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I am going to start commuting by bike a total of 13 miles each way (to a park and ride then carpool from there). One issue that I wanted to get some advice on is safety when riding on freeways/highways. The local county has put out a bike map that shows wide shoulders along the highway I need to take and I have done a test run to verify this. The main issue I have is the off ramps, how do you stay safe when doing these when you have some cars potentially turning off without turn signals? Any other safety issues people can forsee?

I felt comfortable doing the test ride, I just need to make sure I cover all my bases before I commit to it.

Thanks,

JT
 

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for real? in many places it is not legal to ride on limited access interstates/highways... that said, I have seen people riding bikes on them (people riding bikes, not cyclists)
 

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Safest way is to take the off ramp off and then the next on ramp on. I know this is not convenient but otherwise it's pretty dangerous. A car you might think is a safe distance away traveling at freeway speeds can get on you in a hurry.
 

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Lemme make sure that I understand the question. You are traveling straight through an area where there are on ramps and off ramps, yes? Not trying to enter and exit from the freeway? If the ramps are "cloverleaf" style rather than "bypass" style, they become a
much more challenging obstacle.

If the ramps are "bypass style", I'd take the off-ramp and then come right back on in order to stay far right. Cloverleaf sucks and requires more care- see below.

I have a short section of my commute on a secondary highway where I must cross the cloverleaf style entrance and exit for a major interstate. What seems to work the best is to take the ramp's lane when it's safe, sprint like hell for the next section of shoulder, and move out of the travel lane as soon as possible. Fortunately, I'm doing this a) early in the morning and b) in an area where there's plenty of room for cars to pass and c) there's several traffic lights, so traffic isn't moving too quickly.
I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but given the road configuration, what choice do I have? *shrugs* YMMV.
 

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Where do you live? Just curious, since in most of the U.S. it is generally illegal for bicycles to use freeways, with specific exceptions (usually designated by signs) where there is no alternate route. I believe it is more common in the U.K. for bikes to use such roads. Since your local bike map shows this as a suggested route I presume it is legal.

My first suggestion would be to find an alternate if possible, even if it adds a couple of miles. If that's impossible, you're correct that the off ramps are the most hazardous spot. My suggestion is to go down the ramp just far enough so you can see a long section of the traffic lane, stop, set yourself up the shortest, quickest right-angle crossing of the ramp, and watch for a long enough break in the traffic to be sure no one is close enough. That could be hard if traffic is heavy. A car going 60 mph travels 88 feet per second.

Onramps are theoretically a little easier, since you can see for certain which cars are on the ramp, and they're going a little slower (sometimes).

You'll want to ride as far to the right as possible, to avoid both the wake of large vehicles, and rocks and other debris thrown up by tires. Obstacles on the surface are obviously an issue.
 

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Off ramps are a knotty problem. I encounter a few of them, but they're on regular roads, not limited access freeways. I look behind me and wait for a break in traffic. When I'm sure I can make it across, I go. If traffic doesn't allow this, I'll slow down, use a signal for a left turn - or point where I'm going - and proceed. This doesn't always work, but it does most of the time. I've done this & had motorists pass me on the left, then cut in. They allways seem to see me though, and that's the main thing.
 

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Practical suggestion

Get a good rear-view mirror. If you're going to be interacting with traffic on or near ramps I think you'll want to know what's happening behind you. For drop-bars I like this one.



Be especially wary about on-ramps. Merging car drives will be paying more attention to traffic behind them and may not notice you. And they're likely to drift onto the shoulder if traffic doesn't let them in.
 

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JCavilia said:
Where do you live? Just curious, since in most of the U.S. it is generally illegal for bicycles to use freeways
I don't know where the OP lives, but freeway bicycle riding is legal in Oregon. I've never done it, but that's only because it doesn't look like fun to me.

In terms of safety I'm not sure how a freeway with 10' shoulders and 65-80mph traffic is any worse than a rural 2-lane highway with 0-3' shoulders and 60-70mph traffic. Who here hasn't ridden on such a 2-lane road?
 

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JCavilia said:
Where do you live? Just curious, since in most of the U.S. it is generally illegal for bicycles to use freeways, with specific exceptions (usually designated by signs) where there is no alternate route.
I know of several mountain passes with interstate highways out west in Washington and California where bicycles are allowed. I tended to follow the suggestion of someone else in this thread who said to "sprint like hell". Stop if you have to in order to be absolutely certain that you will make it and be ready to hop off and run your bike if you have a problem clipping back in if you had to stop to check for traffic.

Taking the offramp isn't always an acceptable option since the next onramp might not be for another mile or ten. Plus I'd rather sprint across a 20' wide ramp than play tag on a narrow curving cloverleaf.

But interstates are a messy business with all sorts of debris and tire chunks and lumber on the shoulders where often the only street sweeping they see is during winter snow plowing.

You might check with some of the randonneur folks, I've seen some long distance ride reports from them that included a long length of highway riding. I think one route goes over Steven's Pass in Washington state, which is hopefully a lot wider than it was the last time I drove over it in a car several decades ago.

Use your best judgement and adjust it to the local traffic conditions and driver temperaments for where you're at at the time. Sometimes it's safer to hop the fence and ride the deer/goat trails if they're available.
 

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Fletcherfam said:
Live out in the PNW near Tacoma. The main highway (I-5) is not usable in certain parts for cycling, however there are chunks you can ride it on. The highway I am taking is accessable for bikes the whole way :).
You're going to ride on I-5 near Tacoma in rush hour traffic????? :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek:

Maybe when traffic comes to a grinding halt it wouldn't be so bad, but I think the Pasadena freeway down south would be more bicycle friendly.

Please post a ride/trip/obstacle report once you do it once or twice to let us all know how it went. And bring a camera.
 

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I-5 on a bicycle, we'll wait to hear about your untimely demise in the obituaries.

Regardless of the state laws, use some common sense, stay as safe as possible, avoid all roads that require on & off ramps...
 

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Fletcherfam said:
:) Sorry for the miscommunication, no riding on I-5 at all, just trying to point out that there are areas on the main highway in this area that you can ride on. I will be riding on Hwy 16 heading out to Purdy.
I don't know your exact route, but I see from the map that part of it is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, so there's obviously no alternate to that (though I wonder if there's a walkway separated from traffic). But everywhere else there seem to be normal streets paralleling the highway route. If it were me, I'd look very hard for a way that avoided as much highway as possible, even if it added a couple of miles.
 

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Fletcherfam said:
:) Sorry for the miscommunication, no riding on I-5 at all, just trying to point out that there are areas on the main highway in this area that you can ride on. I will be riding on Hwy 16 heading out to Purdy.

That area is rideable, but there are alternatives that keep you off the highway. Most of the roads in that area are relatively cycle friendly.

Part of my commute from Poulsbo to Bremerton uses Highway 3. At first it was a little unnerving but I have learned to tune it out. I really don't worry about the cars, it is the logging trucks that create a huge vacuum behind them. Another issue I have is the debris on the shoulders. Sometimes you just have to pick the lesser of several evils to ride through. I am lucky that I only have to go one exit each way on the highway. If there was a good alternative that didn't involve more climbing I would do it.
 

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I ride a 4 lane highway/freeway to work. It's legal on large sections even when the speed limit is 70mph (I avoid this section though). As for the offramps I usually slow way down and study the traffic behind me before sprinting across the ramp. It's annoying, but better than a stoplight delay. The only other alternative is to ride up and down like mentioned above but then you have to deal with traffic turning right without looking. From my experience most of the time the drivers are expecting everyone to turn left or right and not go forward so it can dangerous.
 

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Freeways, On & Off-Ramps

Fletcherfam said:
I am going to start commuting by bike a total of 13 miles each way (to a park and ride then carpool from there). One issue that I wanted to get some advice on is safety when riding on freeways/highways. The local county has put out a bike map that shows wide shoulders along the highway I need to take and I have done a test run to verify this. The main issue I have is the off ramps, how do you stay safe when doing these when you have some cars potentially turning off without turn signals? Any other safety issues people can forsee?

I felt comfortable doing the test ride, I just need to make sure I cover all my bases before I commit to it.
JT:

In most states, it's illegal to ride on the freeways and controlled access highways. Some states, mostly way out west, do allow cyclists to ride on the shoulders of the freeways since there are few other options as far as roads go.

5 states explicitly permit bicycles on the shoulders of all parts of interstate highways: Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Another 9 states permit bicycles on the shoulder of selected portions of the Interstate highway system: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Look for signs as to where this is allowed.

Oklahoma, Texas, and the District of Columbia have no official policy, but unofficially discourage riding bikes on interstates. In Texas, bicycles are tolerated on interstates outside of city limits, but cyclists are prohibited on interstates inside cities.

34 states prohibit bicycles from all interstate highways: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

In states where bicycles are permitted on freeways, they are usually required to use the shoulder. Take care not to crowd the white lane edge line. Freeway shoulders are normally at least 8 feet wide. Usually at least four or five feet of clean shoulder is available before encountering debris or gravel along the far edge. Traveling on the shoulder provides you with a safer margin against wind blast from the large trucks, which make up from 20 to as much as 40 percent of freeway traffic.

Be alert on freeway shoulders for various types and positions of rumble strips and raised pavement markers. Cross them with caution. Also watch for chunks of tire tread, which occur frequently on freeway shoulders.

  • Be alert on freeway shoulders for various types and positions of rumble strips and raised pavement markers.
  • Be extra careful when crossing freeway entrance & exit ramps.
  • On exit ramps, keep to the right until you have a large enough opening to cross the ramp and continue on the through-bound shoulder.
  • For entrance ramps, cross the ramp where the merge begins and continue on the right shoulder.
  • When entering or leaving the freeway on the left, wait for a sufficient gap in traffic, and cross all the lanes at once. Changing lanes one at a time on a freeway is not safe.

Regardless of whether you can actually ride on the freeways or not, you may need to ride on service roads, streets, or highways where there are on- and exit-ramps to and from the freeway. Merges and unions are places where two roads join and continue as one. In a merge, the number of traffic lanes decreases. In a union, the number of lanes does not change.

In diverges and separations, one road splits into two. In a diverge, the number of lanes increases. In a separation, the number of lanes do not change. The main difficulty for cyclists is the angle of the merge or diverge, since it is frequently a much more shallow curve than a normal intersection, thus making it more difficult for a motorist to see the cyclist. Motorists travel faster than at an intersection as they maneuver into position. Motorists also may not expect to see cyclists in such an intersection. Remember, these drivers are used to the freeway where there's no oncoming traffic from the front, and nothing to watch for or yield to from either side, and so they're slow to shift their attention and start looking around once they get back into two-way traffic lanes.

The secret to negotiating on and off-ramps on your bike or in your car is to ride in the right-most traffic lane that's going where you want to go. Take the lane, and be alert to the traffic flowing around you.

If the merge, union, diverge or separation requires you to cross more than one lane for your destination and traffic is moving 15 mph + faster than you, wait for a large enough gap in traffic so you can cross all the lanes at once.

In a diverge, the number of traffic lanes going in a particular direction increase, for example, one lane splitting into two, or two lanes splitting into three. In a separation, one of the new lanes goes off into a different direction, for example, a fork in the road, or an exit- or on-ramp splits off to the side.

Chris Quint has an excellent demonstration of how to negotiate these lanes in a video called A Cyclist's Eye View, now available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/carrigan88 .

Tom
 

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The secret to negotiating on and off-ramps on your bike or in your car is to ride in the right-most traffic lane that's going where you want to go. Take the lane, and be alert to the traffic flowing around you.
The OP was asking about riding on the shoulder of a freeway. You're not seriously proposing that a bicyclist "take the lane" on a 60-70 mph limited-access highway, are you? I'll assume you weren't responding to that specific question with this "recommendation," but just reciting general theory. Still, that recommendation makes no sense in this context, or in any setting with "off-ramps" as I understand the meaning of the term.
 

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JCavilia said:
The OP was asking about riding on the shoulder of a freeway. You're not seriously proposing that a bicyclist "take the lane" on a 60-70 mph limited-access highway, are you? I'll assume you weren't responding to that specific question with this "recommendation," but just reciting general theory. Still, that recommendation makes no sense in this context, or in any setting with "off-ramps" as I understand the meaning of the term.
Cyclists on the freeways should ride the shoulders for safety. However, there's a few cases where some traffic engineering wizard has placed your exit ramp on the left side of the roadway and you need to get over there somehow. The best advice is to wait for a safe break in traffic, and get over there where you need to be in one move, rather than the recommended Effective Cycling method of making two moves per lane.

It is the same situation as in a community where you have a mandatory bike lane (MBL) or as-far-to-the-right law... You still have the need (and the right) to make the ocasional left turn, just like any other driver. You absolutely don't want to make that turn from either the bike lane or the far side of the roadway.

Tom
 
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