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Thread: Shoulder riding

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    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    Shoulder riding

    I just came back from the Hill Country in Texas and I really liked riding the hills, going up and down. I started to think about some of the roads that I would have liked to go on, but they didn't have shoulders. I was wondering how you planned your trips, or you just don't worry about it. I was thinking how steep some of the hills were, if a car was coming over them it wouldn't give them much of a chance to move over if you were just over the apex of the hill. I find myself looking at shoulders as I'm driving around, wondering how safe it would be for riding.
    George

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    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    I rode 1200kms in Baja this winter with zero shoulders, narrow lanes and lots of big trucks. It was no problem because all [99.9%] of the drivers were reasonable and courteous.

    I have toured on shoulder challenged roads in Canada with no problem as well, but again drivers were fairly nice.

    OTOH if drivers in the area you are thinking about are aggressive and hostile to cyclists even a 4ft shoulder may not be safe or fun to ride.
    safe riding - Vik
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    This does beg a question though, how many of you actually ride in the shoulders? Having a passing knowledge of vehicular cycling I hear it's a bad idea. I usually don't do it in an urban setting just because of all the glass and debris in the shoulder, not sure about country roads though.

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    Senior Member halfspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cooleric1234
    This does beg a question though, how many of you actually ride in the shoulders? Having a passing knowledge of vehicular cycling I hear it's a bad idea. I usually don't do it in an urban setting just because of all the glass and debris in the shoulder, not sure about country roads though.
    Urban "shoulders" are parking lanes which means you generally have to weave in and out around parked cars. So you risk getting 'doored' on one side and surprising an overtaking driver on the other. Also, you may be moving faster than traffic and have a right turner cross your path.

    On country roads where speed limits are higher, shoulders are wider, and there are fewer turns, it's a lot safer. In town, I take the lane. Out of town, I'll take a shoulder if it's there.

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    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replys. I live just outside of Houston (30 miles) and I'm thinking about heading west and a lot of the roads don't have shoulders. I've only lived down here for about a year and it seems to be bicycle friendly. I guess I'll just have to do it and see. I know a lot of people are in a hurry and they will run you off the road to get to Starbucks, but that's in town. Hopefully it's better out in the country, thanks again and safe riding, George
    George

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    Happy Rider
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    Last year I was touring in the hiill country and was on Hwy. 90 going west to Bandera. 90 is 4 lanes w/no shoulder. Lots of drivers came by, missed us about a foot, honked and gave us bad looks. Very unpleasant. I wanted to give them "the salute;" however, that could have made a bad situation worse. I guess the San Antonio traffic was trying to get the h... out of town.

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    Walmart bike rider gpsblake's Avatar
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    Shoulders are a two-edged sword.

    On one hand, a nice well paved shoulder on a busy highway is a blessing.

    On the other hand.. many shoulders are full of debris, uneven pavement and in Georgia, rumble strips.

    It depends on these factors if I ride on a shoulder or not.

    Cheers, I'll be leaving Friday.

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    George:

    There are shoulders and there are shoulders - I think a lot depends on level of traffic, speed of that traffic and time of day, particularly time of day. I've seen nice roads turned into a half hour or 45 minutes of unpleasant proximity to folks in vehicles speeding to work in the morning or rushing to get home, all of them on cellphones.

    We ride regularly here in the Brazos Valley where there are typically no shoulders but the traffic is not heavy. When I ride the larger roads where cars are at a much higher speed, the shoulder riding makes me pretty nervous. I guess that would go away after more hours doing it. From my experience, the wide Texas road shoulders are usually put in when TXDOI plans to expand the lanes in the future but are waiting for the traffic count to justify the expense. So for a few years, an 8 to 15-foot paved shoulder can be enjoyed by cyclists then it disappears and one is left with that 3 feet of asphalt outside the little white line...

    Knowing somewhat where you live, there are regular routes ridden by cycling clubs out of Houston (since there aren't decent routes inside Houston of significant distance except along the bayous) and many of those rides are on roads with no shoulders but low levels of traffic. We've encountered those groups on Sunday afternoons 'out in the middle of nowhere' several times. Traffic seems to be fairly polite about slowing down.

    Thinking about whether shoulders are available reminds me that taking an extended tour straight west or slightly south to hook up with State 35 along the coast is a ride I've looked at. My wife & I are planning a credit card tour from here to hit alternate 77 south through all the county seats (Schulenberg, Halletsville, Yoakum, Cuero, Goliad, Refugio, Aransas Pass) as nice ride, I think, at least as far as Corpus Christi. Alternate 77 has great shoulders along most of it and very little traffic. The prevailing wind could be a bear, though.

    Woody
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    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    Thanks Woody, I'll have to get the map out and check that out. When we're you thinking about going? Talk about prevailing winds, that's about all we've had this last month. Next month will probably be hotter than hell, but that's the time to lose weight I guess.
    George

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    If I planned my routes based on the existence of shoulders or not ... I wouldn't do much cycling. When you go to Europe (or at least UK and France) shoulders seem to be very rare. Most of the roads are twisty, narrow little things hemmed in by hedges. In Australia, some of the main roads had shoulders, but the lanes where I'd rather ride didn't. In Canada it is up to the province whether they want to put shoulders in or not. Alberta has them on most roads (but not all), most of the rest of the provinces seem to only have shoulders on main roads (i.e. the TransCanada Highway), and even then, the shoulders aren't guaranteed to be paved (they are gravel in Manitoba). In the US it seems to depend on the whim of the road builder ... some road have them, some roads don't.

    If I've got a shoulder, of course I will ride on it because I look at shoulders as bicycle lanes. Out in the middle of nowhere, most shoulders are pretty good - free of debris (with the possible exception of mud from a farm vehicle). However, as I approach an urban area, I have to make sure to watch for the increasing amount of debris (especially sharp objects) on the shoulder. In more urban areas, I tend to ride really close to the white line rather than the ditch because the debris usually tends to be closer to the ditch.


    And if I had my preference, I would choose a quiet road with no shoulders over a busy road with shoulders.

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    Quote Originally Posted by George
    Talk about prevailing winds, that's about all we've had this last month. Next month will probably be hotter than hell, but that's the time to lose weight I guess.
    + 1 on the winds - I don't remember having so many days with 20 mph and gusts up to 35+. i actually started recording the windspeed for each of my rides cuz it was so windy every day day after day after day...
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    Senior Member cpblue's Avatar
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    Cars in the shoulder

    I commute from NW Harris County to down town Houston once or twice a week and I always try to ride on the shoulder. Most of the time the streets have no shoulders and that tiny white line does really provide much protection anyway. I know it's probably illegal, but I prefer to ride against traffic even on the shoulders.

  13. #13
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cpblue
    I know it's probably illegal, but I prefer to ride against traffic even on the shoulders.
    Probably illegal ... but definitely very dangerous. When you are on your bicycle, you're a vehicle of the road ... it is your responsibility to act like it. Obey the rules of the road and ride predictably.

  14. #14
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    George,

    I ride about 8-10,000 miles a year on Texas roads. The vast majority of these are FM roads with no shoulder. Most of my riding starts in the D/FW outskirts and heads into more rural areas. Very rarely do I have any problems with traffic. Once in a while someone passes a little closer than I would like, but the lack of shoulders is not an issue for me.

    Many times, shoulders are not so great. If the road is paved with chip seal, the shoulder will generally be much rougher than the main traffic lane since it gets very little traffic to wear it down. Of course, as others have mentioned, all the debris tends to collect in the shoulder. When I do ride shoulders, I generally stay to the left side as there is less garbage there.

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    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    if you're worrind about rear visibility in rolling terrain ,get a safety flag. that's where those come into their own.

    some shoulders are nice. i just did 350 mile tour last week, and leaving town, highway with 5 foot shoulder was almost relaxing compared to the sections with no shoulder. Low traffic roads, typical farm and forest country two laners, usually very enjoyable with no shoulders. sometimes in foggy conditions, a bit dicey.

    high volume, high speed traffic+ wide shoulders= more enjoyable cycling than high speed, high volume traffic & no shoulders.

    seems pretty obvious, you'll get the feel for your own personal positioning preferences mighty quick.

    but if you're concerned about rolling hills and visibility, run a safety flag!
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

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    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the replys, and supcom, I guess you probably rode in the Hill Country, I did a few weeks ago and what most have said here, the shoulders are pretty rough. That's probably the reason I asked, I really didn't want to slow traffic down and blocking there way because of all the road rage going on now days it's hard to comply to everybody. When I was younger they said it was obstructing traffic. I guess I'll just have to start doing it and get used to it and not be bothered by it anymore. Thanks again everyone and safe riding, George
    George

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    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    It probably comes from when I was a kid and being run of the road so many times, thanks again.
    George

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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    When you go to Europe (or at least UK and France) shoulders seem to be very rare. Most of the roads are twisty, narrow little things hemmed in by hedges.
    I can't speak for many places in Europe but my experience in central Italy is similar. During our study abroad semesters in Tuscany, our local sponsors recommend against riding bicycles because their roads are "narrow, twisty little things" that have Italian sports cars with Italian drivers in them enjoying their vehicles at speed. I've been discouraged from renting bikes and asked to recommend that my students also refrain. When I've seen Tuscan cycling clubs on the road, they are in large groups with a front rider & rear rider alerting traffic.

    Yes, there are narrow lanes that are used by the guided cycle tours and many many have toured there safely but it's still a bit dicey & unpredictable at the wrong times of day, IMO. FWIW, Italy has more vehicles than drivers ( ).
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    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by centexwoody
    Yes, there are narrow lanes that are used by the guided cycle tours and many many have toured there safely but it's still a bit dicey & unpredictable at the wrong times of day, IMO. FWIW, Italy has more vehicles than drivers ( ).
    And EVERYONE in Italy must think they are Mario Andretti! I can't figure it out. Gas prices at around six dollars a gallon and so many people zooming around all over the place. But there are plenty of roads where you don't see a car for miles.

    The only place I have seen people drive more crazy is in the Caribbean.

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    An important consideration is whether the roads you are planing on travling are actually wide enough for vehicles to proceed in both directions with bikes and trucks. Almost always they are, at which point the main issue is what one might call a cultural one.

    In parts of Italy (though I agree with the idea of irational behaviour in addition) the roads are simply not wide enough. On the coastal road south of Sorento, there is sometimes barely room for one bus to go around some curves, 2 cars are a complete blockage at certain points, and the possibility of bikes in addition would be difficult. There are drops in some places where the cars would end up in the sea if they provided adequate space.

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    Quote Originally Posted by card
    Last year I was touring in the hiill country and was on Hwy. 90 going west to Bandera. 90 is 4 lanes w/no shoulder. Lots of drivers came by, missed us about a foot, honked and gave us bad looks. Very unpleasant. I wanted to give them "the salute;" however, that could have made a bad situation worse. I guess the San Antonio traffic was trying to get the h... out of town.
    This might be too geeky even for me, but I wonder if this might help the situation. I hear they are used more widely in Europe, but I think I've only seen one cyclist with something like it here in the states. I think this might have been what Bekologist was referring to above.

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    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    One thing that helps is a rearview mirror. When I'm riding on a road with debris in the bikelane or on the shoulder, or potholes, I check my mirror, and if there's no traffic approaching I just pull out into the road. I'm surprised how many riders don't use a mirror. It seems like a necessity to me now.

  23. #23
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    I 'm referring to an old-school safety flag on a six foot fiberglass pole you mount on your touring bike for better visibility over rolling hills. a safety triangle on your panniers also has value for passing clearance, but the OP was wondering about rolling terrain.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

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