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Old 04-18-08, 06:35 PM   #1
Lucas Kirby
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How to safely plan a route?

Hi all.

I really don't know if this is the place to ask this question, but I am taking a tour across the U.S. in about a month. I bought all the maps, have most of my gear so far, Now I'm just riding as much as I can to get used to being loaded down and seeing if I have all the gear I need.

I'm trying to plan a few small 100-200 mile tours so I can see if I'm leaving things that I need or taking things I dont. Long story short, I want to ride to my buddies house who lives about 150 away and dont know how I should go about planning the route. Am I going to get pulled over if I'm on a busy road that will get me their faster? I live in Spokane WA and will be traveling to Moses Lake WA

What I'm wondering is, even on my Transam ride from Oregon to Virginia, I find it hard to believe the maps are not going to be taking me atleast on some busy freeways or interstates. Am I wrong

If I'm wrong and I'm supposed to to take backroads, etc (which I find hard to believe there will always be one) how do I go about finding out where those backroads are? I'm sure I can go to google maps or something like that, but who's to say that I'm not going to hit some dead end and wish that I was riding on the interstate?

Sorry, a lot of rambling and questions, but its kind of bothering me lately. I really want to just get on my bike and go without getting pulled over, ran over, etc. Can anyone help? Thanks!

Luke

Last edited by Lucas Kirby; 04-18-08 at 06:47 PM. Reason: Spelled a word wrong in the title
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Old 04-18-08, 06:49 PM   #2
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For the trip to your buddy's house ...

Get at least a couple different local maps ... get the general road map, and maybe a tourist map or two. Find them as detailed as you can, although with the general road map, that might be difficult. I find tourist maps to be a bit better for detail, and for infomation about less well-travelled routes (I end up collecting heaps of them as I travel). I don't find Google maps particularly useful, but perhaps they are better in your part of the world. Land ordinance maps are the best, but they are expensive.

Then, on an evening or weekend, pick a likely-looking road (not a main freeway) out toward your buddy's place, and ride it up as far as you can afford to go (time-wise) and back. Or perhaps there's another road you can ride back to check it out too. Maybe next week you can go up a little further, or try a different road. Explore ... have fun ...see what kinds of roads are out there. If you do this, by the time you're ready to go to your buddy's house, you should be quite familiar with all your possible routes for the first day. Then just apply what you know of how the real roads compare to the roads on the map, and finish your ride to your buddy's place.

And yes, on your exploratory rides, on your tour to your buddy's place, and on your big tour, you may indeed find yourself on the "wrong" road ... it happens. So you just backtrack, or try to get over onto another road or whatever ... ask someone at the local grocery store, pick up a tourist map, or just turn around and go back.


Edit: Some places, like Montana and Iowa, have bicycle maps, which provide information of interest to cyclists such as shoulder width, traffic volume, etc.:
http://www.mdt.mt.gov/travinfo/docs/bike_map.pdf
http://www.iowadot.gov/iowabikes/

Alberta used to have a map like that, and I've actually got a copy from back in the 1980s, but they don't have a current one, although I guess one is in the works.

Your area might have one, and you'd likely find it if you contact a state cycling association. Your local tourist information place might be able to help you too. Actually ... it looks like Washington does have something: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/bike/planning_maps.htm

Last edited by Machka; 04-18-08 at 07:29 PM.
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Old 04-18-08, 06:56 PM   #3
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Ken Kifer had a long development on "Using Maps While Bicycle Touring": http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/touring/maps.htm
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Old 04-18-08, 07:51 PM   #4
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Hi Luke

Have a look at Multimap, Find directions. elect the Walking option.

here is Spokane to Moses Lake

http://tinyurl.com/3gnuvp

even prints out each step , where and when to turn.

Hope this helps

george
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Old 04-18-08, 09:20 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jibi View Post
Hi Luke

Have a look at Multimap, Find directions. elect the Walking option.

here is Spokane to Moses Lake

http://tinyurl.com/3gnuvp

even prints out each step , where and when to turn.

Hope this helps

george
That's pretty good but still far from perfect. It still puts you 195 which may not be walkable or bikeable. Still, it's very close to idea and I'm going to use it in the future to create new routes that I can make safe with a GPS.

I still think following a route like that is going to be very hard with maps due to all the turns. A much better alternative would be to use a GPS and waypoint all the turns into a route so you don't get lost or miss a turn. Furthermore, with a GPS, you can create a route that avoids 195 entirely.

The problem with trial and error is that when you make an mistake, your only choice maybe to ride the expressway. A mistake.
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Old 04-18-08, 09:26 PM   #6
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I put Spokane and Moses Lake Washington into Google Maps and told it to avoid I-90 and it picked US2, WA28 and then some smaller roads via Ritzville. If I look at my road atlas, I would probably pick that or perhaps stay on WA 28 through Odessa. I've never been to Spokane, but with 200,000 people you'll likely have some busy roads and I would want to know about the shoulders on US2 from the airport about five miles eastbound.

I put the preceding paragraph up to show how I pick my routes. Typically some combination of map program, state maps and general intuition about city sizes, road alternatives, rivers and railroads. I sometimes consult places like the Washington bicycle map: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/bike/bikemap.htm I don't necessarily seek out small back roads but instead more a combination of US highways and straightforward state routes.

Sometimes my choices do end up being the wrong ones, e.g.
- Old US 40 in western Kansas turned out to be gravel, not pavement, I-70 wasn't permitted as an alternative
- US 90 in Louisiana was fine until road construction on I-12 redirected truck traffic on normally quiet road
- US 1 crossing Miami was direct but very very busy
- Parts of NJ 35 got rather busy heading to New York
In the latter cases, I kept myself visible and rode in predictable manner before eventually finding better roads.

If you ride in straightforward fashion, I wouldn't expect to get pulled over unless you go violate "no bicycles" type signs. Most of the roads you'll travel across the US will either have light traffic or reasonable shoulders. There are a few key choke points like crossing the Mississippi where it makes sense to be aware of bridges to be used.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lucas Kirby View Post
Hi all.
I really want to just get on my bike and go without getting pulled over, ran over, etc. Can anyone help? Thanks!
Keep yourself visible, avoid getting caught after dark on unfamiliar roads, consult state bike maps, look at normal state maps for clues and watch for and obey "no bicycles" signs. If you guess wrong, realize you can frequently adjust or that busy road will become less busy.
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Old 04-18-08, 10:46 PM   #7
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You'll only ever ride on interstaes in the WEST when there is no altrenative route. The thing to do
is to buy a map ofrgo to google map and plan your route. The best thing about cycling is that you take the
roads that cars don't. You get to cycle the back roads and discover things that motorists will never see.
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Old 04-19-08, 02:25 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
That's pretty good but still far from perfect. It still puts you 195 which may not be walkable or bikeable. Still, it's very close to idea and I'm going to use it in the future to create new routes that I can make safe with a GPS.

steve

I don't know the area but I just wanted to show the option of Multimap, in Europe we can also use the Michelin web based maps with bike option, but once again it isn't perfect, I have arrived at roads where bikes are not allowed, eg Paris to Le Havre


everything needs to be tweaked to make it suit


Like I said I just hope it helps.

It is no use at all in Malaysia or Indonesia ( where I am now and where I am going this week)

george

Last edited by jibi; 04-19-08 at 01:01 PM.
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Old 04-19-08, 07:40 AM   #9
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Something that I have found useful are traffic count maps. Most states have these on their website for counties and larger towns and cities. If your state has a bicycle map this data is usually the primary way a road is determined fit for bicycle travel (another being shoulder size).
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Old 04-19-08, 10:33 AM   #10
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I have found a lot of good routes by:

- Purchasing books w/suggested routes. There is one called "Biking the Great Northwest" that has a great tour that goes from Spokane over into the Idaho Panhandle; it also suggests several great rides in the Walla Walla area.

- Another good book (long out of print) you can get used on Amazon is called "bicycle touring in the Western United States."

- Look at bikely.com and mapmyride.com for routes in the area

- Also, look at the routes traveled by commercial tour companies like backroads, bicycle adventures, etc. The commercial companies are trying to show their customers maximum smiles per mile so they tend to pick nice routes.

- Finally, check out local bicycle clubs in the area -- often they have route maps on their websites or show the routes they use for centuries, etc.

For example -- the Redmond, Wa. bicycle club sponsors a ride from Redmond to Spokane...you could google around and find that ride, figure out the route they're using, and steal as much of it seems appropriate.

Then, stitch together the route you want to take, and confirm w/good maps and by checking w/the Washington DOT website for road closures before you go.
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