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  1. #1
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    riding on the interstates

    If any of you are knowledgible about vehicular cycling or the legal system, I would greatly appreciate your comments. Those of you who are tempted to point out how crazy or stupid you think I am, I would greatly appreciate your restraint.

    Twice I have ridden on interstate highways unintentionally and have come to realize what a hinderance it is to be excluded from them. On long trips, I would really like to be able to use them. I believe that it could reduce my travel time by more than 60%. (I am also very upset at the mere fact of being excluded but there is more to it than that.)

    (1) How dangerous is it?
    Do you do it? Do you use the shoulder or the road proper? If you use the shoulder, how do you deal with entrance and exit ramps, particularly at interchanges where it is not possible to exit and then re-enter? How, if at all, can it be done with reasonable safety?

    (2) How illegal is it?
    What should I do if I am confronted by a police officer? Can I be arrested? Would it be better not to carry ID? How should I handle a citation?

    Thanks. I know this might be hopeless but I had to ask. It has been making me intensely upset ever since my most recent long trip about two months ago.

  2. #2
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Check with Massbike or your local state Rules of the Road, here in WA it is expressly allowed except for short stretches in and around major urban centers, i think less than 90 miles is prohibited in WA state, total.

    I suspect it would be a case of not in the major urban centers but don't know MA laws.

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    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Roughly speaking, I recall that you can ride on the interstate if it represents the only reasonable way of getting from point A to B. For instance, in New Mexico, my wife and I rode along I-25.

    We rode on the 15-foot shoulder.

  4. #4
    mev
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    Interstate cycling varies by state. Typically east of the Mississippi, it is prohibited. Further west more states allow it, particularly outside urban areas and also in cases with no reasonable alternative. I have legally cycled on interstates in OR, CA, UT, AZ, NV, MT, WY, CO, TX and illegally cycled in NM.

    The traffic is high speed, noisy and there can be more wires from disintegrated truck tires (particularly in climates w/o snowplows to clear the road). On the flip side, the shoulder is very wide and grades are not steep. Occasionally you can find obnoxious rumble strips/cracks but most of the time the shoulders are smooth.

    My guess is most police officers would just warn you to get off, but I still wouldn't plan on using roads that were not allowed (e.g. I cycled 50 miles of gravel on "old US 50" in Western Kansas rather than I-70). My opinion is that trying to game the system by not carrying ID is also a bit silly.

    As far as safety and exits go, there is quite a variety amongst interstates in traffic volumes and density of the exits. Some places like Nevada will have exits only every 10-20 miles so it isn't a big deal. If necessary, you can wait at beginning of exit ramp and cross over onto roadway. In busier or more urban areas, there can be more exits and more traffic. There can also be more alternate routes. With that said, the wide shoulders, good visibility and lack of turning or oncoming traffic have always made me feel pretty safe on interstates.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
    Roughly speaking, I recall that you can ride on the interstate if it represents the only reasonable way of getting from point A to B. For instance, in New Mexico, my wife and I rode along I-25. We rode on the 15-foot shoulder.
    In Massachusetts and, I am fairly certain, all other states in the North East, it is explicity forbidden to ride a bicycle on the interstate.

    I am very curious how the New Mexico rule works. Who decides what is reasonable? Several things I might consider when plotting a route are horizontal distance, hills, road surface, and navigational simplicity. If the New Mexico rule were adopted here, I suspect that it would be interpreted in a very restrictive way, for example, by distinguishing routes only by their horizontal distance. For example, there is a New Mexico-type rule in Pennsylvania except that the traveller must petition the Department of Transportation in advance of their trip and the Department of Transportation decides whether there is a reasonable alternative.

  6. #6
    Member uforgot's Avatar
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    Bicycles are not allowed on the interstate in Missouri. (WEST of the Mississippi). Apparently you need to check with each state.

  7. #7
    5' 19" barndoor's Avatar
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    Illegal in Maryland....I wouldn't want to ride on our interstates.....certain death.

  8. #8
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Have ridden on2 interstates in AZ.
    I-19 (Tucson to Nogales AZ) there is a short couple miles stretch whereby there are absolutely no alternatives. Have ridden further into Nogales as it was not posted "bicycles, scooters, mopeds Prohibited" which implies hat it is legal.).
    Also there are areas where there is abolutely no other way to go; as stated some exits out west are 10 , 20 or more miles apart. Don't try it in urban areas!
    Yes, some have some type of rumble strips that are hazardous to your wheels.
    Truck traffic at 75 mph (legal speed limit out here) can be a bit daunting with crosswinds; aslo double and in some places triple tractor trailers can cause havoc. Out west things are a bit different . . . never seen any triples in eastern US nor 75 mph speed limit. 80 mph on interstate in parts of TX.

  9. #9
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eli_Damon View Post
    In Massachusetts and, I am fairly certain, all other states in the North East, it is explicity forbidden to ride a bicycle on the interstate.

    I am very curious how the New Mexico rule works. Who decides what is reasonable? Several things I might consider when plotting a route are horizontal distance, hills, road surface, and navigational simplicity. If the New Mexico rule were adopted here, I suspect that it would be interpreted in a very restrictive way, for example, by distinguishing routes only by their horizontal distance. For example, there is a New Mexico-type rule in Pennsylvania except that the traveller must petition the Department of Transportation in advance of their trip and the Department of Transportation decides whether there is a reasonable alternative.
    Good question ... a bunch of locals told s that it was legal to ride on I-25. Chances are if you already live in the state and it was legal, you would already know it.

  10. #10
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eli_Damon View Post
    I am very curious how the New Mexico rule works. Who decides what is reasonable?
    Try getting from Raton, NM to Trinidad, Co or further south or west into NM without riding (or driving for that matter) on the Interstate, and you'll understand how easy it is to make that determination. It can be done, but only if you are willing to essentially go off-road or 40-50 miles out of your way.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  11. #11
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    It's illegal to ride on interstates in all of Nebraksa.
    Never say die

  12. #12
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    Eli, if you're in the Amherst area you're probably thinking primarily about Routes 91 and 90 (the Mass Pike) both roads are illegal for bike riding and well patrolled by state police, who will probably not be too cool with your not having an ID with you if you make that choice. While I understand your desire to cut some time and ride on these roads you'll probably get little support from MassBike or other advocacy groups in your area.

    I ride cross state frequently and if I could get on the Mass Pike and ride west or east my life would be easier- the interstate is, indeed, smoother, more graded climbs and direct but in reality Central and Western Mass. have some of the best cycling roads I've ever ridden. Once you're in your area Route 9 is very ridable, relatively direct, hillier but not bad. And route 20 is quite nice once your west of Springfield, also direct (runs parallel to the pike) and well graded.

    Routes 47/116/66/112- I ride all of those and while the hills (esp on the east to west rides) can be tough if I were in that much of a hurry I guess I'd take a car. And I'm talking as much about riding recreationally as transportationally.

    do you have a Rubel Central Mass Bike Map? The winding, hilly roads of the Amherst area are gorgeous. And believe me when I'm trying to get from Newton to Becket I'd love to do it in the 121 miles it would take me on the Mass Pike as opposed to the 140 +/- on the hilly back roads. At those times I can sometimes fail to appreciate the charm but I do think that ultimately one of the advantages of a bike over a car is that it demands that we sometimes slow down and smell the roses- something an interstate may not always provide.

  13. #13
    mev
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    The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) prints a map of state highways and explicitly lists where it is allowed (green) and forbidden (yellow/black): http://www.dot.state.co.us/BikePed/M...Bike%20Map.pdf There are also explicit signs, at on-ramps where it is forbidden and on the interstate itself with a yellow "caution bikes" sign. When the interstate changes to become illegal, there is a "bicycles must exit" sign.

    Cycling is legal on all the interstates in Wyoming, but then the largest city (Cheyenne) has only 53,000 people...

    In northern NM, I cycled I-25 over Raton Pass into Colorado. There were "no bikes" signs at my on-ramp but since there really wasn't a good alternative route that didn't add 50+ miles, I went anyway. I didn't encounter any trouble and once in Colorado it was legal again.

    I was once returning from Wyoming and bicycling on the shoulder of I-25 in Colorado where it was legal. I came up on a pair of state troopers who had stopped to assist with a truck driver that had rolled his truck and was still looking a bit shell shocked but otherwise ok. My intent was to bicycle past and leave them to their work, but as I approached one of the state troopers yelled out "Get off the interstate!".

    So, I slowed and stopped. I pointed out that two miles before at mile marker 293 there was a "caution bikes" sign and three miles ahead was the "bikes must exit" sign. I didn't have the CDOT map with me, but told him about that too. It was all a polite conversation and the trooper apologized, pointing out that in his six years on the force, he just hadn't seen any bikes on the interstate.

  14. #14
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    Arizona did a study on bicycling on the interstates and found them safe. Of the few interstates I have cycled in Maryland I found it tons safer then most of our state roads. I'll never understand why roads with wide shoulders are considered less safe then 50mph roads with no shoulders here.

    (Disclaimer I'm not original from Maryland and I do get lost/misdirected from time to time.)
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Human Car View Post
    Arizona did a study on bicycling on the interstates and found them safe.
    Interesting. You don't happen to know where to find the report from this study?

  16. #16
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    I hate riding on the interstates. The whizzing of traffic , the gusts from passing trucks. And, never have I experienced so many flats. But, in the wide open spaces of the west, most states allow bikes to ride on the shoulders. / In states like Arizona, you have no choice if you want to go anywhere.
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  17. #17
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    here's some video I uploaded to You Tube showing WA state interstate riding. Starts out with me on an onramp and with a bandana covering my face to help cut down on coarse particulates common along busy roadways. Later in the clip it shows a move across an onramp merge.

    Typical shoulder widths. Catching the draft of passing truckers or a series of large trucks can really boost ones' speed and on a loaded touring bike I'v always felt more stable in wind blasts than on an unloaded bike. YMMV.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rF3EIFnAi9E

    if you all are cyclotourists, check out where i've got a couple of 1 liter bottles mounted on the bike.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 05-31-08 at 01:13 PM.

  18. #18
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eli_Damon View Post
    Interesting. You don't happen to know where to find the report from this study?
    http://members.cox.net/ncutcdbtc/freeway/bkfwcr02.pdf

    http://www.azbikeclub.com/interst.html

    http://www.azdot.gov/Highways/Traffi...PGP/TM1030.pdf

  19. #19
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    Thanks. I also found a study from California (http://transweb.sjsu.edu/mtiportal/r...#pgfId-1010338). Its conclusions are not so favorable. Also, its authors clearly suffer from car-bias, although they are not outright anti-bicycle.

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    Its illegal in New York State. The troopers will pull you over and have you towed off.

    Its really illegal on the Thruway. I would be very surprised if you managed to get on the highway with a bike. Troopers pick up hitchhikers on the highway and dump them off the highway at the nearest exit if they're lucky. If they're unlucky they get ticketed, arrested and thrown in jail.

    My meaning of towed off - The bike will not be going into the police cruiser so they will most likely whistle up a DOT approved wrecker to come tow you off the highway. The wrecker then charges you the towing fee to move the vehicle.

    I would consider it illegal, crazy and stupid to try biking on any of the highways in, around or about the NYC region. They are narrow, fast and unforgiving. With little to no break down lanes on the older expressways it is a death trap for bikes. Let alone trying to get through the construction areas.


    From a personal note: I would not want to be on the same road as vehicles that are going 5-7 times faster than me. Plus the big trucks have a large air blast as they pass and I don't want to get knocked down by that.

    No, I would not ride on a super highway with a bike.

  21. #21
    Senior Member LCI_Brian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eli_Damon View Post
    Thanks. I also found a study from California (http://transweb.sjsu.edu/mtiportal/r...#pgfId-1010338). Its conclusions are not so favorable.
    Really? I don't see that there's enough data to make that conclusion, in part because we don't know the total number of bicycling miles corresponding to the 41 collisions in Districts 1, 2, and 3. The collision rates per million bicycle miles in the table above that show lower rates than the Kaplan and Moritz studies, but I can't speak to the accuracy of the bicycling miles in that case.

    What can be said from the study is that I'd rather be a bicyclist on the freeway than a pedestrian!

  22. #22
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    well,

    sounds like east coast, not so much, west of the mississippi sometimes you're going to have to ride the interstates if you want to get any where.

    There's about 6 paved roads across the Cascade mountains in all of Washington state, and they are all state highways or interstates....
    just like in Arizona, sometimes if you want to get someplace, an interstate or major highway is your ONLY option.

    and its really not so bad. those that haven't tried it shouldn't knock it.

    certainly east coast interstates are a different animal...... the east coast megalopolis is bound to provide a host of alternate routes.... western states sometimes not so many choices.

  23. #23
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    41 crashes over 9 years is bad? Without any exposure numbers it is really imposable to say but 41 crashes by itself does not set off any alarms in my head. I looks to me that if the study says anything it hints that there may be some dangerous interchange designs in California that need to be improved for cyclists.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    certainly east coast interstates are a different animal...... the east coast megalopolis is bound to provide a host of alternate routes.... western states sometimes not so many choices.
    Likely. Although I imagine most east coast would be similar to say LA.

    I think the main problem, at least in the MD area is that the interstates are so packed with cars it would be extra dangerous at the on/off ramps. As you move further to Western MD, the interstates become more like what you are probably used to (from seeing your youtube video).

    And yes on the plus side there are a plethora of smaller roads. I can get pretty much anywhere in the state without having to touch any interstates. I can get from our house to my parents (about 56 miles) completely on 2 lane back roads with speed limits of 45mph or less, and a section of a MUP. In fact on that ride the worst part is the MUP (the only place I have ever had a meaningful collision).

    -D

  25. #25
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    well,

    sounds like east coast, not so much, west of the mississippi sometimes you're going to have to ride the interstates if you want to get any where.

    There's about 6 paved roads across the Cascade mountains in all of Washington state, and they are all state highways or interstates....
    just like in Arizona, sometimes if you want to get someplace, an interstate or major highway is your ONLY option.

    and its really not so bad. those that haven't tried it shouldn't knock it.

    certainly east coast interstates are a different animal...... the east coast megalopolis is bound to provide a host of alternate routes.... western states sometimes not so many choices.
    Growing up on the east coast, I never heard of anyone cycling on an interstate. But given how different the two coasts developed and the resulting density, it probably should be expected.

    I also agree that riding on the interstate really isn't bad at all.

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