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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 02-10-07, 06:48 PM   #1
Christof H
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Secret Paths- does getting out of the cage increase your options?

I've had some discussion, in threads and PMs, about the secret paths people tend to discover once they ditch the car and get out on bikes more.

We discovered that the herndon/reston area of virginia has a level of bike access via multi use paths, rail trails, and greenbelts that rivals a well designed freeway system.

We actually got started in this not by biking, but by geocaching and walking. Davis had some excellent multi use pathways that my then girlfriend (now wife) and I used to wander for fun, and geocaching took us to some fun places you can't get to by car. And I've always been an urban wanderer, walking around in europe and finding the secret ways to get from here to there.

What's your best shortcut? secret route? How do you research new areas when things like googlemaps and mapquest don't show the bike routes?
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Old 02-10-07, 07:11 PM   #2
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My city is cut in half by a busy rail freight track. The main crossings are bike unfriendly arterials. I use a mostly forgotten pedestrian underpass that crosses into a low traffic residential area. I found out about it by asking a local railroad hobbyist if he knew about any alternate crossings.

Pedestrian bridges over creeks are very useful here. I don't know of any way to find them except to explore for them in person.
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Old 02-10-07, 08:02 PM   #3
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The county I live in publishes a bike route map, which is available for free at any local bike shop. It includes color-coded bike paths, arterials with bike lanes, and regular streets commonly used by cyclists. I've found it to be very useful, even though it hasn't been updated in about 7 years. Maybe your city has something similar.
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Old 02-10-07, 08:08 PM   #4
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Davis has a decent bike map, and there's a regional one that shows bike lanes/routes through farm country, but...

The Davis bike map misses some of the multi use greenbelt stuff, doesn't list all the crossings (we have a series of walk/bikeways connecting dead end culdesacs, for example), and I think it's about 5 years out of date.....

I know in Herndon there was nothing besides B&O trail guides which didn't show much, and in Venice/Santa Monica we mostly had to learn by doing. EVERYTHING there is done with car assumptions, even tourist walking guides
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Old 02-10-07, 08:15 PM   #5
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I have found some nice ones right in my area, probably about 10kms worth just a few minutes walk from my apartment, which I would never found if I got around by car. My father in law who has been living here most of his life does not know about all the nice tralis that I have found. Some of them are old rail beds that go through the forest, and off of the main trails there are a lot of other small trails. I have been checking them out for the last year or so, and I still have not been on them all. There is a nice one that goes along one of the drains, and the only time you can cross is in the winter when it is frozen over. I checked it out on my x-country skis the other day, it was really a nice time, and there are never many signs of humans that far out.
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Old 02-10-07, 10:50 PM   #6
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Yeah, I love a city with good bike trails. Fairfax VA has great ones, IMO.

Around here, I ride along campus sidewalks, railroad beds, along creeks (for some reason, the city has made walkways that make it easy to follow creeks where they go under the road) and even in storm drains!

Pretty much anything horizontal is a good bike path.
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Old 02-11-07, 12:02 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Christof H
How do you research new areas when things like googlemaps and mapquest don't show the bike routes?
Bike maps + satellite view in Google Maps. I really love my Google maps and their mashups that allow you to chart and measure your own routes. I wish they were around when I was planning my first bike tours.
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Old 02-11-07, 10:51 AM   #8
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Speaking of Davis, when I tell people I commute from Davis to West Sac, half the time they ask "how do you get across the causeway?" Little do they know that 10 feet from the freeway separated by a concrete barrier and a chainlink fence is a nice bike path that parallells the freeway. You just miss so much from a car.
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Old 02-11-07, 10:53 AM   #9
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Messengers have used laneways and alleys to slice across cities for ages. Biking offers up a whole system of new routes. Even more so if your willing to ride stairs, in between office towers.
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Old 02-11-07, 11:04 AM   #10
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Bike maps + satellite view in Google Maps. I really love my Google maps and their mashups that allow you to chart and measure your own routes. I wish they were around when I was planning my first bike tours.
+1 Google maps. Just switch to the satellite mode and you get to see routes not on the map. These maps can also be useful when navigating city streets since they give a clear view of residential streets that could help you avoid car traffic.
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Old 02-11-07, 02:56 PM   #11
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+1 Google maps. Just switch to the satellite mode and you get to see routes not on the map. These maps can also be useful when navigating city streets since they give a clear view of residential streets that could help you avoid car traffic.

+1
Yea I use them to find crosswalks and stoplights. I can also use them to go hiking.
Ohh yea a free for all. Cars would see them as to slow or not big enough.
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Old 02-11-07, 03:11 PM   #12
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i like exploring the town & wandering around
my commute has evolved over the years with a few options available to me to keep it fresh.
It's about the journey, not the destination.... ( yeah right)
but the journey is fun!
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Old 02-11-07, 03:24 PM   #13
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Around here, most any road that says NO OUTLET, has a way to get to the next street over. These streets are usually short and through-traffic stays out.
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Old 02-12-07, 12:31 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by MrCjolsen
Speaking of Davis, when I tell people I commute from Davis to West Sac, half the time they ask "how do you get across the causeway?" Little do they know that 10 feet from the freeway separated by a concrete barrier and a chainlink fence is a nice bike path that parallells the freeway. You just miss so much from a car.

And you GOTTA know bike RV (human powered housing) dude. I've known him a while, but seen his RV on the causeway bike path a few times.
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Old 02-12-07, 12:32 PM   #15
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Google maps seems to work sometimes and not others. Like with the herndon area we used to live in, some areas have so much canopy you can't tell....
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Old 02-12-07, 09:14 PM   #16
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And you GOTTA know bike RV (human powered housing) dude. I've known him a while, but seen his RV on the causeway bike path a few times.
Are you talking about the guy who had the bike with a bed in it? I've seen him around town a few times. There are a couple of homeless guys who live on the causeway, one has a trailer setup made from a dog carrier, but it's no RV.
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Old 02-12-07, 09:28 PM   #17
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I have learned that when older areas are developed or re-developed the older routes, foot, bike, RR, horses, even planes, are rarey completely erased. If only for the cost of acquiring right-of-way and removal. So when I visit a new area I look at a map for evidence of roads that seen to end in the middle of no-where or go at an angle to other roads. Frequently peds and bikes can make it through to a newer road while cars are stuck. Also along the borders of different developements separated by long, high walls there are access paths built for school kids so parents do not have to drive miles to get kids to schools. These are not advertised and commonly only locals know about them. Topographic maps are good for giving leads to sneaky back door routes.
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Old 02-13-07, 10:33 AM   #18
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Are you talking about the guy who had the bike with a bed in it? I've seen him around town a few times. There are a couple of homeless guys who live on the causeway, one has a trailer setup made from a dog carrier, but it's no RV.

I can't remember his name, though I've talked to him off and on for years. Often parks by the Co Op, has a big blue custom built bike that is a sort of minimalist RV in the back. Pretty fun to see. It's definitely his house.
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Old 02-13-07, 11:34 AM   #19
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I had to laugh when I read the title to this thread. I actually call one of my alternate routes "the secret path." It's a short dirt and rock trail through a woods at the back of a park, then through a deserted railroad siding and a small factory loading zone and parking lot. It saves about a half mile on my commute to work. I found it by exploring on my own, then looking on Google Maps for some ideas.

I have many routes that I use to get to different parts of the city. My criteria are that they be scenic, low-stress, faster and/or shorter routes. My inspiration is little kids. They are always exploring for new routes that nobody knows about. Just keep looking "farther and deeper" and you'll find some great short couts.
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Old 02-13-07, 11:37 AM   #20
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If you want to share your routes, use Bikely.com. It's an app for Google Maps, and the best one I've found.

Click here if you want to see one of my "secret" routes. It's a commuting route from Lansing to East Lansing. See that it goes on side streets, beautiful paved trails, farm fields and a university campus. It's just as fast as the route most most people take--which goes on heavily traficked city streets.
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Old 02-18-07, 12:03 PM   #21
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The weather looks like it's going to be nice this afternoon and the next few days. I'm going to start scouting a bike route from my place to Round Rock, which is a north side suburb of Austin. This should be an interesting challenge. Between here and there, the terrain is all sliced up by barriers such as expressways, tollways, creeks and railroad tracks.

Just before Christmas last year I scouted out and posted a bike route from Austin to Taylor (an east side suburb). It took a few days and it was a fun project.
http://bikeculture.austinyellowbike....tercity_Routes
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Old 02-18-07, 07:16 PM   #22
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I got back from the scouting ride. I found a route that's good enough. It's not as direct as I'd like but maybe I can improve it with a few tweaks. It'll probably be around 22 miles round trip. I rode 36 miles checking some possible short cuts that just didn't work out. I found what looks like a well used but clearly illegal railroad track crossing that shortens the route. I'll just keep that one under my hat.
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Old 02-19-07, 03:47 PM   #23
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I got back from the scouting ride. I found a route that's good enough. It's not as direct as I'd like but maybe I can improve it with a few tweaks. It'll probably be around 22 miles round trip. I rode 36 miles checking some possible short cuts that just didn't work out. I found what looks like a well used but clearly illegal railroad track crossing that shortens the route. I'll just keep that one under my hat.
I carry my bike across RR tracks at a couple different places. I have seen people get arrested for RR Trespass. In some cities/counties the penalty is greater than for regular trespass, so be careful. Also, make sure you have a very long sight distance anywhere you cross a track. Quite a few people get squashed.
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Old 02-19-07, 09:21 PM   #24
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Roger that, Roody. I intend to post that route for the public, so I can't recommend anything dangerous or illegal.

I got a digital voice memo recorder from the local drugstore yesterday. I'm using it while I scout to note turns, landmarks, road conditions and so forth.

The Austin to Round Rock route was too easy to figure out. I'm trying to extend it to Georgetown, the next suburb up the road.
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Old 02-19-07, 09:37 PM   #25
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I carry my bike across RR tracks at a couple different places. I have seen people get arrested for RR Trespass. In some cities/counties the penalty is greater than for regular trespass, so be careful. Also, make sure you have a very long sight distance anywhere you cross a track. Quite a few people get squashed.

Here in Davis, there are basically 5 crossings for the main UP east/west line, of those one is waaay out of the way and takes you from a seperate bike path to a dodgy bike route for a mile, one requires a pretty major climb and merge to the easternmost davis exit (mace) which can be a cast iron ***** in traffic. The Third is a pedestrian overpass over 80 and the railroad line, but it takes you from 2 blocks south of 80 to 3 blocks NORTH of the tracks, bypassing 2nd street. the last two center on the western portion of olive drive and are fine if they aren't out of your way. a LOT of people, peds and bikes, cross the tracks on east olive.

Other places I've lived, it's been a matter of miles to use an illegal crossing, which is a big deal if you aren't in a car. Davis is pretty decent overall about making crossing points.
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