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How not to get killed?

Old 06-24-08, 08:22 PM
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How not to get killed?

Maybe this isn't the right forum, but here it is:

I'm an experienced commuter, and can negotiate city traffic on my bike no problem. In fact, I go literally everywhere locally on my bike; I don't even own a car any more. This Summer, though, I want to try a bit of touring. My problem (okay, fear) is that highways tend to intimidate me. The speed differential between cars and bikes on a state highway can be pretty large, and often there's no shoulder to speak of. How do you manage this?
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Old 06-24-08, 08:47 PM
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-- Pick secondary roads rather than main highways (some main highways don't allow bicycles anyway)

-- Pick roads with shoulders

-- Learn to ride predictably in a straight line, and signal your intentions if you are going to do anything other than ride in a straight line.

-- Practice riding on highways ... 90% of my riding is on highways. It's not that bad.
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Old 06-24-08, 08:50 PM
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A good rule of thumb to follow is don't ride on numbered state highways. This is impossible to do in many areas in the west. When I'm climbing or just going slow (alone) I am usually right on the fog line or to the right of it if there's room. This often invites drivers to "double up" and not move out of the lane, but that's how I feel safest. There are certainly good arguments to staying out in the lane a bit. Try to time busy streches of road to be ridden in off-commute hours. Ask local riders or bikeshops about the area you are entering for the best routes.
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Old 06-24-08, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka
-- Pick secondary roads rather than main highways (some main highways don't allow bicycles anyway)

-- Pick roads with shoulders

-- Learn to ride predictably in a straight line, and signal your intentions if you are going to do anything other than ride in a straight line.

-- Practice riding on highways ... 90% of my riding is on highways. It's not that bad.
Machka, as you are well aware folks aren't so civilized here in the states.
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Old 06-24-08, 08:58 PM
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Obviously one tries to stay off the worst roads. And I try to be as predicatable as possible. Other than that, the stats show, and personal experience indicates this fear is exagerated. People driving cars don't want to kill people, destroy their cars, end up in court, are very aware of the dangers and are on the lookout for cyclists. Some drivers may even hate cyclists, possibly because they are worried about them, but either way they are aware. Some cyclists don't want to believe this "good news" but I know it as a driver, and have had several additional experiences.

The one expereince that convinced me was when the city I live in had a tansit strike. At the time I was convinced this would be pretty good for me, since I was comuting by bike. It was terrible, everything from folks who had never taken the subway before exiting cars right into the bike lane, to drivers who had never comuted before generally trying to mount me as a hood ornament. It really drove home the point of how careful the "real" drivers are and how cooperative it is out there.

You do have to be realistic though. There are parts of the US or event he world were there are local cultural facts that mean lots of cars, not that many bikes, whatever, and you can't expect much. There are also poor countries without much cycling culture, but mining trucks... There is a lot of good road out there, but there are bad weather conditions, bad areas for cyclists to operate, and so forth. When in those areas one has to take those facts into account. If there is a real danger, let that change your behaviour, don't let your itinerary push you along.
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Old 06-24-08, 09:07 PM
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One tool some use in the US is to check their state DOT for bicycle maps. These generally provide the rate of traffic on a particular road. For example in my state, all roads (generally paved county roads) with traffic < 750 units per day is colored purple. <1500 is blue. If I wander out, I try to avoid anything else. Unfortunately, Iowa has almost no highways with paved shoulders (like the Trans Canada...) . Of course that varies from state to state. Minnesota appears to be much better in this regard.

Bragi, you might check with your state DOt to see if such a map is available.
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Old 06-24-08, 09:11 PM
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Gosh, in Oregon if you skipped numbered highways, you wouldn't have 101 down the coast! California, scratch off Hwy. 1, 25, 198, 120, 140, 108 just to name a few. You're losing some of the west's best rides. Read others' journals, look at maps, and ask around.
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Old 06-24-08, 09:26 PM
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Originally Posted by bragi
My problem (okay, fear) is that highways tend to intimidate me. The speed differential between cars and bikes on a state highway can be pretty large, and often there's no shoulder to speak of. How do you manage this?
1. Buy a Take A Look mirror and learn how to use it. You need to know what the traffic is doing behind you at all times. It could save your life.

2. Buy a GPS -- I see too many cyclists taking to the highways because it's more direct and easier than constructing a route with lots of turns that goes through subdivisions. Using a GPS, you can avoid lots of fast highways by making routes that use roads instead of interstates.
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Old 06-24-08, 09:38 PM
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I have only driven down 101 in Oregon along the coast, and it looked way too busy to me to be enjoyable, but that was just one day. I have only ridden California 1 in Marin and north of Bodega Bay, still busy at times, but I agree, there are some good Highways, and three are no altenatives in sparsely populated areas, like parts of Oregon. I would always opt for the less traveled road for the OP, but like I said, this is impossible to do in many areas in the west where evrey strech of pavement is a numbered highway.. Idon't know where those other highways are, I am affraid to say I have only been south of the Bay three times in my whole life, and I don't remember the road numbers of the places I haven't toured/ridden/driven a few times. Is the road to Yosemite in your list? I want to go before they let cars through in the high passes.
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Old 06-24-08, 10:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Peterpan1
Obviously one tries to stay off the worst roads. And I try to be as predicatable as possible. Other than that, the stats show, and personal experience indicates this fear is exagerated. People driving cars don't want to kill people, destroy their cars, end up in court, are very aware of the dangers and are on the lookout for cyclists. Some drivers may even hate cyclists, possibly because they are worried about them, but either way they are aware. Some cyclists don't want to believe this "good news" but I know it as a driver, and have had several additional experiences.

The one expereince that convinced me was when the city I live in had a tansit strike. At the time I was convinced this would be pretty good for me, since I was comuting by bike. It was terrible, everything from folks who had never taken the subway before exiting cars right into the bike lane, to drivers who had never comuted before generally trying to mount me as a hood ornament. It really drove home the point of how careful the "real" drivers are and how cooperative it is out there.

You do have to be realistic though. There are parts of the US or event he world were there are local cultural facts that mean lots of cars, not that many bikes, whatever, and you can't expect much. There are also poor countries without much cycling culture, but mining trucks... There is a lot of good road out there, but there are bad weather conditions, bad areas for cyclists to operate, and so forth. When in those areas one has to take those facts into account. If there is a real danger, let that change your behavior, don't let your itinerary push you along.
I concur that 90% of the traffic out there will do plenty to avoid getting even marginally close to you as long as you're visible. This applies just as well at night, in fact with good lighting and reflective gear & clothing, you can even be more visible.

However, this does not mean you don't have to keep your ears tuned in and your eyes constantly checking the rear view (with whatever mirror solution that works for you) for the other 10%. I apologize in advance for casting dispersions on the many, many drivers of pickups, dump trucks, and other commercial drivers who are truly professionals in their driving habits and treat bicycles just fine (and any other vehicle for that matter) However there is a significant percentage of commercial truck drivers who just don't give a damn, and pay you absolutely no mind. Its not that they are intentionally trying to run you off the road, its just that they don't care, and feel no reason to give you any "special" treatment at all. You are basically trespassing on what they view as their road and its up to you to get out of their way, not the other way around.

Generally its my direct experience that dump trucks are by far the worse, some have said its because of how they are paid and/or the fact that they are less experienced, lower paid drivers and therefore are just plain bad drivers. I see no reason to dispute that theory.

That all said, I have cycled on full blown highways (not East US interstates of course) and on some I felt safer thnt many a narrow country road. But bad shoulders and too much traffic will have me looking for alternate routes even if it means backtracking.
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Old 06-24-08, 11:50 PM
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It has happened a few times to me on deserted stretches of highway, I will be in the right lane, with 2 lanes going each way and I normally expect that drivers will at least move over half a lane to give me some space, but some semi with blinders on will ride me right off the road.

Also one time on a two lane highway, I was watching behind me, but not infront very carefully, and two semis were passing and literally took up fully both lanes. I looked up with about 20 metres to spare and swerved off into the ditch as a 20 tonnes of death whizzed by at over 100 kmph. Add my measly 20 kmph to that and you get one really flat bicycler.

The scariest thing though is logging trucks, because they have really heavy loads, and their 30 ply tires make about 10 times the noise of a normal semi, which is probably close to a 100 dB when it is 2 feet from your head.
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Old 06-25-08, 01:44 AM
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Hi,

Cycling on highway is not so bad. If there is no shoulder - the roads are always wider.
Then you're touring you get normally the attention of the drivers - they slow down to watch you

The speed in US is low. In Australia you have the 50 m long road trains running with 110+ km/h on gravel. In other countries they have a speed limit but some drivers overtake you with 150-180 km/h

The problem with highway is more that they are busy and a fast connection between to cities. The senery on secondary roads is nicer and the traffic is less. So for touring they are a good option.

Thomas
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Old 06-25-08, 06:28 AM
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Originally Posted by bragi
I'm an experienced commuter, and can negotiate city traffic on my bike no problem. In fact, I go literally everywhere locally on my bike; I don't even own a car any more. This Summer, though, I want to try a bit of touring. My problem (okay, fear) is that highways tend to intimidate me. The speed differential between cars and bikes on a state highway can be pretty large, and often there's no shoulder to speak of. How do you manage this?
Washington and other states put out a state bicycle map: https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Bike/Planning_Maps.htm that may give you some ideas. Keep yourself visible and ride predictably.

I'm an experienced cycle tourist and have cycled toured all 50 states, all provinces of Canada and the states/territories of Australia - the vast majority of that on highways. I would find city traffic at least as challenging as more rural areas, because there is some more turning traffic to be aware of...whereas on highways, the speeds might be larger but the road situation is frequently simpler. However, typically there is a region around the largest cities that has a combination of higher speed traffic and higher volumes of traffic that I'll be more careful in picking my routes.

To respond to one or two other comments I've seen:
1) I haven't found appreciable differences between US & Canada in drivers - though perhaps some larger differences in each country itself. For example, in my experience cycling across Canada, I found provinces like Alberta, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland to be easier highway cycling than Manitoba (with fewer shoulders) and parts of Ontario (which has a lot of variety in roads). As another example, I've had easier cycle touring in some states like Wisconsin than Michigan and in the US West than the deep south. These are of course generalizations where there are exceptions.
2) Australian road trains of 50m (or 100m) seem to make enough noise that it wasn't a big problem for me.
3) I'll listen and use my mirror. While I've left the road a few times, an emergency maneuver is a very rare occurrence. More commonly, it might be that I'll see someone is hauling a mobile home, large construction equipment, etc and have plenty of time to notice and move off and let them pass.
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Old 06-25-08, 06:58 AM
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Originally Posted by bragi
Maybe this isn't the right forum, but here it is:

I'm an experienced commuter, and can negotiate city traffic on my bike no problem. In fact, I go literally everywhere locally on my bike; I don't even own a car any more. This Summer, though, I want to try a bit of touring. My problem (okay, fear) is that highways tend to intimidate me. The speed differential between cars and bikes on a state highway can be pretty large, and often there's no shoulder to speak of. How do you manage this?
Avoid highways. No, I'm not trying to be sarcastic. I've seen enough of your posts that I can agree you are an experienced commuter. Touring is one long, long commute. You will be OK. Please post a report of your trip.
 
Old 06-25-08, 07:09 AM
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I think those are great points -having a good mirror can definitely give you some good info. Unfortunately I haven't the money for a GPS yet (perhaps just as well, since better models will become cheaper I'm sure) but I definitely am lusting after one for the very reason you mention..... plus, I find nothing slows you down more than constantly having to stop and take a look at a map to see if you're headed the right way.

I'm also looking forward to once I have one, being able to have a better idea as to how close some amenities are when I need them. Even though I've never used a GPS for touring, I can see huge advantages and a shift in how I do things (for the better). Can't wait -it's top of my list for things to get.


Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
1. Buy a Take A Look mirror and learn how to use it. You need to know what the traffic is doing behind you at all times. It could save your life.

2. Buy a GPS -- I see too many cyclists taking to the highways because it's more direct and easier than constructing a route with lots of turns that goes through subdivisions. Using a GPS, you can avoid lots of fast highways by making routes that use roads instead of interstates.
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Old 06-25-08, 07:25 AM
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I disagree with others on the commercial truckers. I have found that they are the best drivers on the road. Yes some may pass close, but they know how close they are. The drivers I worry about are the ones in rental RV's, they are likely to be completely clueless.

I found nowhere on the entire TransAmerica trip that seemed as dangerous as the roads at home near Baltimore, Md. That includes the interstate, the two lane shoulder less roads, and even Yellowstone with all of the rental RV's. The local roads and drivers are worse than any of that.

Best thing is to:
Be visible
Be predictable
Be alert, without worrying too much.
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Old 06-25-08, 10:41 AM
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Thank you, everyone. I'll try to avoid highways when I can, and not worry too much if I can't avoid them.
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Old 06-25-08, 01:15 PM
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Along with the great advice given so far, I'll add:

Be visible! Give drivers a chance to see you, and react-if need be.

I put a reflective triangle on my traffic side rear pannier. My wind vest is flourescent/reflective yellow. I try to avoid riding when visibility is poor (weather/dust etc), but when I do I'm "lit up like a christmas tree". Consider taking blinky lights, like the latest cateye opti-cube (very visible-even in daylight). A set of rechargeable batteries & charger don't weigh too much now-adays.

You get the idea...
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Old 06-25-08, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
I disagree with others on the commercial truckers. I have found that they are the best drivers on the road.
I've also found commercial truckers to be amongst the best drivers.

I've had more issues with local trucks (e.g. local dump trucks or rental trucks).
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Old 06-25-08, 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Peterpan1
People driving cars don't want to kill people, destroy their cars, end up in court, are very aware of the dangers and are on the lookout for cyclists. Some drivers may even hate cyclists, possibly because they are worried about them, but either way they are aware. Some cyclists don't want to believe this "good news" but I know it as a driver, and have had several additional experiences.
Right on...too many cyclists have this hate-on for drivers.

I drive on occasion and the tension/stress over a possible accident is pretty up there. Aside from injuring and possibly killing someone the costs associated with an accident can really hurt you.
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Old 06-25-08, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by mev
I've also found commercial truckers to be amongst the best drivers.

I've had more issues with local trucks (e.g. local dump trucks or rental trucks).
Yes, and the dump truck issue is one I've encountered on 3 continents now. Watch those guys ... I don't think most of them pay attention to anything going around them
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Old 06-26-08, 01:20 AM
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Originally Posted by bragi
How do you manage this?
Bragi,

One way I've managed this is by "stealing" route ideas from others. Luckily in the Seattle area there are lots of nearby rural roads that will give you plenty of practice riding on highways before you go on tour. Plus, a lot of the local rides (Centuries, charity rides, etc.) have scoped out some of the best local, rural routes.

You can either start going on some of these "event" rides; join up a group ride; or just go on these routes on your own to start experiencing some of the better rural routes in the area..

My "go to" places for route ideas:

1. There is a map library at the website of the Seattle Bicycle Touring Club. They must have 40 or 50 rides in there, generally in the Puget Sound area, but others further out.

2. There is a library of "permanents"; pre-mapped routes of varying lengths at the website of the Seattle International Randonneurs. The SIR tends to pick more "challenging" routes (in terms of climbing), so be aware.

3. Join up on some of the weekend rides that go out to rural areas; you can find a calendar at the website of the Cascade Bicycle Club.

4. Finally, you can get lots of rural riding ideas from looking at the routes used by local established rides...a very nice place to start is the Chilly Hilly Route over on Bainbridge. Other good, rural rides include the Daffodil Classic out of Orting; the Skagit Spring Classic; the Chuckanut Classic; the STP (Seattle to Portland); RSVP (Seattle to Vancouver); etc. This site has a calendar of area rides; you can follow this to get to the individual sites;

https://www.bikingbis.com/blog/_WebPa...ecalendar.html

5. Also, the Adventure Cycling Association just published two new bicycle touring maps for the state of Washington called the Washington Parks Route..it's a 1,000 mile loop that is completely w/in the state of Washington.

If you have more Washington-specific questions about routes you can also pop over to the Northwest forum...
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Old 06-27-08, 12:37 PM
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First, you never ride on the freeways unless you have to. Although, personally I think they're safer then the slower roads. Second, it's something you get used to during your training (if you train for the trip). Third, I wouldn't suggest a mirror. Do you really want to know that the end is coming?? Forth, a tourer I met at the Czech border told me that what he does sometimes is to take a stick, make the ends pointy, put aluminum foil on both ends, and then attach it ACROSS the back rack. tHis way it sticks out, thus forcing drivers to move over and give a berth because as he said... car owners would never want to scratch up their vehicle!
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Old 06-29-08, 06:51 PM
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i have to put in a +1 for adventure cycling.

a couple friends and i wanted to go on a tour last year but we just had no idea how we would plan it and I didn't really feel comfortable shoving off into the unknown.

the adventure cycling maps give you absolutely everything you need to know. location of campsites, groceries, bike shops, restaurants, elevation information, even a couple paragraphs on the history of the area. they are also incredibly easy to follow. we didnt miss a single turn.

cant say enough good about them. it added so much comfort and security knowing exactly where you are and how far it is to the campground or to the grocery store. also the routes they chose were beautiful and very low traffic for the most part.

all of my tours in the future will probably be done with AC maps.
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Old 06-29-08, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by bragi
Maybe this isn't the right forum, but here it is:

I'm an experienced commuter, and can negotiate city traffic on my bike no problem. In fact, I go literally everywhere locally on my bike; I don't even own a car any more. This Summer, though, I want to try a bit of touring. My problem (okay, fear) is that highways tend to intimidate me. The speed differential between cars and bikes on a state highway can be pretty large, and often there's no shoulder to speak of. How do you manage this?
Hi Bragi:
I concur with most of the suggestions on this page. The only thing that I will add (although personally, I haven't tried this) is to put a flag on your bike like here:
https://www.bicycletouring101.com/BikeFlag.htm

This makes the drivers more aware of you as the flag extends past the bike.

I commute to work and usually have to take a stretch of highway (with speeds of 45mph and 55mph). I have found that keeping a straight line and always communicating my intentions helps with my visibility. Personally, I am more comfortable in traffic as I think that people are paying more attention than say, on rural roads, where there are so few vehicles that there are more chances that the driver is distracted (food, cellphone etc)
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