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-   -   Riding in other cities seen through your commuter lens (https://www.bikeforums.net/commuting/886987-riding-other-cities-seen-through-your-commuter-lens.html)

Steely Dan 04-30-13 12:50 PM

Riding in other cities seen through your commuter lens
 
it's always fun to go on a ride outside of our normal everyday riding environs, and as commuters, i think we may see and experience how things are done in other places a little differently than other types of cyclists. novelty can of course easily lead to the slippery slope of the grass being greener on the other side, but it's still really cool in my opinion to ride in a different city with the perspective of "what would be better/worse/same/different about commuting if i lived in this city?"

my recent example: i was up milwaukee this past weekend staying at my fiance's parent's home out in the western suburbs. because my girl had some wedding planning appointments to attend to on saturday afternoon (we're getting married at the milwaukee art museum this summer), i threw my folding bike in the trunk of the car so i could go do some 2 wheeled exploration of brew city on my own. i rode from the western burbs to downtown milwaukee via the hank aaron bike trail and then rode along the lakefront and through downtown and various center city neighborhoods to get a feel for the city and how bike-friendly it is. all in all it was a 40 mile loop and i came away with a very positive impression of milwaukee as a great cycling city.

in many ways, cycling and otherwise, milwaukee is a very similar city to chicago, but the size difference is very glaring. i could ride from the far western burbs to downtown milwaukee in less than an hour. that's impossible in chicago because the urban sprawl has grown to such ungainly proportions. milwaukee seems like a place where one could lead a more bike-centic lifestyle because you can get from one end of the metro area to the other in an hour or so. and for commuting, i felt that the infrastructure in place was great. lots of bike lanes on streets and the hank aaron trail is wonderful, affording just about anyone in the western portion of the city/metro area easy and convenient access into downtown via bicycle.

me and my wife to be plan to stay in chicago after we're married, but should we ever move to milwaukee sometime down the line to be closer to her family, i could easily see myself living there as a happy commuter cyclist.



anyone have other observations from your experience as a commuter cyclist riding in another city?

EAA 04-30-13 07:15 PM

I don't have any other city insight, but I would definitely confirm your impression of Milwaukee - pretty good network of trails and parkways, regular streets are easy to use once you know your way around, and motorists are quite courteous for the most part (at least compared to some of the horror stories I've read here). Not sure if the outer burbs are as bike friendly though.

cyccommute 05-01-13 07:05 AM

I've had the opportunity to ride in several different cities. Each one is different but I've seen some general trends in cities west of the Mississippi and those east of it. To the west, the cities are new and most of them I've been in are set up in a grid pattern that is easy to navigate much like Denver. Seattle and Portland have fewer cardinal point roads but, generally speaking, both are pretty easy to get around with lots of alternative routes to keep you off the main roads.

Cities in the east are devilishly difficult to navigate. Because the cities were laid out before the adoption of the grid pattern here in the west, the roads don't have a logical pattern. Washington DC is actually one of the easier eastern cities I've found to get around. It's not a grid but there is some logic to the city layout. It's kind of like a spider web with connecting roads between the road radiating out from the center.

Nashville was the worst. It's a hub and spoke pattern without many connections between the spokes. It's almost like you have to travel all the way to the center, then pick a spoke and backtrack out of the center. What few connectors I could find took me in the wrong direction for quite a way before I could backtrack to where I was staying.

Something else I noticed about Nashville... and, to a smaller extent, other southern towns I've been through...is that the motorists aren't trained. Here in Colorado, motorist see bicyclists constantly. Even in the hinterlands you are likely to find someone riding along the roads and, as a motorist, you learn how to deal with them. Nashville drivers weren't overtly rude towards me as I rode but they just seemed confused as how to handle the situation. To them I was like a zebra in Ohio...just out of place and they didn't seem to know how to deal with it. Although I don't ride sidewalks in Colorado, I ended up riding sidewalks in Nashville because the cars would pass too close or follow at a slow speed or were just generally confused by my presence. I really haven't run across that elsewhere.

I have a friend who lives in Knoxville (he comes from the Denver area) and he has seen something similar. He thinks it's because people don't ride bikes especially during the summer for obvious reasons. Bicyclists are just too rare for the drivers to process.

Steely Dan 05-01-13 07:46 AM


Originally Posted by EAA (Post 15572677)
Not sure if the outer burbs are as bike friendly though.

i have extremely limited experience, but i rode gephardt road for 2 miles all the way across brookfield and there was a marked bicycle lane the whole way. i consider that pretty good for an outer burb. i saw a handful of other cyclists along the route as well, so i didn't feel like a fish out of water out there.








Originally Posted by cyccommute (Post 15574227)
I've seen some general trends in cities west of the Mississippi and those east of it. To the west, the cities are new and most of them I've been in are set up in a grid pattern that is easy to navigate much like Denver. Seattle and Portland have fewer cardinal point roads but, generally speaking, both are pretty easy to get around with lots of alternative routes to keep you off the main roads.

Cities in the east are devilishly difficult to navigate. Because the cities were laid out before the adoption of the grid pattern here in the west, the roads don't have a logical pattern.

i don't think the mississippi river is really the demarcation line because here in the great lakes region, chicago, toronto, detroit, indianapolis, and milwaukee are all highly gridded cities.

CommuteCommando 05-01-13 07:53 AM

I try to take my bike with me when we travel. Some times other plans and event prevent me from getting it out of the car. I have recently ridden in Prescott AZ. The cycle infrastructure there is not great, but there is a big cycling community there, and the city seems bike friendly. There are tentative plans to visit some of wife's family in Portland. That will involve air travel, but I found (through the Pac NW regional forum) a guy up there who rents bikes.

I live north of San Diego, and the older parts of the city is a series of "table top" high density neighborhoods separated by sometimes steep canyons and ravines. Getting from on end of town to the other always involves hill climbing.

I work in south Orange County. In the older parts, like Santa Ana and Garden Grove, the main boulevards are totally auto-centric, with high density motor traffic, and too many stretches with no shoulder, and almost no bike lanes. My commute is south of that, through Irvine, sometimes I ride south as far as San Clemente. That area is much more bike friendly, and as far as Irvine goes Is pretty flat.

I went to college in Long Beach, and rode there a lot. It's ok but route planing is important since it is a lot like the older parts of OC.

Las Vegas west of the 15 is pretty bikeable.

tjspiel 05-01-13 08:35 AM


Originally Posted by Steely Dan (Post 15574415)
i have extremely limited experience, but i rode gephardt road for 2 miles all the way across brookfield and there was a marked bicycle lane the whole way. i consider that pretty good for an outer burb. i saw a handful of other cyclists along the route as well, so i didn't feel like a fish out of water out there.

i don't think the mississippi river is really the demarcation line because here in the great lakes region, chicago, toronto, detroit, indianapolis, and milwaukee are all highly gridded cities.

It's kind of funny that he picks the Mississippi because Minneapolis, MN on the West bank of the river is gridded and St. Paul, MN (right across the river) is hub and spoke, - sort of.

I've been to Milwaukee, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Boulder, and Honolulu each multiple times. I tend to bring a pair of running shoes everywhere I travel but rarely a bike. Anyway I think I'd be plenty comfortable cycling all of these places but Honolulu was probably the worst. I understand it's gotten a bit better. Boston in particular struck me as far easier to get around on foot (and probably a bike) than it would be in a car.

Because I was more or less a visitor to all these cities I probably ended up in more pedestrian friendly places so it's tough to judge.

jyossarian 05-01-13 09:02 AM

I've spent enough time in Toronto to see the similarities and differences to commuting in NYC. In both cities, drivers are plenty used to seeing and dealing with cyclists. How they deal with them differs. NYers don't usually pass close and typically stay to the left to give you room to ride through on the right. Torontonians pass closer and immediately pull over to the right and hug the curb so you can't pass through on the right. Lane splitting isn't unique to NY, but you're more likely to see a cyclist sailing up and down the middle of the avenues because traffic's moving slowly. Not so in Toronto so lane split w/ care. For me, and only me it seems, I end up lane splitting through intersections because Toronto drivers wanting to turn right infringe the bike lane if there is one, or sit on the curb if there isn't. The quickest way around that is to split the lane and pass on their left. Lastly, Toronto's streetcar tracks add an extra challenge since they're perfect for catching skinny tires and sending you to the ground. They're especially hazardous when wet or snow covered.

Steely Dan 05-01-13 09:03 AM


Originally Posted by tjspiel (Post 15574665)
It's kind of funny that he picks the Mississippi because Minneapolis, MN on the West bank of the river is gridded and St. Paul, MN (right across the river) is hub and spoke, - sort of.

having been an avid cyclist when i went to school in the twin cities (Macalester), i found both minneapolis and st. paul to be fairly well-gridded cities that were easily navigable by bike. sure, things get a little screwy around dowtown st. paul with the bluffs and rotated street grid in the CBD, but the situation isn't terribly different over in downtown minneapolis which has a rotated street grid of its own.

cyccommute 05-01-13 01:26 PM


Originally Posted by Steely Dan (Post 15574415)
i don't think the mississippi river is really the demarcation line because here in the great lakes region, chicago, toronto, detroit, indianapolis, and milwaukee are all highly gridded cities.

Sure there are exceptions but, for the most part, it's what I've found. St Louis, for example, is to the west of the Mississippi but, because it's older than when we started laying out cities based on the 40th Parallel. But it holds for Nashville, Knoxville, DC, all of New England, Cincinnati, Lexington, KY, Richmond, and a whole host of smaller towns through the eastern US that I've been to.

For a guy that was born and raised on the cardinal points of the compass...i.e. southern Colorado...and who can tell you where north is in a whiteout out there, navigating where the roads are all cattywampus is challenging.

Steely Dan 05-01-13 01:50 PM


Originally Posted by cyccommute (Post 15576125)
Sure there are exceptions

but that's just it, in the great lakes region (which is well east of the mississippi) gridded cities are the rule, NOT the exception.

i was just quibbling with the mississippi as being the dividing line, but i certainly understand and agree to your general point that the further west one goes in the country, the newer the cities tend to be and, hence, the more grid-oriented the city lay-outs tend to be.

tarwheel 05-01-13 02:02 PM

Although I live in NC, I have ridden a bit in the greater Chicago area (Geneva), San Diego CA, Atlanta GA, Greenville SC, Pensacola FL, and Wash DC -- mostly while on vacations. My brother lives in Geneva, so we ride from there out to the surrounding farmlands and it's all on a grid, making navigation a breeze. I have also ridden quite a bit while visiting my wife's relatives in San Diego, which is a very nice place to ride -- pleasant climate, a good network of bike paths and lanes, great scenery. Atlanta is a somewhat of a nightmare with regard to traffic, but does have some nice options. Last time I rode there, we stayed in Decatur and rode to Stone Mountain one day on a greenbelt and downtown Atlanta the next day (a Sunday morning) on regular streets. Greenville has some great surrounding roads heading into the mountains, but is a nightmare to navigate. We have been traveling there for 30 years and I still get lost all the time. Pensacola is mainly spent riding on roads near the beach; not many options but very scenic. DC has an incredible network of bike paths and trails, if you can find your way around. There are a million things to see in DC and I love to visit there. The C&O Canal trail is great if you have a bike with fatter tires.

Steely Dan 05-02-13 08:28 AM


Originally Posted by tarwheel (Post 15576287)
My brother lives in Geneva, so we ride from there out to the surrounding farmlands and it's all on a grid, making navigation a breeze.

if you haven't done so already, i'd highly recommend a ride on the fox river bike trail (which goes right trough Geneva) the next time you visit your brother. riding through illinois farm country is ok, but it gets old real fast (at least for me; i can only tolerate so many miles of endless cornfields).


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