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  1. #1
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    How slow is too slow for the road?

    So I'm crazy out of shape. Over the winter, I had these grand plans of commuting, so I was hitting the stationary bike 3 times a week until I was averaging 30 mph for 30 minutes. Figured that was pretty good. Did that from November until the end of Feb or so. Then one morning it was too hard to get out of bed. So was the next. Then a week went by. Then a month. And now it's May and I'm just trying to get out on the road when I have time to get back into shape and have found some things.

    1. Either I've gotten into a lot worse shape than I was 3 months ago or, even without the hills I've been riding recently (and there are some of those that are rough - that'll be part 2), the stationary bike was very, very inaccurate in the distances it said I was riding. Sure my steel mountain bike with drop bars, slicks, rack, fenders, lock, and bag is not the most efficient of road bikes, but they must be expecting me to be riding on some sort of 2 lb superbike down a hill or something.

    2. Hills are tough. And the curvy hills are scary as hell. Cars come whipping around these blind curves on a hill with double yellow lines and where the speed limit is 35 and pass me when they can't see what's coming (means passing me awful close sometimes). And, since I'm fat and slow (and out of shape), I'm only going like 8 mph, so they really don't want to wait to pass me as I trudge up this half mile or longer hill.

    And that really leads to my question. Next to the road, there's a sidewalk. Well, I'm assuming it's a sidewalk. First there's a curb, then a strip of grass, and then a poorly maintained 2-3 ft wide strip of asphalt (not marked as a bike path and there is a bike lane on the road for part of the way where this asphalt exists, but then the bike lane just goes away after a while) with low tree branches hanging over it. Is there a speed that's too slow for the road when I should just go over to this sidewalk/path thingy? Whenever I've been on this road, I've had both the planet bike superflash under my saddle and the one ziptied to my helmet flashing away so I'm visible, but I know I'm just slow and afraid I'm a road hazard. Not sure I'd be any safer on this sidewalk because of the sidestreets and driveways (not to mention big ruts and lowhanging branches). Plus, in general, I just don't like riding on the sidewalks out of principle, but I wonder if this is one time in which I should make an exception. I haven't ever seen anyone walking on this particular sidewalk if it helps.

    I've attached google.maps satelite and street views of the road and sidewalk (though the sidewalk does get narrower at parts than is shown there due to tree growth.
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  2. #2
    staring at the mountains superdex's Avatar
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    the stationary bike was very, very inaccurate in the distances it said I was riding.
    Well yes, but that shouldn't matter, or be any barometer on how you will do outside. You're fine. Keep riding, and I wouldn't be on the sidewalk (and I go up hills not much faster than you).

  3. #3
    Senior Member lucille's Avatar
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    Any cyclist will always seem slow to a motorist. If that sidewalk/path is in poor condition, it will slow you down further, and you risk getting a flat. I would say just stick with the road, your speed will improve as you're riding.

  4. #4
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by superdex View Post
    Well yes, but that shouldn't matter, or be any barometer on how you will do outside.
    Thanks. I'd just gotten my hopes up. I thought if I could do this inside then I could do that speed outside too and I'd just be cruising along. Guess it's not that easy (though admittedly I was spinning a lot faster inside two when all I had to focus on was my rpm and not what gear I was in or what the traffic was like or the road condition or where that tiny cadence number was compared to the big red rpm number that was my sole focus.

  5. #5
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    Well, on this board you get a lot of "ride the road no matter what" kind of people.

    Personally I take whatever I think is the safest. Sure, that's a matter of opinion, but I have no problem riding on a "sidewalk" when I feel like it's safer.

    The rideability of a sidewalk/path/whatever, aside from the road condition it's in and other traffic on it, is largely a matter of how many and what kind of intersections there are across it. For example, a sidewalk that crosses every houses driveway, has a row of parked cars between you and the traffic (they can't see you easily) and hits a busy, hectic intersection every block is very very bad news - dangerous - and you're better off on the street. But a sidewalk along a 45mph street that doesn't intersect any driveways and crosses the road every 3 miles is the way to go (in my opinion), particularly if you only have a tiny shoulder to ride on otherwise.

    Your satellite screenshot doesn't quite show enough of that stretch of road for me to make a judgement call, and even if it did the person riding the road - you - are the person in the best position to do that. :-) I know I will certainly ride a path next to the road for a while where traffic seems hazardous, then jump back on the road later.

    Do be aware of 1 thing though - if you ride on a path/sidewalk, you *always* need to pay more attention at intersections. That's the biggest risk area.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by lucille View Post
    Any cyclist will always seem slow to a motorist.
    Completely agree, and even if you can keep up with vehicles you'll just annoy the drivers by being on the road with them. Keep to a low traffic safe road, read up on cycling laws in your area, and if you haven't read up on vehicular cycling (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicular_cycling)....and take the lane when possible, share the road not the lane!

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    slow? most of the time i ride slow. it is very relaxing to me and lets me absorb the surroundings and think better.
    i also use whatever route i feel comfortable with. i will use the sidewalk and watch out for intersections like an above poster said.

  8. #8
    Pro Paper Plane Pilot wunderkind's Avatar
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    This will help you with the speed thing. It's called an electric bicycle.


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  9. #9
    Bianchi Goddess Bianchigirll's Avatar
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    I use "Stall Speed Indicators" on my front wheels. as long as they are silent I am moving fast enough.



    PS on a serious note I am not 100% sure where Godard road is but I am not sure I would want to ride on a road like that around Beantown
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  10. #10
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    that is a sweet looking bike.

  11. #11
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by himespau View Post
    the stationary bike was very, very inaccurate in the distances it said I was riding.
    Yep. Stationary bicycles are known for being very inaccurate in all aspects.


    Quote Originally Posted by himespau View Post
    2. Hills are tough. And the curvy hills are scary as hell. I'm only going like 8 mph.
    Yep. But 8 mph up a hill is quite fast, so either you're in better shape than you think you are, or the hill is quite gradual.


    Quote Originally Posted by himespau View Post
    Next to the road, there's a sidewalk. Well, I'm assuming it's a sidewalk. First there's a curb, then a strip of grass, and then a poorly maintained 2-3 ft wide strip of asphalt (not marked as a bike path and there is a bike lane on the road for part of the way where this asphalt exists, but then the bike lane just goes away after a while)
    Find out what the law is in your area. If it is a sidewalk and not a bike path, you could be fined for riding it.

  12. #12
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Well, I'm pretty sure it was between 6 and 8 mph. I think 8 was probably my high speed when it leveled out a little bit. I mounted my computer at a slightly awkward spot to look down at (the stem not the bars), so I probably wasn't looking down at it when I was working the hardest.

    Apparently, the law here (Massachusetts) is that you can ride on sidewalks outside of downtown areas. Not something I like doing, but something I might have to do.

    I do have some understanding of the tenets of vehicular cycling and often try to take the lane when appropriate, but, in this area, since I'm worried about someone coming around the corner and not seeing me until it's very late, so I hug the white line in this area so they can swing around me more easily (hope the blinkies allow me to be seen more easily). I was wondering if there was a speed at which you are too slow and become a hazard, but I suppose that is situation-specific. I guess the best bet is to find an alternate route, but it goes to some places I really like and I'm new to the area so I don't know of any alternatives yet (but I suppose that's the point of time and a bike - finding new places, right?).

  13. #13
    Senior Member lucille's Avatar
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    I don't think there's a speed limit for a bike. If I were you, I'd make sure to wear something bright, to be visible, even one of those vests:http://www.rei.com/product/785886 and take the road, like you're entitled to. But if you're not comfortable doing that, take the sidewalk (if it's legal) or look for other routes. Cycling is supposed to be enjoyable, if you're so stressed you can't breathe, there's no point doing it. Maybe it's too soon for you to be on the roads. Maybe for this year, you could try to find some trails to ride on, to build up your skill and confidence and try for roads next year.
    If you're new to the area, try finding local bike clubs, or ask at the bike shop, what streets are considered safe. You can also post a specific question on this forum for your area.

    Good luck, don't get discouraged sometimes the route just needs some adjusting.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Find out what the law is in your area. If it is a sidewalk and not a bike path, you could be fined for riding it.
    This seems to be the favorite scary thing of the "must ride my bike on the street at all times" crowd to repeat, but in most places it is actually completely to bike on the sidewalk or the street. Where I live most paths that are built along streets were done so with the idea that people could bike on them as well as walk on them. I only avoid biking on sidewalks where there's storefronts, or in downtown where it's packed, or - obviously - everywhere where it seems safer to bike on the street.

  15. #15
    Senior Member lucille's Avatar
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    It's a valid comment by Machka. For example in Toronto it is against the law to ride on the sidewalk. And so it should be. If it's a multipurpose trail, it is marked as such, but it's not a sidewalk alongside the street.
    Every place is different, and the OP should know what the rules are in their area.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by lucille View Post
    It's a valid comment by Machka. For example in Toronto it is against the law to ride on the sidewalk. And so it should be. If it's a multipurpose trail, it is marked as such, but it's not a sidewalk alongside the street.
    Every place is different, and the OP should know what the rules are in their area.
    I'm not going to go to much further into the argument, but I always simply bike where I feel it's the safest at a reasonable speed. A sidewalk on a suburban street that crosses driveway after driveway is about the worst place to bike, better to be in the street. Ditto with being hidden behind a row of parked cars. But if I was biking at a slow speed along a stretch of road with no shoulder and a sharp turn where I was afraid of cars not seeing me, and there was a path alongside the road I'd definitely use the path.

  17. #17
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    And in Winnipeg, there is a $35 fine for cycling on the sidewalk ... and cyclists are fined that even if they try to present the argument that "it seemed safer to me to ride the sidewalk". Cyclists there are surprised every year with that fine ... either they haven't heard about it, or they have but don't believe they'll ever be fined.

    So if you're willing to pay the fine if you get caught riding on the sidewalk, then go ahead and ride.

  18. #18
    Senior Member colombo357's Avatar
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    Minimum Speeds
    Flat: 28 mph
    Uphill < 3% grade: 20 mph
    Uphill < 7% grade: 17 mph
    Uphill < 15% grade: 15 mph
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  19. #19
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by colombo357 View Post
    Minimum Speeds
    Flat: 28 mph
    Uphill < 3% grade: 20 mph
    Uphill < 7% grade: 17 mph
    Uphill < 15% grade: 15 mph
    And just what do these signify? My AVERAGE speed on flats is just a bit over 15mph! Uphill on a <15% grade I can be rolling as slow as 3-4mph.

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  20. #20
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    I only wish I could maintain Wahoon's speeds. I might be able to hit his flat speed on a sustained downhill...

  21. #21
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Well, I tried taking that hill on the sidewalk/path and then transitioned back onto the road (was on the road before the hill too). Felt a bit silly riding on the sidewalk and had to duck a lot of low branches, but I definitely felt safer. I think when I take that route (hopefully I can find new ones to go to the same endpoints) I'll be using the sidewalk for that stretch until I'm in much better shape. Overall, it was a rough ride this morning (my sitz bones I definitely not used to my new saddle) and I was about to turn back until I came to this suburb downtown that I wasn't expecting with a nice wide bike lane on a very slight downhill grade going away from home. It was just too tempting to pass up (and then some guy cheering me on from the sidewalk) kept me going for probably an additional 4 miles than I would otherwise have hit. Thanks for all the advice guys (and gals).

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    And in Winnipeg, there is a $35 fine for cycling on the sidewalk ... and cyclists are fined that even if they try to present the argument that "it seemed safer to me to ride the sidewalk". Cyclists there are surprised every year with that fine ... either they haven't heard about it, or they have but don't believe they'll ever be fined.

    So if you're willing to pay the fine if you get caught riding on the sidewalk, then go ahead and ride.
    I heard the same argument for years about biking where I live - people kept saying it was illegal to bike on the sidewalk in the entire state. Then after a couple of years they changed to saying it was just illegal to bike on the sidewalk in the entire city, but maybe you could in other cities. This has persisted and persisted.

    The truth is, it was never illegal to bike on the sidewalk city-wide or state-wide. Ever. The actual law is "...cyclists may not ride on a sidewalk in a business district or where posted. While a business district is precisely defined in state law, the layman’s definition is a city block which has more than half of its buildings occupied by businesses." It was never illegal to bike anywhere else. And, people kept perpetuating the idea that people got stopped for biking on the sidewalk - but in reality it turns out all those people were *always* biking on the sidewalk in downtown or somewhere that was a "business district". Which...includes like 2% of all the "sidewalk".

    Now you say it's illegal in Winnipeg, but I've heard the same (untrue, it turns out) arguments before. I don't live in Winnipeg, so i don't know

    Again, it's true that the sidewalk is often not the safest place to bike. But occasionally they're clearly the safest place to ride and it's absurd not to do so because somewhere else there might be a law about it. Frankly, if my choice was between it being dangerous to ride on the road or impossible to ride on the sidewalk, I'd drive. Other things I don't do include driving on the road when there's a sheet of pure ice on it (when it rains around 32 degrees that's what happens) if I can help it at all. (Funny enough, I do bike on off-street trails then - studded tires handle ice better than my car!)

  23. #23
    Senior Member lucille's Avatar
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    I disagree with you, PaulRivers. It's safer to cycle on the sidewalks for whom? For cyclists, right? What about pedestrians? Are moms with strollers and seniors supposed to scoot out of the way? I don't think so. When I'm crossing the street, I look for cars and bikes. When I'm walking on a sidewalk, I shouldn't have to worry about getting run over.
    I see people ride on the sidewalks, I almost got my arm taken out by some jerk riding at full speed. If we, as cyclists insist to be treated as vehicles and get respect from motorists, we need to behave like vehicles. And sidewalk is no place for vehicles.

    In Toronto only bikes with wheels smaller than 24" are allowed on sidewalks, this is geared towards the kids. It's a bylaw and can cost you $90 if caught.

  24. #24
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    Lol, reminds me of being a kid. "There are starving people in Africa, ya know. You need to eat all that food on your plate!".

    Staying off an empty path in favor of riding with no shoulder in heavy traffic and poor visibility for cars to see you because somewhere else there's a different path filled with moms with stollers, pedestrians, and senior citizens is ridiculous.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by himespau View Post
    Well, I tried taking that hill on the sidewalk/path and then transitioned back onto the road (was on the road before the hill too). Felt a bit silly riding on the sidewalk and had to duck a lot of low branches, but I definitely felt safer. I think when I take that route (hopefully I can find new ones to go to the same endpoints) I'll be using the sidewalk for that stretch until I'm in much better shape. Overall, it was a rough ride this morning (my sitz bones I definitely not used to my new saddle) and I was about to turn back until I came to this suburb downtown that I wasn't expecting with a nice wide bike lane on a very slight downhill grade going away from home. It was just too tempting to pass up (and then some guy cheering me on from the sidewalk) kept me going for probably an additional 4 miles than I would otherwise have hit. Thanks for all the advice guys (and gals).
    Nice. :-)

    There's a couple hills around here that are so steep with no shoulder I ride the sidewalk up (no one else is one it), but I always feel safer riding downhill on the road. Good luck! :-)

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