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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 03-23-08, 04:30 PM   #1
projectbike
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First Commute in this town, almost ate it

Hey all.

I used to commute about 4 days a week in a city where no one really knew how to deal with bikes on the road. But the traffic was so light everywhere that it was never a real problem. Now I'm in a very dense city where there's a ton of stuff always going on on the roads, and I was spinning the wheels on my new Bianchi San Jose. Sunday is a good day to cruise around and learn the roads a bit, since traffic to work is considerably lighter. It's only a couple of miles, but boy does it feel like a lot more.

Anyhow, I was coming home and I decided to cross some rail tracks at an intersection that kind of curves gradually to the road. The tracks follow the road, and my front wheel got lodged into the rail and I thought I was going down! I am thankful that the wheel somehow popped out, I stayed upright, and there were no cars following close behind me at the time. But I learned a lesson I had forgotten about crossing rails -- orthogonality!

This did nothing to ease my apprehension of whether or not I should be commuting in these insanely busy streets.
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Old 03-23-08, 04:43 PM   #2
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I hope you get used to the new conditions soon, and I think you probably will.

You probably need to find some new routes that are more bike friendly. Exploring on a Sunday was a good idea, but it will take at least a month of Sundays, I think.

Most cities have maps that show bike routes. Check with a local advocacy group and with local bike shops. Tell us what city it is, and there will probably be people here who can help. Also try the bikeforums regional forum for your region.
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Old 03-23-08, 07:33 PM   #3
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I did the same thing a couple of weeks ago, only I actually ate asphalt, and it's on a road I take all the time. Even worse, a work friend with whom I was riding said, "Watch out for the tracks" about five seconds before I fell. A natural result of being cocky, I think.

I think you'll be fine in your new, more heavily-traveled environment. It basically just a matter of experience. Just get out there and do it, and pretty soon it'll be like you've always done it. I try to look for these things when I travel by bike, in order of preference:

1. Quiet residential streets that go in the direction I want to go. In parts of town built prior to 1950, this works well 95% of the time, because they built roads in a grid pattern then. It's quiet, safe, pleasant, and usually just as fast as using arterials. Sometimes I use residential streets that are parallel to arterials, switch to the arterial to get across a freeway or something, and then jump back onto a residential street again.
2. Low-speed arterials (speed limit <40mph) with two lanes in each direction of travel, but without bike lanes (where I live, bike lanes are stupidly built in the "door zone");
3. Low-speed arterials with bike lanes;
4. Narrow, two-lane low-speed arterials;
5. MUPs (I'll be happy to take a MUP if it goes where I'm going, but this is rarely the case);
6. Higher-speed arterials or highways with wide (>3 ft) shoulders.

I never, ever take roads where the speed limit is greater than 40 mph unless the shoulders are wide and visibility is good. This is just a personal bias of mine, but I think that riding a bike in traffic is actually safer than driving, unless the speed differential gets large. In that case, I think you're putting yourself at some risk, because drivers who aren't paying attention have much less time to respond when they finally notice you.

Anyway, good luck, and remember to have fun out there.
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Old 03-23-08, 10:46 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roody View Post
I hope you get used to the new conditions soon, and I think you probably will.

You probably need to find some new routes that are more bike friendly. Exploring on a Sunday was a good idea, but it will take at least a month of Sundays, I think.

Most cities have maps that show bike routes. Check with a local advocacy group and with local bike shops. Tell us what city it is, and there will probably be people here who can help. Also try the bikeforums regional forum for your region.
Hey, thanks. I was hunting for a new route, and I'll definitely ask around. It definitely eased me into riding around this city a bit and making it a bit less freaky. There's just a lot going on what with cars and buses and pedestrians and other bikes and whatnot -- all making up rules as they go along it seems!

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Originally Posted by bragi View Post
I did the same thing a couple of weeks ago, only I actually ate asphalt, and it's on a road I take all the time. Even worse, a work friend with whom I was riding said, "Watch out for the tracks" about five seconds before I fell. A natural result of being cocky, I think.

I think you'll be fine in your new, more heavily-traveled environment. It basically just a matter of experience. Just get out there and do it, and pretty soon it'll be like you've always done it. I try to look for these things when I travel by bike, in order of preference:

1. Quiet residential streets that go in the direction I want to go. In parts of town built prior to 1950, this works well 95% of the time, because they built roads in a grid pattern then. It's quiet, safe, pleasant, and usually just as fast as using arterials. Sometimes I use residential streets that are parallel to arterials, switch to the arterial to get across a freeway or something, and then jump back onto a residential street again.
2. Low-speed arterials (speed limit <40mph) with two lanes in each direction of travel, but without bike lanes (where I live, bike lanes are stupidly built in the "door zone");
3. Low-speed arterials with bike lanes;
4. Narrow, two-lane low-speed arterials;
5. MUPs (I'll be happy to take a MUP if it goes where I'm going, but this is rarely the case);
6. Higher-speed arterials or highways with wide (>3 ft) shoulders.

I never, ever take roads where the speed limit is greater than 40 mph unless the shoulders are wide and visibility is good. This is just a personal bias of mine, but I think that riding a bike in traffic is actually safer than driving, unless the speed differential gets large. In that case, I think you're putting yourself at some risk, because drivers who aren't paying attention have much less time to respond when they finally notice you.

Anyway, good luck, and remember to have fun out there.
Thanks for the tips. I'll have to keep that stuff in mind. We have this funny situation where a ton of the residential streets that run parallel to the main drag (arterial) are one way, which makes for kind of amusing google map planning. I did have a ton of fun cruising home from the LBS today and then heading over to the office just to check out the ride. First time I've been on my bike in a year.

Last edited by projectbike; 03-23-08 at 11:00 PM.
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Old 03-24-08, 06:00 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by projectbike View Post
Now I'm in a very dense city where there's a ton of stuff always going on on the roads, and I was spinning the wheels on my new Bianchi San Jose. Sunday is a good day to cruise around and learn the roads a bit, since traffic to work is considerably lighter. It's only a couple of miles, but boy does it feel like a lot more.
I can feel for you there. The streets of Little Rock filled me with trepidation when I first saw them, even though I've been a lifetime rider and at ease on urban streets like downtown L.A. The first few rides were the scariest.

I've gotten used to it. I don't know if I would consider it comfortable on all streets. But the steep rolling hills still make distances feel so much farther. 6 miles here feels like 10 miles in Palm Springs. And it takes about the same amount of time.
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