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Safety on the Pacific Coast route

Old 06-20-13, 02:18 AM
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Safety on the Pacific Coast route

Hello,

I suspect these questions come up somewhat frequently, but I couldn't find any in-depth discussions so I thought I'd post a new thread. I'm planning a tour down the Oregon coast to San Francisco in July or August. I've completed an 800 mile solo (self-supported) tour through a variety of terrain, so I'm not a total newb to bike touring.

That said, I am worried about traffic on US-101 and other roads on the coastal route. Specifically, I'm worried about traffic in sections of the road that have limited shoulders. I've ridden on roads with 50+ mph limits and heavy traffic (but those roads had spacious shoulders), and I've ridden on twisty hilly roads with crosswinds and limited shoulders (but those roads had little traffic and/or lower speed limits). I was fine in those cases. However, I've never dealt with heavy traffic, high speed limits, twisty roads, and limited shoulders all at once, and the prospect of facing these obstacles together has me somewhat anxious. My questions:

1) Can you characterize the road conditions in a way that will help me (and others, I suppose) get a feel for the risks involved? Am I overly worried, or do you feel that the coastal route is too risky and overrated?

2) If I decide to ride this route, which sections are the "worst" or "scariest" for the cyclist? Further, what can I do to minimize risks when travelling through these sketchier sections of road? For example:
  • are those sketchier sections of road best traveled at certain times of day or certain days of week
  • are there riding habits I can employ to minimize risks (beyond the basic precautions such as wearing visible clothing, using lights, not riding in heavy fog, and so on)
  • are there non-standard detours that might add mileage but would avoid some sketchy parts of US-101 (currently I plan to follow the maps produced by ODOT and CA-DOT)
  • etc.
3) If I decide against riding this route .... what are your suggestions for alternate routes? I'd be looking for a 400-800 mile route in the PNW.

Thanks much!
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Old 06-20-13, 07:12 AM
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I think it is a beautiful route and a great place to tour. I personally thought the roads were fine. I am pretty traffic tolerant though so YMMV.
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Old 06-20-13, 08:15 AM
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I've ridden from the Washington side of the Columbia to Astoria and then down to Tillimook on the coast in Oregon. For the most part, the coastal road that I was on in Oregon had a good shoulder going south. You can read my journal entries starting on the day I took a ferry across the Columbia, if you want to see what it is like and several road photos. I haven't ridden south of Tillimook in Oregon, so can't help you there.



You can get information on the Annual Average Daily Traffic on roads in Oregon here: https://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/TD/TDATA/..._Volume_Tables

I've ridden Highway 1 in California from Fort Bragg to San Francisco (journal here). There isn't any shoulder on most of that road and it can get busy on weekends, holidays, and during the summer, especially when the weather is clear and hot (not that often in July and August!). It is a stunning ride and I would highly recommend it. But, you have to be aware of the traffic coming up behind you and you MUST ride with a rearview mirror, either on your helmet or handlebars. When you see a truck or wide RV coming, you can decide it you need to pull over and let it pass or keep riding. I pulled over occasionally but it is so beautiful, pulling over is just another excuse to take a photo!

This is a typical Highway 1 profile:



Note that there is no shoulder but also no traffic!

It is worth noting that locals will be accustomed to people riding on the roads. But, there are lots of tourists out for a day drive, as well.
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Old 06-20-13, 09:14 AM
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I've ridden the Coastal route from Vancouver Canada to south of San Fransisco and as "staephj1" said, 'I think it is a beautiful route and a great place to tour'. People come from all over the world to do this tour. If you wear bright clothing, or better still, a high visibility vest, use bright strobe lights in the fog, and use a mirror, you should have no problems. If I get the chance, I definitely would ride it again. Riding at that time of year there will be many others riding along the route, so most of the vehicular traffic will be aware of cyclists. I say, do it!
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Old 06-20-13, 09:43 AM
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101 in Washington has a good shoulder but there are caveats.

Old steel truss and wooden bridges (yes there are still a few) have narrow roadways so some caution is needed crossing those. There are a few in Pacific County though two or being replaced this year (Bone River and Middle Nemah). Most are short enough you can wait for vehicles to clear before crossing.

Shoulders may have wood debris from log trucks, hard to predict. Rocks & gravel pretty common, just like any shoulder.

Most Pacific Coast riders take SR 401 and bypass SR101 in South Pacific County. SR101 is very scenic but it has several no shoulder areas. Extra caution is needed from the SR101-SR401 Junction to the Naselle Bridge...no shoulders in about a mile sextion, as well as watching the crossing on Teal, Greenhead, and Bear River Bridges. As you descend Bear River Hill, extra caution is needed for no shoulder areas west to Seaview as well as east from Ilwaco to the Chinook River and narrow shoulders (2-3 feet) from the Town of Chinook to Astoria including the Fort Columbia Tunnel and Astoria-Megler Bridge. The tunnel has a bike signal...use it. The bridge has no shoulder to speak of and while the painting of the fog line makes it look like a shoulder...don't be deceived.

If you aren't going to Cape Disappointment (very nice state park), I'd take SR 401. Cape D has fabulous ocean views from North Head, Cape D, North Jetty, etc. I always see bike packers at the Cape D campsites.
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Old 06-20-13, 10:01 AM
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You should get the Bicycling the Pacific Coast book or the Adventure Cycling maps for the California part, you'll get some off-101 (and off-1) routing that is well worth doing. Especially Avenue of the Giants, you really have to do that instead of 101. In Oregon, you can get a free state bike touring map at many visitor centers (or maybe you can write away for it) - that has a few detours and great info on the campsites.

The worst part is the Crescent City Hills just south of Crescent City, I did those on a Sunday and it was fine, I talked to someone who did it on a weekday and was scared.

Just ride far to the right, wear visible clothes, and keep your wits about you. A mirror is nice too, if you see somethng bad coming up on you, you can get off the road.

The route is very very good. You should do it. If you have extra time, the Big Sur area (south of Monterrey) is really spectacular.
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Old 06-20-13, 10:02 AM
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We've ridden from Raymond, Washington as far south as Crescent City several times. Most of Oregon has a good shoulder when riding south. Places where we worried a bit were: riding through the tunnels; Crossing the Astoria Bridge; Cape Perpetua with no shoulder and tons of large RVs with novice drivers. Everything else was good. Terrific ride by the way. Enjoy.
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Old 06-20-13, 10:03 AM
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Be highly visible and use a mirror. When no shoulders exist do not hug the fog line, it only encourages vehicles to squeeze past you. Let vehicles approaching from behind you know if it is safe to pass from your perspective. When traffic backs up behind you significantly, pull off the road briefly when it is safe to do so.
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Old 06-20-13, 10:15 AM
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Many cyclists report that the long, narrow bridge over Coos Bay in Oregon is unpleasant -- here's an article in Crazyguyonabike that details an alternate bypass route that avoids the bridge as well as the cities of North Bend and Coos Bay: https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?..._id=12467&v=28

I don't believe this alternate route is mentioned in the current printed ACA maps.

By the way, an excellent post and good questions by the original poster of this thread.
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Old 06-20-13, 04:42 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
I think it is a beautiful route and a great place to tour. I personally thought the roads were fine. I am pretty traffic tolerant though so YMMV.
+1 This evaluation has been voiced by several folks posting on this thread.

I thought the segment from San Francisco south required a little more awareness than the Oregon to SF segment.

If traffic is heavy, the bridge at Coos Bay/North Bend can be crossed by walking on the sidewalk. That is how we approaced it.



I realize that people's tolorance for traffic and narrow road shoulders vary. However, I think most folks that have ridden the PCH will agree that while busy it is not abnormally dangerous.

Last edited by Doug64; 06-20-13 at 09:06 PM. Reason: deleted incorrect statement
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Old 06-20-13, 09:04 PM
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In OR, you have just a few things to concern you.
1. The depression-era bridges don't have any shoulder. You have to either take the lane, take the sketchy sidewalk, when it is there one, or risk being hit by the motorist you invited to share the not-wide-enough lane by riding too far to the right. As always, if the lane is wide enough to share, stay well right and share it. If it is not wide enough to share, take it like you own it because you do.

2. Particularly in the northern cities along the coast, the shoulder kind of disappears at times (only inside the cities). When cyclists are hit by motorists on the Or coast, this is where it happens. Keep your wits about you and have a plan for these arbitrary losses of shoulder.

3. Do follow the ODOT route recommendations. The side roads they put you on are much better than us101.

4. Traffic, particularly tourist traffic, picks up later in the morning. It behooves you to get up early and hit the road. Also, lots of folks drive to the coast Friday night and return Sunday night, so don't plan late days on Friday or Sunday.

As far as CA:

1. Again, follow the side-routes recommended by CalTrans to get into Crescent City. Also, I like to leave Crescent City just after the morning commuters if I happen to be there on a weekday. It's a bit of a climb with those passing lane/no shoulder set-ups heading out of Crescent City, so I prefer to ride that section when traffic is light. Weekend early mornings are even better.

2. From the Drury Pkwy to Patrick's Point, well... good luck. There's a fair amount of trucks here and the road is often uninviting. As Valygirl said, this area is best on weekend mornings. However, if you hit it on a weekday, just keep your wits about you. Don't disappear behind a blind corner where there is no shoulder when you can hear overtaking motor vehicles. Take the lane when there isn't room for motorists to pass you safely and don't be too proud to just pull over for a few moments. Motorists often travel in packs, so letting a few by can often buy you enough time to get to the next piece of road with a shoulder. Speaking of shoulders, as you get near Patrick's Point, you will find that CalTrans has made some narrow, but rideable shoulders that have weird steep curbs or ditches at their edges. Be careful to not catch a pannier on the elevated curb or to fall into the ditch. These mostly occur where there are two lanes each way, so don't be bashful about taking some of the lane here.

3. I hate the stretch from Avenue of the Giants to Leggett. In fact, I rarely ride that section (only when my preferred alternative is rained out). I usually don't even bother with the Avenue, but if you haven't been there you should ride it. I head out to the Lost Coast at Ferndale. Avenue riders can either head out to Honeydew or go a wee bit south and head out towards Shelter Cove (least hilly route). Take the Briceland-Thorn Rd. Cut-off to Usul Rd and then enjoy 24 miles of dirt road with zero cars to get to hwy1. I prefer this because the section of us101 just north of Leggett has far too many places where you are pinned between a roadside tree and motorists. Traffic is just moving too fast here to easily take the lane and the shoulder is often nonexistent. Yuck! I prefer riding on traffic-free hills. Your ride, your choice. Usul ends at mp 90 on hwy1, thirty miles north of Fort Bragg, ninety miles north of Gualala. It is generally low traffic until you are just about into Fort Bragg, so the lack of shoulder isn't any big deal. There is primitive camping six miles from the south end of Usul Rd and several campgrounds near the north end. Bring a water filter and food (not much in the way of services on the Lost Coast outside of a store in Honeydew).

4. There is a bit of traffic on hwy1 from Fort Bragg to hwy 128. On a weekday, leave just after the commuters. On a weekend, get on the road early and you will have a quiet ride. The only other place of concern is Jenner Mountain, a mild climb just north of the Russian River. It's only a problem on weekend afternoons with tourist traffic, so it's unlikely to be a concern for you. There is a Sonoma County campground just south of Salt Point and north of the Jenner climb, so if you happen to be there on a weekend late in the day, just pack it in if traffic is becoming annoying. (Unlike the state campgrounds in Sonoma County, the county campgrounds have hot showers (bring quarters). There is also a county campground at the northern Sonoma County line (Gualala). This one is helpful since the next twenty miles or so are Sea Ranch (private development). The raccoons at the campgrounds in Sonoma County are persistent pests. Never leave any food unattended.

There can be fog on the coast. Bring more than one bright red blinky.

I can't help you south of the Russian River since that's where I turn inland on my twice yearly rides down the coast.

For other routes in OR, check out the Cycle Oregon website and look at the routes they have chosen over the years. They are all loops with conveniently placed campgrounds.
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Old 06-24-13, 06:15 PM
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This is really great feedback. Thanks all!

Originally Posted by raybo
But, you have to be aware of the traffic coming up behind you and you MUST ride with a rearview mirror, either on your helmet or handlebars. When you see a truck or wide RV coming, you can decide it you need to pull over and let it pass or keep riding. I pulled over occasionally but it is so beautiful, pulling over is just another excuse to take a photo!
I've never ridden with a mirror, but this seems to be a common suggestion so I will be investing in one.

Originally Posted by OldZephyr
Many cyclists report that the long, narrow bridge over Coos Bay in Oregon is unpleasant -- here's an article in Crazyguyonabike that details an alternate bypass route that avoids the bridge as well as the cities of North Bend and Coos Bay: https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?..._id=12467&v=28
That looks like an excellent bypass route!

Originally Posted by B. Carfree
Take the Briceland-Thorn Rd. Cut-off to Usul Rd and then enjoy 24 miles of dirt road with zero cars to get to hwy1.
Usul Rd looks gorgeous, but with some climbs near a 15% grade (especially that last climb up to PCH, if the elevation profiles on ridewithgps are to be believed), I'm unsure that I can ride Usul Rd with a fully loaded touring bike --- based on past experience, a climb on a fully loaded touring bike feels 2% to 4% steeper than the same climb on an unloaded bike, but my unloaded training rides have (so far) maxed out at about 14% grade.
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Old 06-24-13, 09:59 PM
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Originally Posted by PNW Noobish

Usul Rd looks gorgeous, but with some climbs near a 15% grade (especially that last climb up to PCH, if the elevation profiles on ridewithgps are to be believed), I'm unsure that I can ride Usul Rd with a fully loaded touring bike --- based on past experience, a climb on a fully loaded touring bike feels 2% to 4% steeper than the same climb on an unloaded bike, but my unloaded training rides have (so far) maxed out at about 14% grade.
Yeah, that last climb out of Usul Campground is a bit steep, but it isn't really very long. One wet spring I walked it through the mud and it didn't take very long, or at least it didn't seem to take much time; the views might have distracted me and warped my time perception. It was a lot easier for me to get out of there with a bike than the folks who had driven in. They were stuck for a few days until it dried out enough for them to get out.
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Old 06-25-13, 09:58 AM
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If you do get a mirror, I highly recommend the Mirrycle mirror. I've used a number of brands and it is by far the best I have found. There are different styles depending on the kind of bars (flat bars, drops with STI, and old school brake levers). Because my bike has bar ends and aero brake levers, the standard mounts didn't work, so I had to kludge a mount with a reflector/light bracket, but it was easy to do and works fine: https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/p...093&size=large
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Old 06-25-13, 01:02 PM
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Originally Posted by OldZephyr
If you do get a mirror, I highly recommend the Mirrycle mirror. I've used a number of brands and it is by far the best I have found. There are different styles depending on the kind of bars (flat bars, drops with STI, and old school brake levers). Because my bike has bar ends and aero brake levers, the standard mounts didn't work, so I had to kludge a mount with a reflector/light bracket, but it was easy to do and works fine: https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/p...093&size=large
Interesting. I have a LHT so I have the same issue with bar end mirror mounts, and I was thinking that a helmet/glasses mount would be my only option until I saw this. Where did you get that specific clamp -- it looks vaguely like it was from a cheap Planet Bike light?
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Old 06-25-13, 01:19 PM
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Good idea getting the mirror.

I remember just a few miles here and there of nervousness, otherwise a wonderful route. Maybe the tunnels were the worst.

In my experience, the logging truck traffic was safer than the RV traffic--professional commercial drivers vs. weekend warriors who may have had a bottle of wine at lunch and left the stairs down on the curb side. Watch for the RVs and give 'em room, and pull over for trucks when you can--they'll appreciate it and they have CB radios.
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Old 06-25-13, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by PNW Noobish
Interesting. I have a LHT so I have the same issue with bar end mirror mounts, and I was thinking that a helmet/glasses mount would be my only option until I saw this. Where did you get that specific clamp -- it looks vaguely like it was from a cheap Planet Bike light?
I don't know where that one came from (I've "made" a few of these). It may have been from a front reflector designed to mount on the handlebars or a rear reflector designed to mount on the seat post. I keep that kind of junk lying around. But any bike shop should have a ton of them in the parts bin -- my bike shop just gives them to me.

As you can see, you want a clamp that will go around your bar tape and fit pretty tight. I think I might have sawed off part of the Mirrycle so I could run a bolt through the light/reflector clamp and the Mirrycle and keep things compact.

The mirror mount is clamped onto the bend of the drop well below the brake lever. It sits above the flat part of the drop with plenty of room for my hands between the mirror mount and the bar end.
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Old 06-25-13, 01:34 PM
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Brake hood mounted mirror no assembly required:
https://www.biketiresdirect.com/produ...FQ9dQgodAVAANA
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Old 06-25-13, 02:35 PM
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My helmet has a visor. I really like the Third Eye mirror that clamps on the visor. I can unclamp it for when I pack my helmet for airline or train travel.
https://www.3rd-eye.com/%2803%29.htm
The mirror I use is the one for "hardshell" helmet.
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Old 06-26-13, 05:00 PM
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Only thing that sketched me out on the PCH was the bridge into Astoria.... very long, busy, narrow bottleneck. I ended up doing it at night in the rain, thought - might not have phased me so much in daylight. Traffic takes some time to get used to, but really you just need to keep in mind that no one really wants a bloody mangled hood ornament. Sure, there are people who are drunk, on their phones, falling asleep, ect, but that is a risk while in a car, too.
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Old 06-26-13, 05:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Tansy
Only thing that sketched me out on the PCH was the bridge into Astoria....
Depending on route choice, not everyone rides that bridge. The Adventure Cycling Pacific Coast route doesn't go that way. That said I didn't really think all that much of the route they did use in Washington State from Bremmertown to Astoria.
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Old 06-26-13, 07:02 PM
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Sun up is the best time to cross the Astoria-Megler Bridge. Traffic is light 5:00am-6:30am. The best coastal route in Wa. also has a bit of ferry travel and roads that start with 10_.
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Old 06-26-13, 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by valygrl
Brake hood mounted mirror no assembly required:
https://www.biketiresdirect.com/produ...FQ9dQgodAVAANA
I love everything about the mirror except the intense vibration. I don't know how people tolerate that. I've given up on the Blackburn and now trying helmet mounted mirrors.
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Old 06-27-13, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by mm718
I love everything about the mirror except the intense vibration. I don't know how people tolerate that.
That was my experience with the Blackburn mirror as well. I used it, and it was better than some, but the Blackburn still has too much vibration. The Mirrycle is *far* better than the Blackburn in my experience and is the best bike-mounted mirror I have found. I don't find vibration distracting with it.

I haven't ever used a helmet mount, so I can't compare, maybe they are better than the Mirrycle, but I am satisfied with the Mirrycle.
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Old 06-27-13, 04:43 PM
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Be aware of wind shear , the wake of passing Motorhomes and Heavy Goods Vehicles in air
is like the wake behind a passing boat in water..

Couple summers ago a father (80 ish ) and son pair had a bad event when wind shear cause the fathers Death.

he fell, on the Bike, under the Trailer's wheels.


FWIW, because it's Being Repainted , the Bridge across the Columbia Is Being flagged for 1 way traffic ..

so it's actually better for cyclists , at the Moment.
fietsbob is offline  
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