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Riding on Highways

Old 06-17-09, 12:26 AM
  #1  
Dkane
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Riding on Highways

New to road cycling and I've recently started to go on lengthy rides. I'm planning a long ride to another town about 80 miles away for this weekend but I have never ridden on a highway before so I'm kind of worried about that. I have a couple options as far as routes go but I have not clue which would be best. I can either take the most direct route which would entail going down a couple low traffic state highways with essentially no shoulder or take the US highway which is significantly more car populated but has a shoulder. Which choice is more popular to cyclists? Or, more importantly, which is safer? Also any general advice on highway riding would be appreciated.
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Old 06-17-09, 12:44 AM
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I do not know where you are, in Washington, but i find I5 to be easy to ride on. However, it is boring, noisy, and hot. There isn't much shade and there really isn't much to see. I only have a three mile stretch that I hit a lot. If you have an alternative I would take it.

No shoulder isn't much of a problem, just don't hug the fog line. It sounds backward, but I have found when I am real close to the fog line, people try to pass me without leaving the lane at all. That makes the passes too close. When I ride a foot or two out people have to wait until it is safe to pass, so they will pass at a safer distance.

If it were me I would take the two lane road. But, of course, do what you think is safest.
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Old 06-17-09, 01:46 AM
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I'd take the low-traffic no-shoulder route over the highway. Feeling and hearing all those cars zoom by you gets tiring after a while.

Also look out for lots of broken glass and other junk on the highway shoulder, it can get pretty bad in places.
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Old 06-17-09, 02:48 AM
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It's too bad you haven't had a chance to hone your skills a bit on the roads before now, but there's nothing like jumping right into the deep end of the pool If you feel it's not safe, it probably isn't. Don't be afraid to pull off and breathe for a bit and think about your situation. Try to ride straight and predictably to cars. Nothing freaks a driver out more than a "wobbler" in front of them.
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Old 06-17-09, 04:48 AM
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Originally Posted by JimF22003 View Post
It's too bad you haven't had a chance to hone your skills a bit on the roads before now, but there's nothing like jumping right into the deep end of the pool If you feel it's not safe, it probably isn't. Don't be afraid to pull off and breathe for a bit and think about your situation. Try to ride straight and predictably to cars. Nothing freaks a driver out more than a "wobbler" in front of them.
+1

Think about how you would feel if you were driving a car and a cyclist like you were riding along the road in front of you. How would you, as a driver, like that cyclist to be riding? Then ride like that.

Can you get out onto a highway or a somewhat busier road near where you are to practice?
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Old 06-17-09, 04:09 PM
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If the highway with the shoulder has a rumble strip then I'd use take that route. Nothin' like a rumble strip to keep drowsy drivers from drifting right!
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Old 06-17-09, 05:03 PM
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When it works the best thing to go with is which has other cyclists. Even when otherwise it would be the poorer route having other bikes, and thus drivers who are aware there are bikes on the road usually makes it better overall.

Otherwise go with the one where you feel comfortable. If you are not comfortable it won't be fun and it likely will be more dangerous just because of yuor reactions.

If you do take the one withtehshoulder take care at offramps/intersections. I've seen too many cyclists that do not. In some cases the best thing to do is actually exit end reenter, not always but often enough.
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Old 06-17-09, 06:02 PM
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It depends a lot on the highway. I ride frequently on a four lane locally: the pavement is smooth, there's plenty of shoulder, and there isn't much traffic. Other highways are not so good.





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Old 06-17-09, 08:14 PM
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If by highway you mean interstate, I would not recommend that. While legal in some cases, it's highly dangerous because of the speed differential - even if you're riding on the debris-infested shoulder. Tractor-trailers passing at 65-70 mph move enough air to bodily throw you off of your bicycle.

IME, 2 lane roads, even with a 55 mph speed limit and no shoulder, are far safer than an interstate.

Divided, non-interstate highways, such as TromboneAl posted pictures of, can be nice to ride on if traffic is low and the shoulder is large. These will have debris on the shoulder too, but usually less than an interstate, and traffic is not nearly as fast (55-65 mph vs. 70-80 mph on the interstates).

While I normally advocate riding in the lane, I do not think this is prudent on divided highways and interstates. If there is no shoulder to ride on, ride 18-24 inches into the lane - do not hug the fog line. Doing so is an invitation for motorists to unsafely pass you without moving over into the other lane, as they are legally required to do.

In summary:
-Take the route least traveled.
-Ride in the lane on most roads.
-Either ride in the shoulder or 18-24" into the lane.
-NEVER hug the fog line.
-Try using mapmyride or other mapping software to plan out a better, low-traffic route.
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Old 06-19-09, 08:15 AM
  #10  
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While legal in some cases, it's highly dangerous because of the speed differential - even if you're riding on the debris-infested shoulder. Tractor-trailers passing at 65-70 mph move enough air to bodily throw you off of your bicycle.
I have to respectfully disagree with you on this. The speed limit on the freeways I ride is 65 MPH, with many trucks and cars driving over 70. I've never had even the slightest problem with air movement. When I'm riding into a 20 MPH headwind, the trucks only give me some welcome relief for 5-10 seconds. The amount of debris you see on the photos (that is, none) is pretty typical.
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Old 06-19-09, 09:05 AM
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Both are safe, if you are a smart safe rider. Take the one that is the most scenic.
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Old 06-19-09, 09:28 AM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
I have to respectfully disagree with you on this. The speed limit on the freeways I ride is 65 MPH, with many trucks and cars driving over 70. I've never had even the slightest problem with air movement. When I'm riding into a 20 MPH headwind, the trucks only give me some welcome relief for 5-10 seconds. The amount of debris you see on the photos (that is, none) is pretty typical.

I guess it depends on what type of bike you are on. I have experienced heavy crosswinds when being passed by tractor trailers that have casused a few white knuckle moments for me.
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Old 06-19-09, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by crispy010 View Post
Tractor-trailers passing at 65-70 mph move enough air to bodily throw you off of your bicycle.
Another problem with tractor-trailers is what happens if you are behind them when they lose some retread.
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Old 06-19-09, 10:50 AM
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as to trucks passing, I think the effect can be pronounced at speeds as low as 40-45 with 3-5 passes. I'm 170 and ride a 16lbs. bike. I'm not saying that those passes could knock me down. However, they are startling and can cause me to swerve. It's like a surprise bump on the bars.
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Old 06-21-09, 11:12 AM
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Sounds like road rules are a little different out West. In PA, we're not permitted on many 4 lane highways and frankly, I wouldn't want to be on some even if it was Ok.

In your case, make some notes along the way and determine if you need to take any alternate routes where necessary.

Good luck!
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Old 06-21-09, 12:55 PM
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In urban/suburban areas, the shoulder is often a cr**py place to ride because of all the debris that ends up there.
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Old 06-21-09, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by BA Commuter View Post
Sounds like road rules are a little different out West. In PA, we're not permitted on many 4 lane highways and frankly, I wouldn't want to be on some even if it was Ok.

In your case, make some notes along the way and determine if you need to take any alternate routes where necessary.

Good luck!
In many states, it is legal to ride on interstates if it is the only practical route through an area. I.E. it's supposed to be a cyclist's last resort.
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Old 06-21-09, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Keith99 View Post
When it works the best thing to go with is which has other cyclists. Even when otherwise it would be the poorer route having other bikes, and thus drivers who are aware there are bikes on the road usually makes it better overall.

Otherwise go with the one where you feel comfortable. If you are not comfortable it won't be fun and it likely will be more dangerous just because of yuor reactions.

If you do take the one withtehshoulder take care at offramps/intersections. I've seen too many cyclists that do not. In some cases the best thing to do is actually exit end reenter, not always but often enough.
I agree with riding where other cyclists are. If you can, join them. Multiple riders are way easier for cagers to see than lone cyclists, unless you are using a DiNotte flasher.

Semis are weird. I've been passed without any effect, and other times definitely felt side-suck, enough to take me off my line. It's probably a combination of how close they are and the wind conditions.

Overall, I prefer rural roads and taking the lane, but it's mostly straight here or gentle curves with good sightlines. I'd probably take the interstate over a road with heavy foliage and blind curves, unless in a group, then I'd try not to be last.
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