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Safest Route: busy street or unlited back roads?

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Safest Route: busy street or unlited back roads?

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Old 11-03-04, 02:41 PM
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Corsaire
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Now that I've been riding back home from work in the dark, I've been wondering what could be the safest route:

1) Unlited back roads ? or
2) Lited streets with some traffic ?

what do you guys think?

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Old 11-03-04, 02:43 PM
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I'll be opting for well-travelled busy streets with bike lanes. First, it's a quicker route. Second, it's safer in my town. Third, I don't really have any back roads that I can use.
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Old 11-03-04, 02:46 PM
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Assuming you are well lit (headlight, blinkie red rear light, reflectors, etc.), a main road would be best. Thye signals would be in your favor, and you'd be less likley to accidently snealk up on someone. You'd probably be safer on a road without bike lanes because you'd be better integrated into traffic. But take that with a grain of salt--I have a strong bias against bike lanes.
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Old 11-03-04, 02:49 PM
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Depends on what the conditions are like, i.e. is the road wide enough? how fast is the traffic? how many lanes? is there a shoulder or escape route? are there a lot of intersections?
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Old 11-03-04, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by mikdes
I'll be opting for well-travelled busy streets with bike lanes. First, it's a quicker route. Second, it's safer in my town. Third, I don't really have any back roads that I can use.
In my case I have pretty much two options:
roads with mild rush hour traffic with many lit streets along the way (longest route) or
a mix of some lit street and back country roads w/o light at all (shortest route).

I'm really debating as to which route to make my night route back home....hmmmm

Bike set up: I have a good light, blinkies & good reflectors, being seen is not really a problem though.

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Old 11-03-04, 02:51 PM
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I like unlit back roads. But it does depend on the road. In my neighborhood the cars tend to go down the middle of the street, so riding near the curb is pretty safe. Riding on an unlit rural 2 lane road at night would be a little more dangerous.
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Old 11-03-04, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Corsaire
In my case I have pretty much two options:
roads with mild rush hour traffic with many lit streets along the way (longest route) or
a mix of some lit street and back country roads w/o light at all (shortest route).

I'm really debating as to which route to make my night route back home....hmmmm

Bike set up: I have a good light, blinkies & good reflectors, being seen is not really a problem though.

Corsaire
Hell I'll go the short route. Get to do a little night riding plus save some time.
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Old 11-03-04, 03:56 PM
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I have been commuting for about 20 years in the US and Germany through all hours of the day and lotsa different weather/lighting/traffic conditions--this is a question I have faced many times.

I think route choice depends on a lot of variables-- traffic density, your conditioning, your strength level that particular day, your mood, the wind, time limits, etc.

I used to commute to work at 3:00 am when I was in the US Army in Germany-- every route was good then as there was virtually no one on the roads. Just me & a few early morning delivery folks.

Now I live in Memphis, TN. If I am in a hurry and the wind is not unfavorable I will take the busier (shorter- 9 miles) route home at night-- there are some tight spots with a lot of cars but they are going slowly because of traffic, so it isn't too bad if I am cruising at 20+ mph or so. I won't ride this route if I am tired-- I feel I need to be able to ride strongly and assertively to interface smoothly with the car traffic.

If I am tired or it is raining, or if I just want to relax on the ride I will take a longer (12 miles) route on poorly lit back neighborhood streets. I am well-lit--- tail light, 10w halogen front, back-up white LED blinkie (halogens die unexpectedly at times), reflective ankle bands, geeky green reflective tape on the helmet- reflectors on my bright yellow messenger bag, I even have some reflective gloves I wear when temps are cool. Last week I had only 1 car pass me in the first 7 miles of the route-- it was about 8 pm when I was headed home. I like these deserted streets at night. I see foxes sometimes, lotsa racoons. I often putz along at 15-18 mph, no need to hammer. That's cool. However, this nice route is suburban, not rural, so cars are traveling at lower speeds (25-40 mph) than they might be on a more rural route. High speed traffic at night makes me a bit glitchy.

Can't choose bike lane streets since they don't exist. No bike lanes/lines/signs here yet-- we are just getting that process started in Memphis.

So it is good to have some route choices available. Mix & match deppending on how it is for you that day.
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Old 11-03-04, 07:49 PM
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Most of my route is rural 2 lane, no shoulder, no light, 45MPH winding road. I would pick the road less traveled in your case. I guess mainly because I enjoy riding in absolute darkness. Plus, with less traffic, your lights etc... won't become "washed" by the flood of light that many vehicles would cause.
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Old 11-04-04, 12:23 PM
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What do you mean by safer? I kind of wonder about the safety of unlit backroads from a female point of view, if you get what I'm saying.
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Old 11-04-04, 12:49 PM
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I believe whatever route is fastest is most likely safest. Most accidents in general and involving bicycles occur at intersections, and since the faster route usually involves less goofing around at intersections, I use that as my quick rule of thumb. Of course, you may find quick routes that have excessively high traffic or other special factors that make it seem less safe. Just watch out for dooring and right-hooking, and you've got a pretty good chance on major roadways, especially if the speed limit is less than 35 mph or if there is sufficient shoulder area for you to keep five or more feet between you and the traffic. (The little bit of freeway riding I've done was great fun, and even 6 feet away from the traffic lanes, semis generate their own draft.) It traffic, the faster you are the better.
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Old 11-04-04, 01:06 PM
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I feel more visable in the complete dark with my head light and blinkies. When these lights are washed out by streetlights or twilight I don't get the same respect from vehicles.
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Old 11-04-04, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by sbhikes
What do you mean by safer? I kind of wonder about the safety of unlit backroads from a female point of view, if you get what I'm saying.
Same as a guy. I doubt you can make out a female vs. a male if they're both dressed similiarly through the glare of the bike's front light if it's pitch black outside.
I gave up stalking young women on the bike path after I realized that 2 out of 3 people I snatched off the trail were actually guys. In daylight you can definitely tell but at night, it's not as easy as it seems.
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Old 11-04-04, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Corsaire
Now that I've been riding back home from work in the dark, I've been wondering what could be the safest route:

1) Unlited back roads ? or
2) Lited streets with some traffic ?

what do you guys think?

Corsaire
I think I prefer lighted roads because I can see better.

But whether we're talking about seeing the road better or about being seen better by motorists, I depend on a light system that helps me both ways, no matter what kind of street I ride on.

Even if I'm very familiar with a road that I've travelled many times before, anything can change quickly. Roadwork, tree branches, dead animals, debris--anything could cause me to swerve or to fall. So seeing the road and using greater caution in the dark are very important.
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Old 11-04-04, 03:17 PM
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Originally Posted by sbhikes
What do you mean by safer? I kind of wonder about the safety of unlit backroads from a female point of view, if you get what I'm saying.
I think a lot depends on how fast you can ride and how well you can see around. A flat road in the Prairies would be fairly safe, but a winding road with lots of bushes close to the road and a few hills (i.e. slow speed) is less safe. On the back roads, intersections with main roads are also problematic.

All in all, I prefer commutes on busier throughfares.
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Old 11-04-04, 10:20 PM
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What matters most is how safe YOU feel. You are the only one who knows all the details of those roads and traffic patterns. We can only tell you what works for us on our roads. Why not try both routes and see how you feel?
Tom
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Old 11-05-04, 08:11 AM
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I'm with the group that prefers the dark. I feel safety resides in "BEING SEEN". Your lights are more easily seen on the dark streets than those that are well lit. BUT know the street beforehand. Know the potholes, gutter drains, etc. Charlie
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