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  1. #1
    Dare to be weird!
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    Shortcuts & alternate routes

    What kinds of shortcuts and alternate routes do you use? How did you go about finding them? Is it something that's worth putting a lot of effort into? Or, do you think it's best to just stick with the routes that are obvious from street maps?

  2. #2
    Senior Member mpop's Avatar
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    I would say the best way to find them is to take your weekends (if you are free on weekends) and just bike around get lost (take a gps with you if you have one so you can find your way home, also you can get one for $80USD if you don't have one) And just start to look around. A map might help too, but I have not used one, I would like to find a good one of the pittsburgh area that is laminated.
    Michael P. O'Connor
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  3. #3
    killer goldfish svwagner's Avatar
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    street maps are ok for a start, but there's really no better way than just checking things out on the ground.

    on a day off, pack a lunch (or treat yourself), a detailed map, a small notebook, and a pen. perhaps pick a few promising routes ahead of time.

    then just ride, consult the map, and make notes. this last bit is pretty important, especially if you start wandering around to check out various streets and whatnot. if there's room, i also make notes on the map.

  4. #4
    winter is comming BenyBen's Avatar
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    Another very usefull tool for this is Google maps. You can use the satellite view to find alternate routes that are not on the map. They now have the hybrid view, which overlays street names over the sattelite image.

    A good example is this industrial street here that isn't on the map. It's a nice shortcut that allows me to avoid a narrow lane street that is used primarilly by trucks.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=45.43...8827&t=h&hl=en

    If you click "map" in the upper right corner you only see the train tracks, not the road next to it.

  5. #5
    Alien lifeform
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    I use Google maps all the time to find alternate routes. Numerous times the satellite view has helped me decide on a route where the regular maps failed, often because you can see parking lots and places where you can cut across that does not show up on the regular map.

  6. #6
    Gravel for Breakfast
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    I'm defintely the explorer type. My urban shortcuts are driven by my desire to avoid humongous hills. (I know. I feel shame.) I just start off with a basic notion of arriving, say, northeast of where I am, and just explore the winding streets, alleys, park paths, railroad tracks, and cetera. Worse comes to worst, I just double back, circle around, and see what happens next. Bonus: you get to see a lot of cool things that are otherwise hidden.
    Sin after sin I have endured, but the wounds I bear are the wounds of love.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by konageezer
    Bonus: you get to see a lot of cool things that are otherwise hidden.
    Totally!

    I know I've mentioned this before, but the book "Outside Lies Magic: Discovering History and Inspiration in Ordinary Places," by Harvard professor John R. Stilgoe explores this very notion. The author's description says the book "examines the rewards of walking and bicycling in ordinary landscapes." However, the emphasis is definitely on the bicycling. There's even a bicycle on the cover. I can't recommend this book enthusiastically enough. I'm reading one of his earlier titles, "Common Landscape of America, 1580 to 1845," right now.

  8. #8
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Depends on the city of course, but I find that short cuts may save a bit on distance, but typically don't allow for steady 20mph+ cycling and often have tight turns, entrance/exit points that make them slower in time.

    Al

  9. #9
    killer goldfish svwagner's Avatar
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    sure, google maps are cool when...say...you're shackled to your desk in some soulless corporate high-rise. i've probably created about 30 alternate routes with the google maps pedometer hack.

    but google maps and satellite views are limited. the maps are not detailed enough and are often outdated. for example, there's a bike path near my house that's not on the map even though it's been there for 15 years. the satellite maps are useful as long as you don't live where there are trees -- i can't even see my own house on the satellite view, much less anything that i didn't already know was there.

    GPS has a number of drawbacks. the screens are small, and sometimes you need to see a bigger area. and they need batteries.

    i still think that a good map combined with time spent on the ground is where it's at. besides, this is the only thing that allows you to understand what the traffic is like, what the road surface is like, and most importantly -- where the coffeeshops are located.

  10. #10
    Dare to be weird!
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    Quote Originally Posted by svwagner
    ...and most importantly -- where the coffeeshops are located.
    LOL!! And restrooms too...

  11. #11
    Senior Member mpop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by svwagner
    GPS has a number of drawbacks. the screens are small, and sometimes you need to see a bigger area. and they need batteries.
    Depending on the GPS the first one might not be an issue, my gps is not a mapping one. It only displays the following by default speed, heading, north, Lat and Long. Then the other display is if I tell it I want to go to a waypoint it will show me which direction, how far from current location, speed, and bearing (what ever that is)

    I still have to create my own route, but as I use it, it will get me closer and closer to the waypoint, and I have a few programmed in that I know the areas around, so when I get close to them I am able to figure out where I am again.

    Ya the needed batteries suck but what can you do.
    Michael P. O'Connor
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  12. #12
    Dare to be weird!
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    The best shortcut I've found so far in my area is a little known pedestrian crossing under some high speed railroad tracks that cut my city in half. It connects two office building parking lots. A long time ago both properties used to belong to the same company, and that entitled them to a private railroad crossing. All the other public crossings have evolved into arterial roads with no shoulders and big over/underpasses. I found out about it by asking some friends who are model train hobbyists, they know about such things.

    There are a fair number of pedestrian bridges over creeks here in the older parts of town. As far as I know they don't appear on any maps. I think they were put in a long time ago when children were expected to walk to their neighborhood schools.

  13. #13
    wrench
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    http://earth.google.com

    it's the greatest thing, ever. you can make buildings 3d, tell it to show you bars, coffee houses, whatever. it's just AMAZING!!! So many options, i don't even know.

  14. #14
    Senior Member biodiesel's Avatar
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    I'll take the known route TO work/ whatever.
    Then something new on the way home.

  15. #15
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    I disovered a new feature on my Garmin and that it tracks my route and displays it on the sofware with my computer. Yes, I know it's expensive but it's incredible how powerful this device really is and it tracked everywhere I went during my weekend trip. The batteries I use are rechargable so this is a non-issue.

    As one person said, short cuts are often not on any maps because the motorist canot go through parks for instance and has to take the long route. I know of an abondoned rail road that people use to commute on but it's not on any map because it's a rails to trails.

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