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  1. #1
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    Transportation Cyclists - Choosing routes

    I recently moved to Washington DC. My bike is my primary form of transportation. Once a week or so I find myself travelling to a destination one to five miles from home that I've never been to before. To choose a route I use a hardcopy of the DC Bicycle Map. I try to pick streets that have bike lanes or have low traffic volumes. I pretty much memorize the route I'll take prior to getting on my bike. Sometimes I bring the map along just in case I take a wrong turn or discover a street I wanted to take turns out to be one-way.

    I'm very curious to know how others choose their routes, particularly when in unfamiliar territory. Could you share the city you live in and the methods you use to reach new destinations? Thanks.

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    I prefer the less busy routes with better roads even if the distance is longer. I change my routes sometimes by trial and error. Check out at bikely.com, and Google Maps has bicycle directions. You could try a GPS unit, too.

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    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    I use RideWithGPS or MapMyRide to layout a route and download it to my Garmin to follow. The maps on those sites often have bike lanes or sometimes bike routes as included in the map database they use and/or you select. I've laid out rides in San Francisco, San Jose, Denver, NYC, Boston and others and just go and ride. If I don't like what I see, I try something different.

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    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Use the bicycle map/trail feature on Google maps to see what is out there, then choose my route. Quite often I will modify a route on the fly to avoid a sticky traffic situation.

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  5. #5
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeraldF View Post
    I recently moved to Washington DC. My bike is my primary form of transportation. Once a week or so I find myself travelling to a destination one to five miles from home that I've never been to before. To choose a route I use a hardcopy of the DC Bicycle Map. I try to pick streets that have bike lanes or have low traffic volumes. I pretty much memorize the route I'll take prior to getting on my bike. Sometimes I bring the map along just in case I take a wrong turn or discover a street I wanted to take turns out to be one-way.

    I'm very curious to know how others choose their routes, particularly when in unfamiliar territory. Could you share the city you live in and the methods you use to reach new destinations? Thanks.
    I turn left at the next corner. And then maybe right a couple streets down. Then perhaps I'll go straight for a while.

    And next time I will do something different.

    It's called ... exploring.


    If I'm only cycling 1 to 5 miles from home, I'll rarely even refer to a map of any sort. I'll just ride. Within a few weeks in a new place, I'll be quite familiar with all/most of the roads within about a 10 or 20 km radius because I will have walked or cycled all/most of them.

    When I go further afield, I might refer to a map (Google for an idea of distance, paper for an idea of road surface) before the ride, and take one along just in case.




    And as for where I've cycled ... I started cycling in northern Alberta and before too long had ridden most of the roads in about a 50 km radius. Then I moved to Winnipeg, and by the time I left, I had cycled all the highways, and many of the in-town roads in about a 200 km radius. Then I moved to central Alberta, where I did the same thing. In fact, not only did I cover all the highways and many in-town roads in about a 200 km radius, but I ventured further afield and covered a lot of highways north, around Edmonton, and south, around Calgary, and west, in the mountains.

    Then I moved to Australia ... and did the same thing there. Not only did we cover all/most of the roads in our local area, but we took long weekends about once every 3 weeks and travelled to other parts of our state, and the neighbouring states, and rode there.

    About midway through my years in Winnipeg, I started travelling a lot ... touring other countries.


    But I do about the same anywhere I go. If I'm in an area for a little while, I just ride ... and explore. If I can get ahold of some sort of map, great, if not, I'll find out for myself what's around the next corner. If I'm going further, I like to refer to Google (if I have a computer available) for a possible route and an idea of distance ... and when I can get ahold of a paper map, I'll refer to that as needed.

  6. #6
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    If I'm just going across town or something, I'll make up a little cue sheet that says "Left at Street X/ Right at Main Street", etc. Randonneurs have similar cue sheets, only with the mileages on them to make it easier to spot unmarked roads (common in rural settings, less common in town).

    Google streetview can be handy for seeing how busy a street is, whether it has shoulders, etc.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  7. #7
    Senior Member JimF22003's Avatar
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    If you haven't found us yet, check out the WABA/BikeArglington web community. Lots of good advice about specific commuting routes:

    http://bikearlingtonforum.com/forum.php
    2009 Cervelo R3SL TdF Edition, Ultegra Di2
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    I always pretty much stick to highways since they are generally better maintained than city streets/country roads. The less you have to swerving to miss potholes, frost heavies, etc the less your chances of getting hit due to your own fault of choosing a bad route. As for finding the least traffic...I don't worry about that. I always just try to plan my riding to be going through big cities at times other than rush hour. Granted I have been through a few big cities at rush hour, Indianapolis, IN at 5PM the night of a preseason football game. I went right through downtown. Traffic wasn't bad at all considering what I normally would have expected.

    The big question to ask yourself is where am I going and what if any one way streets do I have to deal with. After that is dealt with look at how many miles/how long you are willing for it to take you to get from point A to point B and then make you route accordingly. Granted when dealing with cities you do have to try to factor in stop light time. Trust me I learnt that on my trip to the midwest last summer.

    The only way to get use to riding in traffic is to ride in traffic. Don't dodge it but instead gradually build up to the point where you don't mind riding in rush hour traffic. You never know when you might end up getting forced into the situation due to traffic jam from an auto accident somewhere else and the traffic is being rerouted the way you are going. It happened to me last summer going through Hagarstown, MD. I-81 was shut down both directions and traffic was rerouted down US11. I didn't mind riding in traffic but I wasn't used to dodging in and out of traffic like a bike courier. I had been building up gradually toward getting use to it but I was forced to either sit in the stand still traffic or play NYC bike courier. I played bike courier and just kept passing cars and semis left and right. Like I said I had built up to over time with all the riding I do. The only sane way to get use to it is to build up to it a little at a time. If you try to do it all at once your going to overwhelm yourself and you won't know what to think and you'll end up in panic mode real fast.

    I fess I'm like Machka, I don't bother to carry maps. I generally lay out the route ahead of time and since I'm sticking to highway I just write down where my turns are going to be and roughly how many miles it should be between turns. I keep that in the fanny pack/handlebar bag and take it out and, hopefully, look at it in between turns. In the case of the trip I did this past summer I didn't look at hte trip tic and ended up missing my turn and didn't come to realize it until 20 miles later. I ended up replanning my route.

  9. #9
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    I'll use a map to lay out my basic route, but sometimes, as Machka says, you need to do some exploring. One time my commuting route took me for 5 miles down the center of a nature preserve, another time an important short cut was across the parking lot of a large sports arena, from a sidewalk to a badly marked bike path.

    Almost never is my final route exactly the one that I saw on the map.
    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimF22003 View Post
    If you haven't found us yet, check out the WABA/BikeArglington web community. Lots of good advice about specific commuting routes:

    http://bikearlingtonforum.com/forum.php
    Thanks!

  11. #11
    Senior Member TwoFourOne's Avatar
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    I generally map out a ride if I've never done it before. But it's come to the point where I know which roads are bike friendly and which aren't, so I can just pick a fast route in my head, and get going. I tend to avoid bad roads in favour of quiet, smoothly paved roads, if possible.

    On routes that I do over and over again, I seem to find shortcuts that make the ride more enjoyable. On some rides, I'll have 3 or 4 deviations that I'll pick from. They're all different by only a street or so, but it's enough to keep repeat rides interesting.

  12. #12
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    In London I always carried an A-Z map book. Navigation was pretty tricky in the old street network and going anywhere for the first time was slow but I really enjoy navigation and discovery.
    A queue sheet and photocopied map with the route highlighted help a lot.
    My navigating strategy is to start with a straight line route, identify any routes to avoid (eg big highways or rounderbouts), identify any pinch points I have to take, (eg bridges and tunnels). Then look for any good cycle-friendly routes (cycle route maps are published for many cities) and fit them into my plan.

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