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Riding interstate highways out west?

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Riding interstate highways out west?

Old 08-05-21, 01:47 PM
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deacon mark
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Riding interstate highways out west?

I don't live in the mountains but love to go there been many years. Do cyclist ride on interstate highways much out west. I know some states allow it an frankly the speed of cars coming up behind me would be unnerving but it could be the only way to get to some places. I know they ride the pacific coast highways up and down but that to me would also seem pretty deadly or at least nerve racking.
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Old 08-05-21, 01:58 PM
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guachi
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I lived in Montana and I can't think of any reason I'd ride on one of the main interstate highways when I can ride on some other highway instead. I did a ride up near Cascade, MT and we rode on US 91, which parallels I-15. Any place I'd want to go in Montana I can get there by some other way than an interstate. There's almost always an alternative highway or a frontage road parallel to the interstate you can take.

So I'd never be on the interstate, even if I had to take a detour. E.g., I'll be riding from Bozeman to Billings solo, a 250km ride, next year and there's a gap in the secondary road paralleling I-90 from Reedpoint to Springtime, a distance of 9 miles. And I'll just take a detour for 15 miles instead.

Last edited by guachi; 08-09-21 at 02:17 PM.
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Old 08-05-21, 01:59 PM
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Rick
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I live in California and there are places were you can use the freeway shoulder but you have to research were it is allowed. As far as unnerving goes the freeway shoulder is much safer than the downtown areas of the major cities. Years ago I rode down a section of the 101 in northern California on my way to El Monte. I currently live in the high dessert and use the shoulder and lane of US 62 through Yucca Valley to 29 Palms on my way to the Marine base. The speeds on this road are the same as the interstate.
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Old 08-05-21, 02:05 PM
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Steve B.
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We did this in portions of New Mexico, Interstate 25 where there was no alternatives. I think I40 west of Flagstaff, AZ, same thing.
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Old 08-05-21, 02:17 PM
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Shimagnolo
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Colorado law allows riding on the interstate where there is no parallel alternative road within 1/4 mile:

CRS 42-4-109 (11), it states: "Where suitable bike paths, horseback trails, or other trails have been established on the right-of-way or parallel to and within one-fourth mile of the right-of-way of heavily traveled streets and highways, the department of transportation may, subject to the provisions of section 43-2-135, CRS, by resolution or order entered in its minutes, and local authorities may, where suitable bike paths, horseback trails, or other trails have been established on the right-of-way or parallel to it within four hundred fifty feet of the right-of-way of heavily traveled streets, by ordinance, determine and designate, upon the basis of an engineering and traffic investigation, those heavily traveled streets and highways upon which shall be prohibited any bicycle, animal rider, animal-drawn conveyance, or other class or kind of non-motorized traffic which is found to be incompatible with the normal and safe movement of traffic, and, upon such a determination, the department of transportation or local authority shall erect appropriate official signs giving notice thereof; except that with respect to controlled access highways the provisions of section 42-4-101(3) shall apply."

Here is a CDOT bike map. The alternating black/yellow routes are prohibited. Note that just a couple years ago, the Glenwood Springs <-> Denver bike path was completed, and parallels I-70.

https://dtdapps.coloradodot.info/bike

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Old 08-05-21, 02:33 PM
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GhostRider62
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With a good shoulder and rumble strips, I felt much safer on interstates out west than on some secondary mountain roads with limited sight of distance visibility and no shoulder. Of course they are only doing 60 mph on the mountain roads and 80 mph on the interstates.
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Old 08-05-21, 02:35 PM
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Seattle Forrest
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It's generally better to take frontage roads or alternate routes but not always possible. People ride freeways, even I90, where necessary. There is usually a wide shoulder.
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Old 08-05-21, 02:59 PM
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When I lived in West Texas, we often road on frontage roads or access roads that ran parallel to the interstates and had 55 mph speed limits, but larger shoulders.
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Old 08-05-21, 03:01 PM
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In California it's no bikes on the freeway unless there is no alternative route. It then becomes a question of what roads are called "freeways". Some roads go from freeway to not freeway and back depending on if there is cross traffic, etc.
Pacific Coast Highway is fine in some places and horrible in others.
Some of the mountain roads here are great to ride on.
Like most places, a big factor is how many cars there are and how those drivers behave.

I've traveled on interstate 5 in Oregon and drivers were fine.

Last edited by big john; 08-05-21 at 03:06 PM.
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Old 08-05-21, 03:07 PM
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When I was in Australia, people ride on "National" highways (equivalent to interstates) because there are so few secondary roads in many areas. Yes, there are wide shoulders, but the really hair-raising part is crossing off ramps and on ramps
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Old 08-05-21, 03:22 PM
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big john
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
When I was in Australia, people ride on "National" highways (equivalent to interstates) because there are so few secondary roads in many areas. Yes, there are wide shoulders, but the really hair-raising part is crossing off ramps and on ramps
To me, some of the scariest parts of a ride are when crossing on-ramps to freeways. The worst are the ones that take drivers onto the on-ramp at speed like an off-ramp from the secondary road. It seems like they are already in freeway mode and they want to go fast. There is one we cross often and we have to be very careful. I always like to wave and yell "thank you" to the drivers who wait for us.
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Old 08-05-21, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by big john View Post
To me, some of the scariest parts of a ride are when crossing on-ramps to freeways. The worst are the ones that take drivers onto the on-ramp at speed like an off-ramp from the secondary road. It seems like they are already in freeway mode and they want to go fast. There is one we cross often and we have to be very careful. I always like to wave and yell "thank you" to the drivers who wait for us.
Yeah, I agree, but what I meant was crossing an offramp when riding ON a freeway. Especially the off ramps. People are coming up behind you at 3 times your speed and you have no idea if they are staying in their lane and continuing on the highway or if they are going to decide to exit and cross your path. You are almost unavoidably putting your life in somebody else's hands. Stopping and "looking" on a busy road does you almost no good, because the traffic is coming so fast and because starting from a dead stop greatly increases the time that you are vulnerable as you cross.
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Old 08-05-21, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
Yeah, I agree, but what I meant was crossing an offramp when riding ON a freeway. Especially the off ramps. People are coming up behind you at 3 times your speed and you have no idea if they are staying in their lane and continuing on the highway or if they are going to decide to exit and cross your path. You are almost unavoidably putting your life in somebody else's hands. Stopping and "looking" on a busy road does you almost no good, because the traffic is coming so fast and because starting from a dead stop greatly increases the time that you are vulnerable as you cross.
Yeah, that would be worse. There was one of those coming back from Santa Barbara but they finally built us a bike lane/by pass.
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Old 08-05-21, 05:13 PM
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Adventure cycling dot org has maps of cross country routes out west that avoid interstates.
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Old 08-05-21, 05:25 PM
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It is mostly legal here in Oregon. But, rare.

For the most part the shoulders are very wide, with rumble strips and plenty of area beyond the rumbles. It may be as safe as other secondary roads, just not pleasant for riding.

Obviously one must take care at intersections, or riding around construction.

There are places in Southern Oregon where it might be difficult to avoid riding on the freeway.
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Old 08-05-21, 05:33 PM
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In 1980 I was on leave before being shipped to Germany. I came to an area were I had a canyon to go up and a Highway Patrol officer directed me to go on the freeway. He told me that 6 miles to the next exit on the freeway shoulder was preferable to almost 13 miles of a high speed narrow two lane canyon road. The freeway entrance had a sign stating bicycles were allowed to use the shoulder and had to exit at the next off ramp. I read on the web that their is near 2000 miles of freeway shoulder in California that bicyclists are allowed to use. As others have stated this is allowed were there is no other reasonable road available. When I lived in Utah the drivers handbook stated that bicyclists were allowed to use the freeway shoulder in all but metropolitan areas. A friend and his wife were headed down to an event and were confronted by a Highway Patrol Officer who did not know the law and refused to contact his superiors.
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Old 08-05-21, 05:38 PM
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Bonus points to do it east of the Mississippi.
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People here don't get it.
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Old 08-05-21, 05:39 PM
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I've never ridden on the freeway, meaning divided limited access interstate. A lot of highways are just roads with numbers for names. 🙂 What I've heard about riding on the freeway is that it's unnerving for a while but you get over it. Disheartening to be going 15 mph when somebody passes you at 90. The shoulder is littered with crap. As mentioned, the on and off ramps are where the danger is. I don't even like riding surface streets near those. Personally, it doesn't sound fun and the reason I drive my bike around is for enjoyment, I can always find a better route for my purposes.
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Old 08-05-21, 06:31 PM
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Originally Posted by randallr View Post
Adventure cycling dot org has maps of cross country routes out west that avoid interstates.
We used their maps to go cross country. Great resource and they show things from a cyclist's perspective. Plus, you will meet other cyclists on the route.
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Old 08-05-21, 07:19 PM
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In Utah, generally no. I certainly donít recommend it. There is almost always a state highway or county road that will go where you want and be much more pleasant, probably safer too.
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Old 08-05-21, 07:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
I've never ridden on the freeway, meaning divided limited access interstate. A lot of highways are just roads with numbers for names. 🙂 What I've heard about riding on the freeway is that it's unnerving for a while but you get over it. Disheartening to be going 15 mph when somebody passes you at 90. The shoulder is littered with crap. As mentioned, the on and off ramps are where the danger is. I don't even like riding surface streets near those. Personally, it doesn't sound fun and the reason I drive my bike around is for enjoyment, I can always find a better route for my purposes.

uh huh. Debris is a serious hazard. This one also from Australia. It's totally normal to ride on freewway shoulders there, as you can see.


He was unharmed btw. Landed on his rear end.

Edit: The best part of this clip may be watching the great response of the guy behind. It's not even clear that he was paying attention at the critical moment, but his reflexive act was perfect.)

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Old 08-05-21, 08:05 PM
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Originally Posted by deacon mark View Post
I don't live in the mountains but love to go there been many years. Do cyclist ride on interstate highways much out west. I know some states allow it an frankly the speed of cars coming up behind me would be unnerving but it could be the only way to get to some places. I know they ride the pacific coast highways up and down but that to me would also seem pretty deadly or at least nerve racking.
In southern California, between San Clemente and Camp Pendleton, certain stretches of Interstate I-5 seems to be the only paved road around, and I occasionally see road cyclists riding on the shoulder. During certain times when traffic is light, the average speed here > 80 mph.
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Old 08-06-21, 07:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Broctoon View Post
In Utah, generally no. I certainly donít recommend it. There is almost always a state highway or county road that will go where you want and be much more pleasant, probably safer too.
Back in the day when I lived in SLC one of my favorite rides was up Emigration Canyon and down Parley's Canyon on I-80. Actually it was quite legal and safe. Don't know if people still do that ride though.
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Old 08-06-21, 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by randallr View Post
Adventure cycling dot org has maps of cross country routes out west that avoid interstates.
Itís most popular cross country route, the Trans Am, uses a section of I-80 east of Rawlins, WY for 10+ miles.
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Old 08-06-21, 07:49 AM
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I've ridden on several out west in OR, ND, MT and WY. They are not always bad.

Took the first photo as I was about to get on I-90 maybe 5 miles east of Spearfish, SD on a Thursday afternoon. There was a frontage road, but it had no shoulder and was lined with businesses in places. Figured this would be safer. Had to cross one interchange. As noted above, that can be a pain, especially in SD, where the use of turn signals appears to be optional. I stopped, looked back, waited for a large break in traffic then proceeded. If things are really bad you can simply take the off ramp and then get back on the highway using the on ramp.

Second photo is of I-90 west of Missoula, MT on a Sunday morning. Between Missoula and St. Regis there are at least two section you have to ride because frontage roads end. As you can see, the shoulder is wide (it has to accommodate semis) and there is light traffic. Drivers, especially truckers, we very courteous, usually moving over to the left lane before passing.



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