to yourself "I'll let this group pass and then "jump" into the lane when it's clear. By doing this, you're not giving much warning to any second wave of traffic that may come and you're not establishing any traffic "flow control" that you need to navigate a stretch like this. What happens is the first wave moves through at regular speeds. When you "jump" into the lane, any second wave must slow to your speed rather quickly. This encourages cars to switch lanes quickly and do that famous "swerve around" (switching lanes around a slowing car and quickly returning to original lane of travel) that drivers love to do. This just makes it hectic and dangerous for everyone. "Jumping" out in front of drivers just pisses them off, even if you do it with room to spare.
The best way I've found to do it is to claim the lane (when you safely can) well before a stretch like this and hold your lane well through the segment. Don't yield at any point. At first, it makes you nervous and you may feel like an a**, but this is why it works. By holding your line even with traffic, you are forcing that lane to slow and cars to switch lanes to pass. By doing so, you are essentially reducing the speed limit in one lane for a small stretch and raising driver awareness (for all lanes). This makes all drivers (even 3 or 4 cars back who cant see you) realize that there is something ahead they need to be aware of. People don't do the "swerve around", or at least do it more cautiously. If a driver is impatient, they can switch lanes, but have already slowed enough to have focus. It works and people are generally patient about it since you make your intentions clear.

Do what makes you comfortable. Just be safe!
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